Flying Kick-a-pow!

Hi people! I'm Brigid, a college student and lover of all things book-related--writing them, reading them, reviewing them, biting them ... Yeah. I mostly read YA but I'm open to pretty much everything.
Sisterland - Curtis Sittenfeld It's been a while since I gave up on a book, but I just couldn't force myself to continue with this one. It isn't horribly written or anything, but I just found it extremely dull. It took me about three days to only get 10% into the book ... And at that point, pretty much the entire narration had been dedicated to the protagonist describing the everyday events of her life and her friends' lives and occasionally whining about how her sister is so weird. Maybe it gets more compelling later on, but I couldn't find it in myself to stick with this story and its characters anymore. So, I think I'll pass.
Snow White Blood Red (The Grimm Diaries Prequels, #1) - Cameron Jace You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews.It's unknown to the common human being that most of the characters in fairy tales are real immortals living among us. Some of them know who they are and some of the don't. Living too long can make you forget who you really are and what you were meant to be. They lived before you were born, and will continue to live after you die. That is why they are carved in the inner skeletons of your soul like a birthmark. The fact that you have been introduced to them in books does not mean they didn't exist in your dreams since long ago.Summary:The Grimm Diaries Prequels is a series of short stories building up to the series The Grimm Diaries, and they are written in diary-entry format from the point of view of fairytale characters. The first in this series of stories is Snow White Blood Red, narrated by the Snow White Queen (Snow White's evil (?) mother), telling the fairytale from her own point of view. …Oh yeah, also Snow White is a vampire. Well. Okay.My thoughts:A friend recommended this to me a while ago, and I finally got around to reading it. Usually she and I like similar stuff––particularly things involving fairytales/mythology/etc. So when she told me about it, I thought it sounded cool. Fairytales with a vampire twist? Sounded like it could be really crazy and awesome.Unfortunately, this story really didn't work for me. I liked some of the ideas in it, but I felt like the fairytale aspect and vampire aspect were tied very poorly together, and … to be frank, I hated the writing.What I liked:- To be honest, not much. But as I said, I did like some of the ideas the story involved. The cross between fairytales and vampires could have worked well. I mean, it's not that implausible for Snow White to be portrayed as a vampire––snow white skin and all. Makes sense, I guess … ? I … don't know.I also liked the idea of the Grimm brothers actually being friends with the fairytale characters they were writing about, and the fairytale characters being immortal beings, etc. It wasn't really fleshed-out enough, but it was still an interesting concept.What didn't work for me:- I could see that the author was trying to incorporate research about fairytales, which was great and all, but it could come off as sounding like a textbook. For example:If I were not her mother, why do you think the Brothers Grimm altered the version of the tale between 1812 and 1857? In the first version of the so-called fairy tale, they addressed me as her mother, but fifty-five years later, the two German brothers changed my character to a stepmother.And …Did you know that the scene where I transform into that ugly witch was based on Nosferatu, the oldest vampire in German cinema?Just … who writes a diary entry like that?- Speaking of the whole diary entry thing, the format didn't make sense to me. Throughout the whole thing, the queen was writing this story like she was trying to convince people that Snow White is the evil one. But if she's trying to convince people of this, why would she be writing it in a private diary? Wouldn't she be expecting people not to read it––and therefore it would be rather pointless to write something of a persuading nature?- The vampire aspect didn't work for me. I was unclear on why Snow White was even a vampire in the first place. On top of that, it just felt out of place and like it was forced into the story to make it … more marketable? More interesting? Who knows. It just felt random.- The writing. Dear lord. It was just … not good. -- First of all, even in the parts of the story that were supposed to take place in medieval times or whatever, the dialogue felt a little too modern. The characters would say things like "wow" and "okay" and it just felt strange and out of place. I don't know if this was intentional or not, but it didn't really work for me.-- There were a lot of parts that just didn't make any sense:"You could have just buried it with you to the grave."Huh? Maybe that was supposed to be "carried it with you to the grave"? "Things altered are harder to bring back to its normal source, because in the mind of generations who have inherited the idea and passed it from one to another, they will refuse to believe otherwise." It was not in her intentions to hurt me. She did love me as much as I did.So … do you mean she loved you as much as you love yourself? Or as much as you love her? … As the mirror started reflected [sic] my beautiful face, glinting with hue [sic] of shiny gold.Your face was glinting with a hue of shiny gold? As I stepped outside, snow fell upon me, splashing onto my face and my cheeks, tasting of cherry, apples, and every other red fruit or vegetable.… Okay then.-- Pretty much all of the dialogue was punctuated incorrectly. Aggh. I don't understand why so many writers seem to have never learned about this. -- The run-on sentences. So many of them. And man, they were bad.- I was sitting in my bed in my royal chamber in the castle we call the Schloss at the top of a hill overlooking the Kingdom of Sorrow, the kingdom of which I was its queen and she was to become the most beautiful princess.- Peasants went broke for they could not seed the earth, and animals were no longer to be found. All except of the crows, of course, those damn crows pecking each other out of hunger, fluttering high in the bruise-colored sky as their blood splattered all over the snow like red rain next to the black corpses of their kind.- Those lovely doe eyes of hers were gleaming above her chubby cheeks that curved like ocean waves whenever she smiled at me, like a rhythmic sonata so enchanting that the singer's voice caused the instruments to bend and reform and curve with mirth and ecstasy, bringing dead wood instruments into life.-- Random switches between tenses:- … As my husband used his magic powers to erase the king and queen's memory so they forget what happened.- He locked himself alone with the boy in the room for he didn't want anyone, even me, to see how he will resurrect the prince.- I swallowed my shriek so she does not sense my fear.- It was this very moment when I first notice that we have become rivals, not mother and daughter.-- The painful attempts to be cool/hip/modern:Snow White, standing in the middle of the castle hall with blood dripping from her lips, but still looking as innocent as a white dove, as if she just overdosed on red cherry-flavored ice cream––we didn't have that in the 18th century but you get what I mean.Errrrrm.I rolled my eyes and omitted a smile. That must have been the demonic part in me that wanted to smile at my daughter biting a boy she thinks is yummy. Don't we all girlies like to do that from time to time?UHHH. No … we don't … ?And even worse ...I knew my daughter would grow up to be a kick-ass girl one day, but right now she was still a baby––and yes, the Queen of Sorrow says kick ass and stuff like that. Because guess what? I am immortal, and I have seen everything from Brothers Grimm to Lady Gaga. You feelin' me?Just … no. No. No.The final word:I think there was potential in the idea here, but the execution was quite bad in my opinion. This could have used some serious proofreading and editing, because there were a lot of mistakes and just really poorly-constructed and confusing sentences. Note, I may not have read the most up-to-date version of the story, and maybe there is a more recent version where some of the mistakes were fixed … but what I read was pretty messy. However, I may give the other stories a chance just because they're so short, and I may try the Grimm Diaries books with the hope that they've gone through more editing. ~ Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews ~
Projection - Risa Green You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! ReviewsRelease date: September 3rdThank you Edelweiss and SoHo Teen for providing me with an ARC of this book!--------------Summary:Everything is going perfectly in 13-year-old Gretchen Harris's life; she's popular, she's wealthy, and has a loyal best friend. But when Gretchen's mother is murdered at her middle-school graduation party, everything unravels. Suddenly, Gretchen has suspicions about everyone she knows––particularly about Ariel, the outcast of her class.Then she and her best friend, Jessica, also begin to uncover secrets about the Oculus Society––their town's version of the Junior League, of which Gretchen's mother was a leading member. And when it turns out the members of the Oculus Society have the ability to trade souls, Gretchen and Jessica come up with a plot to use this ability to find the murderer. The only problem is, Ariel has stumbled upon their secret … and although they don't trust her, she may be the the key to catching the killer.My thoughts:I honestly don't remember much about this book at all. It's one of those books that I keep seeing on my "to-review" list and I think something like, "Oh, yeah. I guess I read that. Um, what was that about again?" After reading the Goodreads summary it's starting to come back to me––but still, it wasn't very memorable.I think the concept had a lot going for it. It was original, it was tying in a lot of awesome ideas––astral projection, trading souls, Greek mythology, etc. But––in my opinion––the plot itself ended up being rather confusing and illogical, the pacing was strange, and the characters fell flat.What I liked:- If anything, I thought this book was pretty unique. I mean, I don't think I've ever read a book about a society of women that trade souls by kissing each other. (Did I mention the kissing part? Well, yeah. That was a thing.) - As I said, the premise intrigued me. I liked the idea of taking some kind of fantasy plot and combining it with murder/mystery, and including some mythology in there. It was a cool idea.What didn't work for me:- I didn't sympathize with Gretchen. In fact, from the very beginning, I sort of … hated her, to be honest. She's just so horrible to Ariel. In the beginning, she talks about how she can never be friends with Ariel because she's "too weird" and because her mom is a lunch lady. Errm, okay.And then when Gretchen's mother is murdered, she immediately suspects Ariel for basically no reason at all––except that Ariel was at the party, and that Gretchen hates her guts for being … "weird." Not only does she suspect Ariel, but she takes every opportunity to openly accuse Ariel of the crime. She even goes so far as to send Ariel numerous harassing text messages saying things along the lines of "I know you killed my mom" etc. and then she acts all offended when Ariel threatens to call the police on her. I guess she gets a bit less bitchy as the book goes on, but even so … I had trouble sympathizing with her actions.- In fact, I didn't really sympathize with any of the characters at all. None of them really stood out to me or had very distinct personalities. I kept getting the three main characters (Gretchen, Jessica, and Ariel) confused because they all basically talked/acted the same way. On top of that, they were constantly switching souls with each other and that made it all the more difficult to keep track of who was who.- The pacing got really strange somewhere 75% of the way through the book or so. For some reason, a lot of time is skipped over, and then suddenly Ariel and Jessica are best friends and Ariel is super popular … and it's just completely out of nowhere. Up until that point I thought the book was going all right, but it pretty much lost me by then.- The plot didn't make much sense to me. A lot of it just consisted of the three girls swapping souls and walking around in each other's bodies. Supposedly they were doing this so they could more easily get information about the murder … but if they were all pretending to be each other … why did it even make a difference? Couldn't they have just looked for information as themselves? Not to mention, "looking for information" seemed to mostly involve living their everyday, uneventful lives and not actually gathering many clues at all. So … I didn't get it.The final word:The concept of Projection was interesting, but in the end the execution was too flawed for me to enjoy it much. I think the idea and characters could have been fleshed out a lot more, and unfortunately I found it forgettable. ~ Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews ~

I Hunt Killers

I Hunt Killers - You can also read this review on Flying-Kick-a-Pow! Reviews.It was natural for sons to worship their fathers, anyway. And when the father in question was a charismatic dragon who taught his child that society's rules did not apply to him, that other people were either chattel or prey, that the world had been made for the two of them and no one else …That was the worst sort of control. A sort of brainwashing that Jazz had only managed to throw off when Billy's arrest approached. It was as though he'd been helpless to rebel against his upbringing, until the world itself put the lie to Billy's promise that the world's laws didn't matter. And then, slowly––so damn slowly––Jazz came to realize that his father was a devil, not a god.Summary:Jasper "Jazz" Dent appears to be a normal teenager at a first glance. But there's one thing about him that sets him apart from most kids his age … He was raised by the world's worst serial killer.Now that his father is in jail, Jazz is trying to lead a normal life––living with his grandma, turning to his girlfriend or his best friend when he needs help or advice. But it's hard to be ordinary, when Jazz is constantly haunted by the violence he witnessed throughout his childhood. To make matters worse, a new murderer is loose in Jazz's hometown––a killer who seems to be mimicking his own father's crimes. Jazz knows his father's crimes better than anyone else, and he might be the only one who can help the police discover a pattern and find the murderer. But as he gets more and more involved in trying to solve the mystery, will Jazz be the hero … or will he discover that he's just like his father?My thoughts:I remember hearing a lot of hype about I Hunt Killers last year, and from the first time I heard about it, I wanted to read it. I don't read a lot of YA crime/mystery books, so I was intrigued by the idea. Heck, I didn't even have to know what it was about––the unexpected title and blood-splattered cover were enough to draw me in.I put off reading it for a long time, mostly just because I was caught up in reading so many other things. But I finally got around to reading it recently for a Goodreads book club read. Well, I'm glad I finally picked it up. It wasn't amazing, and there were a few key things that bothered me––but it also did a lot of things really well.What I liked:- This book has a killer premise. (No pun intended. … Just kidding, the pun was intended.) But really, I love the concept so much. I guess the "you have to think like a killer to track him down" thing is kind of a common trope in the genre––while reading this, I couldn't help but think of TV shows like Sherlock and Hannibal, etc. But … I guess I'm a sucker for that trope, because I love it.- Probably the most compelling thing about this book is Jazz's internal struggle. He really wants to help track down the killer––but at the same time, that means pushing himself to think like his father, which is the last thing he wants to do. The great irony is that, in order to disassociate himself from his father, he has to look at things through the eyes of a murderer. It's definitely very creepy, and there are times in the book where Jazz seems truly insane and terrifying. But that's kind of what I liked about it; it doesn't shy away from that darker side of Jazz's mind.- Building off of that, I liked how dark this book was in general. I'm sometimes hesitant about crime fiction, especially for younger readers, because it isn't always realistic in its level of intensity/violence. But I Hunt Killers is very frightening both emotionally/psychologically and in its violence and bloodshed, the good guys don't always win, etc.What didn't work for me:- Although I loved Jazz's struggle, he came off as being kind of whiney at times. I understood that he'd had a horribly traumatic childhood and he was going through a constant identity crisis. But … he also complained about it a lot. It was already pretty understandable that he had a reason to be conflicted. So, his constant complaining about how he didn't want to be like his father were kind of overkill.- I think the side-characters could have been a little more fleshed out. I thought characters like Connie (Jazz's girlfriend) and Howie (his best friend) had potential, but they kind of came off as being token characters. Like, oh here's my token girlfriend and my token comedic-relief best friend, la di da. I think more could have gone into their personalities/backgrounds/etc. - In addition to that, I kind of had issues with how women were portrayed in the book in general. I'm not sure how to explain why it bothered me, but … here goes. There was first of all the fact that all the murderers' victims were women, and there was a lot of horrific violence/rape things going on there. And I'm not saying I necessarily have a problem with all the victims being women, because of course women suffer these terrible things in real life.But then … the other women in the book just weren't very three-dimensional characters. For example, I didn't have anything against Connie––that is, I didn't dislike her as a character––but I also felt like at times, she was only there to give Jazz comfort/advice and to make out with him. It felt to me more like she just existed to support him and not really to be her own character, if that makes sense.On top of that, there were a bunch of sexist moments in the book––which usually went by pretty fast, but they were still enough that they made me stop a second and say, "Whoa, wait." For example:She was a plain woman––not unattractive, not attractive. Just plain. In her late thirties, she was unmarried and likely to remain so, a workaholic aging out of her childbearing years.So … that's the way you describe women––by their vague level of "attractiveness"? And I'm sorry, who are you to judge whether a woman will ever get married, how much she works, or whether she can bear children? I just … UGH. No.Cut to a bottle-blond reporter showing way too much cleavage.… Um okay, that reporter can show as much cleavage as she wants, thank you very much. So yeah, it was just little things like that here and there that made me uncomfortable––and paired with the fact that there was so much violence against women in the book, it was a bit cringe-worthy.- There were occasional chapters in the murderer's point of view, which I thought was unnecessary. Even if we didn't know who the killer was, it kind of took away from the mysterious aspect of the story. That is, I think what's sometimes the most frightening thing about murderers in fiction is that the evidence of their crimes can be everywhere and you still don't know who they are, what they're thinking, etc. It's more of their presence that's the frightening thing, and we don't necessarily have to actually see them.- In general, the book kind of lost me towards the end. Some unexpected things happen, which I guess is good … but on the other hand, I kind of got confused.- One last thing. Just … this sentence: "A light danced like a cheap stripper in his eyes." … Um. What.The final word:I Hunt Killers had an awesome premise going for it, and it was unlike a lot of other YA books I've read. It was intense and suspenseful, and it kept me guessing. There were parts of it that made me uncomfortable/confused/doubtful, but over all I thought it was pretty good and I'd be willing to pick up the sequel. ~ Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews ~
Once We Were - Kat Zhang You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews.Thank you Edelweiss for providing me with an ARC of this book!The first blink was followed by the first breath. Then the second. The third.Addie was gone, and I was still here, sitting on the bed.Alone.The word echoed through the empty chambers of my mind.Nobody but I knew.I curled our fingers into a fist, harder and harder until our nails bit a painful line across the center of our palm. Then I studied the stair-step pattern of red crescent moons etched into our skin.The silence in the room––in our head––was enormous. It seemed at once a great, untouchable emptiness and some stifling, half-living thing that might, at any moment, break down the door hiding me from the rest of the world.Summary:The second book in the Hybrid Chronicles (the first book being [b:What's Left of Me|11043618|What's Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles, #1)|Kat Zhang||15964230]) returns to the same world in which each person is born with two souls. At some point, one soul becomes dominant, and the recessive soul is supposed to fade away completely.Eva and Addie share one body, and neither of them ever disappeared. For a long time, the two of them pretended that Eva had gone dormant––but Eva is still there inside Addie's head. When their secret was discovered, they were taken to a government facility where they were supposed to be "cured," but they escaped the cruel experimentation before Eva could be torn away from Addie.Now they are part of a group of other hybrids who run a secret resistance group. For the first time in their life, Eva and Addie don't have to hide their hybridity, and they can learn new skills from people who are like them. Most importantly, they can learn how to temporarily disappear so that they can have turns with absolute privacy. But as they become more deeply involved in the violent rebellion, Eva and Addie begin to question how far they're willing to go to win their freedom. The two girls are beginning to clash with each other like they never have before, and their differences could tear them apart. My thoughts:I was thrilled to get an ARC of Once We Were. I read What's Left of Me earlier this summer not knowing what to expect from it, and it was a pleasant surprise. I found the concept fresh and intriguing, and it had an engaging plot and writing style. It was mysterious and innovative, and I was excited to see what the sequel had to offer.I've been digesting it for a while now, and I think I might have liked it even more than the first book. Neither book is perfect, and there are still some things I'm confused about. But I think Once We Were did a fantastic job of raising the stakes and complicating the plot in a very compelling way.What I liked:- A lot of what I loved about the first book was present in the sequel. The idea is really cool, and it's not quite like anything I've ever read before. I guess there have been similar ideas before about two people possessing one body, but I think Kat Zhang takes an original spin on it. - Zhang's writing is wonderful. The descriptions are vivid, the words flow so nicely on the page. It's just so … delicious. The style always keeps me interested.- So often, the second book in a series will fall flat. In a lot of other series I've read, especially in trilogies, the second book wanders in this awkward in-between stage where it just feels like it's setting up for the next book and serves little other purpose. But I felt that Once We Were did what a second book is supposed to do––yes, it does set up for the next book and has a lot of build-up, but it also has its own contained plot. It's very different from the first book without separating from it too much, and it's not repetitive of the first book (which a lot of sequels often are). Probably the strongest aspect of this book is that it raises the stakes so well. In this second installment, we see Eva and Addie really start to realize their individuality. In the first book, they were so attached to each other (both figuratively and literally), and the bond between them felt unbreakable. While they still love each other in the sequel, we see Eva come to realize that she wants to control her own body and be her own person. It's so complicated, because the two girls want to give each other more control, and at the same time they're so afraid of being separated. And now they're involved in such a dangerous situation in which their disagreements could ruin the bond that they have. It's such a nerve-wracking dilemma … It's the kind of book where I don't know what on earth I would do if I was in the protagonist's shoes, and I love how terrifying that feeling is. (Not because it's terrifying necessarily, but because I feel so strongly about it.)What didn't work for me:- I was hoping for more answers in this book, and … well, I didn't really get them. There's still a chance that more will be revealed in the next book. But, I'm still confused about the whole premise of the book. Yes, I love it as a concept, but I don't understand why it's happening. I don't know if I'm just missing something, but … why is it that everyone is born with two souls? Is this an alternate version of our world, or is it our world in the future? And if it is the future, how did this happen? Alien invasion? Pollution? Disease? … Who knows. I don't necessarily care about not knowing, because there's something I sort of like about how mysterious it is in that regard. On the other hand, I feel like there should be at least a hint of an explanation.- On top of that, I still don't really understand why hybrids are considered so dangerous and why the government is so paranoid about them. Everyone is always just like, "EEEK HYBRIDS, THEY ARE CRAZY AND THEY'RE GOING TO KILL US ALLLL." But … I don't really understand why everyone feels that way.However, I'm kind of willing to let this slide. I don't really understand it, but on the other hand, I guess it's not that different from what the world is like in real life. There are prejudices against people for all kinds of ridiculous reasons––their race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. And none of those prejudices make an ounce of sense, either. So the fact that this fictional world is afraid of people who have a "different" characteristic that they can't control and that has no impact on others at all … Hmm, yeah, I guess that's not that implausible. - I wish the characters were a bit stronger. I like the concept and the plot and the writing style so much … but I don't feel much of a connection to the characters themselves. It gets confusing when there are so many characters all sharing bodies with each other and whatnot. It's a scenario in which the distinctions between the characters should be made really strong and clear––and I just don't see that. I don't see much of a difference personality-wise between Eva and Addie or between any of the other double-identities of the other hybrids. Everyone just kind of acts and talks the same way, and I had trouble keeping track of who was who. In addition, it makes it kind of difficult to be invested in the romance. It's like … I don't care that much who Eva or Addie is interested in, because I feel like the people around them aren't that different from each other.The final word:I still love the concept of this series; it's creative and it's different. The sequel does a good job of keeping up the intrigue and adding a great sense of tension. I would like to see some stronger world-building and character development. But I am very invested in the story itself, and I'm excited to see what happens in the next book.~ Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews ~
The End Games - T. Michael Martin You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews."I guess, sort of, it's heading 'home.' Viruses do that literally, sometimes: there're some that actually make infected animals migrate to the place on Earth where the virus originated. … But even if it doesn't do that, the goal of every virus is to 'go home' to itself: to make the ultimate, purest form of itself. … As with every virus, this one is evolving to its more powerful-slash-purest form."Michael asked if that form had a name.Holly said, "The endgame."Summary:On Halloween, the world as we know it came to an end … and then it came back in the form of what seventeen-year-old Michael calls "The Game." Michael and his five-year-old brother, Patrick, have now been playing The Game for weeks, battling strange monsters called Bellows which now plague the world around them. But now The Game is starting to change, and so are the Bellows … and there are other players who don't play by the rules. My thoughts:The End Games took me longer to read than it should have. It's 300-something pages, and it's about a zombie-apocalypse type scenario. So … should be exciting and fast-paced, right? Well, I guess it was technically pretty fast-paced. A lot of stuff happened, a lot of craziness, a lot of life-or-death scenarios. And yet, there was something about this book that really failed to hold my attention, and I found that every time I picked it up, I couldn't go for a few minutes without wanting to just put it back down again. It wasn't terrible or anything, but I struggled to feel invested in it––and for a while, I had trouble putting a finger on why. Ultimately, I think the concept of the book was good; it had a lot of originality and fantastic ideas going for it. But the style took away from it for me.What I liked:- As I just mentioned, the concept of the book was intriguing and it was different from a lot of other zombie books I've read. It was at least memorable in its uniqueness. The Bellows are zombie-like, but they have aspects that made them different from typical horror-movie monsters. (Mind you, I'm not saying I really liked what the Bellows were like––which I'll get to later––but I appreciate the author's effort to be original.)- The relationship between Michael and Patrick is sweet and believable. If I was invested in anything in the book, it was probably their relationship. As someone with younger siblings, the dynamic felt genuine to me. I could really feel the strong connection between the two brothers––a bond that was unbreakable, but also not perfect. - I can't really say this one without giving away the biggest spoiler in the book … but, let's just say there was a major plot twist about a fourth of the way through the book that really took me by surprise. This is hard to explain because … in a lot of ways, this twist really confused and annoyed me, but I loved the idea of it. Basically, it was a great idea; I just hated the confusing way it was presented … and really, it didn't have to be a secret from the beginning of the book.What didn't work for me:- Well, let's start with that major plot twist I just mentioned. Yes, I loved the idea. But I was kind of mystified as to why it had to be a plot twist at all. It would have been much better if we'd just known it from the beginning, I think. I'm sure those of you who haven't read the book have no clue what I'm talking about right now, but those of you who have read it (or who don't care about spoilers): So, what threw me was that it turned out there was no "Game" and that Michael was the "Game Master," etc. I mean … it made everything make a lot more sense, in a way, because up until this was revealed I really had no clue what the hell was going on. Like, there was some crazy zombie apocalypse going on, and I was like, "Wait so … is this actually happening? Are they trapped in some virtual reality?" So when it turned out Michael had made up the Game as a way to protect Patrick from the truth, it became a little easier to follow and I really liked the idea of that … I just didn't understand why it had to be a secret in the beginning, because all it did was make the story more confusing for the reader.- The Bellows were not that scary to me. In fact, they came off as being kind of comical … which gave the whole story a really weird feel to it. They were scary monsters out to kill everyone, sure. But then, they also did this thing where they repeat everything you say. And even that could have been creepy––you know, if maybe they'd repeated everything in an eerie whisper or something. But well, they're not called Bellows for nothing. The thing is, when they repeat after people, they talk "LIIIIIKEEEE THIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSS!" (Like, literally … the author wrote out the dialogue that way.) It didn't help that Michael and Patrick would shout things like "I'M A POOPY BUTT, HAHA" just to hear the Bellows yell it back at them. (Side note: There were a lot of poop/butt/fart jokes … Uggh, don't even get me started.) So … yeah, I don't know. The repetition aspect was original at least and it could have been made a lot more frightening, but I had a lot of trouble being afraid of creatures whose dialogue was written like the over-excited Facebook comments of a 15-year-old girl.- Building off of that, all the dialogue was strangely written. I think the author was going for realism … ? But somehow, it just made all the characters sound like stoners. I don't really know how else to describe it. Just an example:"Therefore. In conclusion. This isn't The End. The world ins't over.""So, what is the world?""Just paused, man."- The author also had this tendency of a) spelling words incorrectly … to make it appeal more to the cool kids or something, and b) dragging out vowels in words … for emphasis … ? Who knows. Both are demonstrated here:As they returned to the Hummer, Holly said, "May I say, for the record, how fab it is to have you guys here now? New friends rawk.""Totally," Michael said.Friends, Michael thought.Daaaaaang.- If you think that's annoying … well, the whole book is pretty much written like that. Not just the dialogue and the characters' internal thoughts. The whole thing. Somehow the writing simultaneously felt like it was trying way too hard to appeal to a teenage crowd, and at the same time it felt like it wasn't trying at all. It's like, it tried so hard to be original and attention-grabbing that it just became clumsy/silly, and I found it frustrating to read. For example:He found himself relishing the tasks, which were so awesomely familiar from almost Every Video Game Ever. It couldn't have felt more different than The Game did, and in no small part because somebody else was shaping the day, which––true fact––was awesome.So … I think you get the picture. Maybe it's just my taste, but I didn't find the style appealing. - I didn't like the characters. Well, okay … I wouldn't say that I disliked them. It was more that I didn't care about them. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with them; there just wasn't anything interesting. They didn't feel fleshed-out or believable, and hence I really didn't care whether they survived or what their relationships were or anything. As I said earlier, I did like the dynamic between Michael and Patrick, but that was the only one that felt believable to me. The romance between Holly and Michael felt super forced, and it wasn't that interesting considering they were virtually just the same bland character but with different genitalia. The final word:The End Games falls in a weird place for me … I didn't love it, I didn't hate it … but I didn't really like it, either. The idea had serious potential and I think I would have liked it a lot more if it was more focused on the relationship just between Michael and Patrick, if the concept had been far more fleshed-out, if the writing had been more natural and not as forced, if the tone had been more serious and less immature … so on and so forth. I think what I'm trying to say is, it's a pretty decent story, but so much of it could have been better and more powerful. Unfortunately, it's another book that I was really looking forward to reading, but which fell flat for me in the end. ~ Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews ~
Grasshopper Jungle - Andrew  Smith This sounds super bizarre (giant evil praying mantises?!) and very Andrew Smith (in other words, awesome). I can't wait. Also, John Green says he thinks it'll be a huge hit and that you've never read anything like it. So ... that doubles my excitement.
Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking - Susan  Cain You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! ReviewsThis is a bit different from what I typically read and review. I don't often read non-fiction, but when my mom got this out of the library and I read the inside flap, I knew I would have to give it a shot. It sounded like something I could relate to and possibly benefit from … and it was. As soon as I started it, I was totally engrossed. And as I made my way through the entire thing, I felt like I was learning more and more about myself.My whole life I've been an introvert. I keep to myself more than the people around me do. I tend to prefer reading/writing to partying. I'm very self-conscious about speaking; when I talk in front of a bunch of unfamiliar people, I stumble over my words and blush and feel like a moron … hence, I usually opt not to speak at all unless someone forces me to and/or speaks to me first.I've grown used to labels like "shy" and "quiet," to the rude questions like "Can you talk?", "Do you speak English?", and "Have you been in this class the whole year?" The confrontations and notes from teachers/professors are expected by now. "You need to speak up more in class," "Don't be shy!" etc. Just thinking about it right now makes me want to punch a wall. People act as if it's some magical switch I can turn on and off. They think I don't talk much because I'm incompetent, because I'm lazy, because I'm a bitch, because I think I'm better than everyone else. People who know me well can see I'm none of those things (at least, I hope I'm not), but for a lot of people it seems to be a challenge to understand that. It's not that I blame them, because I think it's hard to comprehend what it's like to be an introvert if you haven't experienced it yourself. But still, it's frustrating.What makes being an introvert so hard is that––especially in the US––we are held up to what Susan Cain calls the "Extrovert Ideal." That is, we are told our whole lives that the "ideal" person is an extrovert––outgoing, confident, well-spoken, etc. Extroverted people are thought of as being more important, more authoritative, and more attractive. If you are a shy, you are more likely to be seen as weak, a pushover, a bad leader, an awkward/unattractive person. We're constantly told that in order to succeed, we need to stand up for ourselves, push others out of the way, be the loudest, take the most risks. If you're a shy/introverted person, you are constantly told that you need to change––that if you continue to be quiet, you're never going to get anywhere in life. You won't get a good job, you won't succeed, no one will want to date you ... you name it. Needless to say, I hate being shy. I'm tired of always being told that I need to speak up more, that I just have to be more confident. It's like, do you think I want to be this way? Do you think I enjoy not being able to say what I want to say, that I feel totally idiotic every time I open my mouth, that I don't even want people to look at me because I'm so self-conscious? Trust me, if I could, I would be more confident. If I could just shut off all the thoughts in my head, I would gladly speak up more often. But I've always felt like my brain just wasn't wired that way. People act as if it's as easy as just speaking up, that the leap from being introverted to being extraverted is as easy as, "You know what? I'm just not going to be shy today! Yay!"And … yeah. It's not like that at all. It's like, when I'm surrounded by people I don't (or only barely) know, I just go on lockdown. My mind doesn't generate things to say. My mouth refuses to open. I just completely freeze up. And it's not that I don't want to participate in the conversation. I wish talking was easy for me. I do want to contribute. Yet, there's this voice in my head telling me to not say anything, and to just sit back and observe.So, obviously, this is a very frustrating trait to have. It holds me back in a lot of social situations. I have trouble making friends (although I do have friends, so don't worry). I've managed to live for two decades without ever having a boyfriend. My grades have suffered. So on and so forth.I've struggled with this my whole life, I constantly beat myself up about it … I've always wondered what the hell was wrong with me. Why couldn't I just magically gain some confidence? Why couldn't I just suck it up and be a more social person? I've spent my whole life trying to find something to blame, some reason why I've always been like this. Is it because I'm part of a large family, and therefore I've always felt like I should just keep my problems to myself? Is it because I grew up in such an academically competitive town where there was too much pressure to be the star student? Of course, there must be various contributing factors. But according to Cain's book, it may be due more to nature than to nurture than we may think.Cain discusses several studies that relate introversion/extroversion to sensitivity. And apparently, people with more active amygdalae––a part of the brain that plays a significant role in processing memory and emotional reactions––are far more likely to be introverts. People fall roughly into two groups: "high reactive" and "low reactive." If you are a more high reactive individual, you are more likely to:- React more strongly to stimuli––new sounds, meeting new people, seeing disturbing images, etc.- Be more empathetic towards other people- Be very observational, notice small details- React more emotionally to artwork/music/books/etc.- Be more prone to emotional problems like anxiety/depression- Be very sensitive about what other people think of you, and therefore become timid in social situations where you don't know many peopleThis isn't to say, of course, that more low reactive people don't experience these things, it's just that it tends to happen on a lower scale for them because their amygdalae are not as sensitive. Also, high reactive does not automatically equal introverted and low reactive doesn't automatically equal extroverted, but research suggests a strong correlation between the two traits. But what's most important to realize about levels of reactivity is that they can't be controlled. Cain discusses one study in which infants were tested for how reactive they were to stimuli––and a majority of high-reactive infants grew up to be introverts, while the low-reactive infants tended to grow up to be extroverts. It's studies such as these that suggest we don't choose introversion or extroversion; they are built into our DNA. One can easily fake one or the other. That is, you can be an introvert and still speak a lot and socialize frequently––it's just that, as an introvert, you will be more drained by social interaction. Because introverts are often more high-reactive individuals and therefore react more strongly to stimuli, a room of new faces is much more exhausting to process than it would be for someone who is more low-reactive. I could go on and on about this, but of course––if you want to learn more, I highly suggest reading this book. There's a lot of fascinating information about the subject.Quiet seriously changed the way I think about myself. I still dislike being shy and introverted for many reasons. But after reading this, I also know that I might not have the same creative and observant traits that I have now, if I were extroverted instead. And more importantly, I know that it isn't my fault for being this way––and that millions of people face the same struggle that I do. I don't know if I can say that I really accept who I am, at least not yet. But at least I feel like I understand it a lot better.Over all, I think this book is well-written and well-researched, and Cain narrates it with heart and humor––drawing from her own experience as an introvert alongside her studies of the subject. I thought Quiet was brilliant, and I recommend it to introverts and extroverts alike. ~ Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews ~
Red Rising - Pierce Brown Well ... I think it's time I give up on this. Maybe I'll try it again sometime, but I got halfway through it and I still felt no connection to it at all. Unfortunately, I was just finding it really dry and boring and I could not get into it. I could have forced myself the rest of the way through it, but I really wasn't absorbing any of it, so I don't see much of a point. Oh well.
A Wounded Name - Dot Hutchison You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews.Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book!To love is to hurt, either in giving pain or in suffering it. Which helps more with grief: feeling the pain or sharing it?Summary:Sixteen-year-old Ophelia Castellan can see ghosts. Even when she takes her medication, she can still hear their voices singing and calling out to her. When the headmaster of her school suddenly dies, Ophelia can no longer avoid the phantoms that plague her––especially now that she's seeing two Headmaster's ghosts haunting the school grounds.Dane, the Headmaster's son, understands Ophelia's pain. And the two of them soon become everything to each other. But as he starts to lose his sanity, Dane begins to drag Ophelia down with him. You know how this story ends ...My thoughts:As the summary of the book suggests, we all know the tragic "everyone dies" ending of Hamlet. And that's the thing with retellings; everyone knows the story, so it's predictable. But there are plenty of great retellings out there. It's just a matter of taking an original spin on the story, and making the characters feel as real and compelling as possible, really getting to the heart of their motives, etc. (because that's the part the original story sometimes glazes over). So, in my opinion, it's difficult to pull off a decent retelling.I was interested in A Wounded Name because I haven't read many retellings of Hamlet, especially modern-day ones. The idea of doing a more modernized version of the story and from Ophelia's point of view was an interesting premise, I thought. Unfortunately, a lot of things about this book fell flat for me. But … let me break it down.What I liked:- As I said, I liked the concept of retelling Hamlet from Ophelia's point of view. Has it been done before? I'm sure, although I don't think I've seen a specific example of it before. - I went back and forth on the writing style a bit, but there were some descriptions I liked. There were times when the writing flowed beautifully, and created very vivid images. What didn't work for me:- Although I liked the writing at times, there were other times when it felt over-the-top and not like a teenage girl's narration. While I realize Ophelia is pretty unusual and gloomy, I still had trouble relating to her voice when she sounded like … well, like she came out of a Shakespeare play. I would have preferred that the author had given her a more believable and relatable voice.- Building off of that, I had similar problems with the dialogue. Once again, it often sounded like the characters' exchanges were coming out of something written by Shakespeare––which they were, of course, but it didn't feel right in context. In fact, I became confused about what time period this was supposed to be taking place in due to the more old-fashioned nature of the dialogue. It didn't feel modern or natural to me.- The romance between Dane (aka Hamlet) and Ophelia made me uncomfortable. I realize it's not supposed to be a particularly healthy relationship but … it was still disturbing to me. Throughout the book, I just felt that Ophelia was rather passive about the whole thing, and it felt like Dane was constantly using her as a way to deal with his grief. In fact, there were a lot of times when it seemed like Ophelia was afraid of him and didn't want him touching her … but he would do so anyway. On top of that, he was just plain abusive at points. He would always be grabbing Ophelia, shaking her, forcing her to kiss him … there's a point where he chokes her until she passes out … uh.I was just confused about whether this was being conveyed as romantic or not. Because a lot of the time, it felt to me like it was supposed to be. You know, one of those things that was like, "Dane is an abusive asshole sometimes, but it's only because he's a tortured soul … and that's so sexy!" So … I don't know. It was confusing and creepy to me.- *Sigh* The slut shaming. Ugh. Just to give you a taste:His mouth claims mine, tender but urgent, and I shatter. All the protests, the words of refusal that a good girl should have on her lips, the concern and the thoughts and the things that make sense, they all splinter off into nothingness …I'm sorry … so, if you allow a boy to kiss you that makes you not a "good girl" … ? And here's Dane talking about his mother:"What would happen? That she would betray everything my father stood for? That she would whore herself out to the first man that came sniffing around, even her own brother-in-law?Okay, I get that it's weird for your mom to get together with your uncle right after your dad dies. But … still. No.Now for Ophelia talking about why she has no friends:The only girls who willingly talk to me are the ones who are trying to get to my brother and think cozying up to his sister is a sure way of achieving that.If they spread their legs, that's a very sure way of getting my brother's attention.Sometimes I even tell them that.… And the girl wonders why she has no friends.I'm just really tired of seeing this attitude in so many YA books. I don't want to see any more female protagonists whining about how every girl is a shallow slut except for them. Just … NO NO NO. STOP IT. - There were some odd descriptions that were used over and over again––especially "bruise-colored" and "hollow of my breasts." Like seriously, so many things were described as "bruise-colored" and … what color even is that? Bruises can be a lot of different colors––brown, blue, purple, black, yellow, green … it's not a real color. And then Ophelia was always talking about the "hollow of her breasts" which sounded weird to me. Maybe "hollow between my breasts" would have made more sense … but "hollow of my breasts" makes me picture … hollow boobs. I don't know, I just found it strange. The final word:I liked the concept of this book. A modernized retelling of Hamlet in Ophelia's perspective could have been really cool. And while there were some descriptions I liked, a lot of them didn't seem fitting to the time period for me. And in the end, I didn't feel much attachment to or sympathy for the characters. - Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews
Hopeless - Colleen Hoover I've heard good things about this. Sooo yeah I should probably read it at some point. Yes.
Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews.WARNING: This review will contain spoilers from the first book."I'm not cruel, Alina. Just cautious."I almost laughed. "Is that why you had one of your monsters bite me?""That's not why," he said, his gaze steady. He glanced at my shoulder. "Does it hurt?""No," I lied.The barest hint of a smile touched his lips. "It will get better," he said. "But the wound can never be fully healed. Not even by Grisha.""This creatures––""The nichevo'ya."Nothings. I shuddered, remembering the skittering, clicking sounds they'd made, the gaping holes of their mouths. My shoulder throbbed. "What are they?"His lips tilted. The faint tracery of scars on his face was barely visible, like the ghost of a map. One ran perilously close to his right eye. He'd almost lost it. He cupped my cheek with his hand, and when he spoke, his voice was almost tender. "They're just the beginning," he whispered.After the battle on the Fold, Alina is being hunted across the True Sea, accompanied by Mal. At the same time, she is attempting to balance a new life with keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret.But she can't avoid her duties for long. The Darkling has developed even more dangerous powers, and Alina must return to Ravka with the help of a notorious privateer. And as her own powers grow, Alina finds herself sucked further into a battle of dark magic––a battle which might tear her away from Mal forever. After I was pleasantly surprised by the first book in the series, Shadow and Bone, I had high expectations for Siege and Storm. Plus, I saw that a lot of other reviewers were raving over it and saying it was better than the first book. So, I was excited.Well … I was a bit let down, to be honest. Although I still liked it, I thought Siege and Storm was a slightly more disappointing follow-up than what I was hoping for, and there were a few key things that irked me.Something that bothered me about the first book was an issue with pacing. Although the very beginning and last half of it or so were very exciting, there was a large chunk in the middle where not much happened besides Alina living in the palace and learning stuff from the Darkling and getting makeovers from Genya, etc. and I started to get a little bored. I felt the second book had this same problem … only it was worse, and the dull chunk of it lasted for a lot longer. It started off strong and action-packed, and got that way towards the very end as well. But a majority of the book, I kept waiting and waiting for something to happen.In my opinion, this book suffered from Mockingjay Syndrome––meaning, too much of the plot consisted of the main character just passively getting paraded around while everyone fawned over her like, "Ooh you're an important figurehead now! Everyone adores you! Yaaaay!" It just got repetitive. Another thing that bothered me in this book was the slut-shaming/girl-hate that was going on. Now, this is something I saw a lot of other reviewers noted about the first book. I didn't really notice it much when I read Shadow and Bone, although after I read it and went through several reviews that mentioned it, I saw that people had a point. I did have this feeling throughout the first book that Alina had a bad habit of measuring other women's values by their looks.Maybe it was just because I had an eye open for it this time, but I thought the problem became a lot more apparent in Siege and Storm. I especially had problems with the descriptions of Zoya. Just a couple of examples:1. It took everything in me not to turn around and watch Mal's reaction. Zoya was the Grisha who had done all she could to make my life miserable at the Little Palace. She'd sneered at me, gossiped about me, and even broken two of my ribs. But she was also the girl who had caught Mal's interest so long ago in Kribirsk. I wasn't sure what had happened between them, but I doubted it was just lively conversation.2. Who was I kidding? I hated even sitting in the same room with her. She looked like a Saint. Delicate bones, glossy black hair, perfect skin. All she needed was a halo. Mal paid her no attention, but a twisting feeling in my gut made me think he was ignoring her a little too deliberately. I knew I had more important things to worry about than Zoya. I had an army to run and enemies on every side, but I couldn't seem to stop myself.So … I see what people mean. It's like, I get that Zoya is mean to Alina and broke her ribs and all that. But it seems like that's not the reason Alina hates her; she hates Zoya because she's pretty and because she attracted Mal's attention. And maybe this wouldn't rub me the wrong way so much if Zoya wasn't such a flat character whose only motives are to make Alina's life miserable … for pretty much no reason.In addition, it's just like … none of the secondary female characters are fleshed out much, and that bothers me. It seems like Alina is constantly just criticizing her female peers. I mean, there's Genya, but still––Alina is always just stressing how beautiful Genya is, and she's just kind of like a magic fairy godmother prancing around giving everyone makeovers.Probably the only female character who escaped this trend was Tamar, and I thought she was pretty cool … Hopefully she becomes an even more major character in the next book. … And/or Alina could just stop being so rude about other women all the time. That'd be nice. In relation to that problem, I got annoyed with the relationship between Alina and Mal in this book. I really liked them together in Shadow and Bone, but I felt that in the sequel there was a lot of unnecessary drama/jealousy between them. So, that was a letdown for me. I thought they were really sweet and adorable together, and now it's just like … ugh, why did everything have to get so messed up? I understand adding tension/drama just to liven up the story a little, but … I don't know. I feel like it's clichéd and it seemed a bit forced to me. All that said, there were still a lot of things I liked about this book. I like the world Leigh Bardugo has created (although, as I mentioned in my review of the first book, I don't think the whole "Russian" thing is needed since it's not fully realized). There's a very intense and mysterious atmosphere to the whole thing. I'm also still very interested in the Darkling as a character … he's very scary, especially with the new powers he develops in this second installment. Although, I'm still waiting to see his character become more fleshed out. I still don't really see what his motives are for becoming such a power-hungry creep, and it kind of makes him just seem like a stereotypical two-dimensional villain. But I think he has a lot of potential and I'm really hoping there will be more to his development in the third book.Also, I really liked the addition of Sturmhond. I think the story needed a good comic relief character, and I found him to be very funny––one of those witty and slightly infuriating types of characters (which I am a sucker for). But he's not just there to be funny, and he actually has an important role to play in the story.Over all, I did enjoy this book. I didn't like it as much as I liked the first book, and I still think there are a lot more things the author can develop … Hopefully the third book, [b:Ruin and Rising|14061957|Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)|Leigh Bardugo||19699754] will accomplish that.- Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews
Midnight City - J. Barton Mitchell You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews.An alien race known as the Assembly has taken over the earth. All the adults are gone, having succumbed to a telepathic alien signal called the Tone, but everyone under the age of twenty is still able to resist––which means the fate of the world lies in the hands of teens and children.Holt Hawkins is a bounty hunter, pursuing a treasure seeker named Mira Toombs who has a massive price on her head. Holt soon is able to capture her, but the two of them have an instant connection that he didn't expect. On top of that, the two of them find a crashed Assembly ship in which they discover a little girl named Zoey. And for some reason, the Assembly seems to be after her. The three of them start off on a journey to the underground Midnight City. Along the way they encounter mutants, artifacts with strange powers, pirates, and––of course––aliens. And at the same time, Zoey is starting to demonstrate otherworldly abilities––which Holt and Mira believe might help to stop the Assembly forever.Midnight City was, in some ways, a surprising read for me. I wouldn't say it's extremely original, because there are a lot of typical tropes in it. What surprised me was that I actually became pretty invested in it. While the beginning was a little strange and confusing for me, about halfway through I became hooked. This is one story that really gets rolling and never slows down.It didn't surprise me to learn that the author comes from a screenwriting background. The book definitely has an action-movie feel to it (which is a good thing in some ways, and not so good in others). It's very fast-paced, plot-driven, and focused mainly on action. What mostly kept me reading was that aspect of it––that the plot never came to a stand-still and there was always something happening. In addition to that, I liked that there were so many different elements to the story. J. Barton Mitchell creates a very crazy world with a lot to explore in it. Sometimes it felt like it was almost too much, and the explanations of it all weren't extremely clear, but at least it kept things from getting boring or repetitive.However, there were times where Mitchell falls into some pretty bad info-dumping. For example:The Tone turned most people who heard it into the Succumbed, the mindless slaves of the Assembly. But for others it had unexpected effects. The Heedless were one: people like Holt who were immune.Then there were the Forsaken. People who didn't Succumb to the Tone, but rather were driven completely insane by it, reduced to horribly violent, animal-like monstrosities. They were drawn to one another somehow, lived in commune-like groups in various parts of the world. At least that was what the stories said. Few who found them lived to tell about it.So, I think you can see what I mean. There were some instances like this that were just long rants which dumped a lot of information and random new terms on the reader … and those were not fun to read. The characters were pretty iffy for me. At the beginning of the book, I really disliked both Holt and Mira. They were just total assholes to each other all the time––since, you know, Mira was Holt's "prisoner" and he kept like, tying her to trees and shit (how kinky).As the story progressed and they kind of fell out of that captor/prisoner thing, they became less annoying and I liked them a bit more. And I could see that the author was trying hard to give them convincing backstories and everything. But … I still just didn't feel much sympathy for either of them. They just didn't have very strong personalities and came off as being more like props to propel the story forward and not as people with a lot of depth. Not to mention, it was pretty clear from the first time they met each other that they were going to fall in love and all that jazz … so, their romance wasn't all that compelling for me.And honestly, I couldn't stand Zoey. She really annoyed me. It's very difficult to pull off a child character, despite what most authors seem to think. And in this case, I didn't think it worked. Zoey is one of those cringeworthy little kid characters who just sounds completely robotic and creepy all the time and … I guess it's supposed to be endearing? Well, anyway …That brings me to another major problem, which is that the book was full of too much random convenience. Basically every time the characters are in a disastrous situation, they get out of it via a) magical artifacts that Mira has, or b) Zoey's random superpowers. It got to the point where the story was losing the suspense factor, because every time something bad happened, I was just like, "Oh, Mira will whip out a magic rock or Zoey will do something magical, and the day will be saved." I remember being taught back in middle school English class that if you're going to write fantasy, magic can't solve every single problem in the story. And, well, that's kind of what happens in this book.But even so, I did find myself enjoying this book most of the time. While the characters are a bit on the boring side, at least the story had a lot going on and it was exciting. And there are still a lot of important questions to be answered, like:- What's the deal with Zoey? What's with the super-duper powers and stuff?- What's with all that weird stuff the Oracle showed Zoey?- How did Holt become a bounty hunter and all that stuff in the first place?- Do any of these characters eat anything besides cupcakes?- How does Max (Holt's dog) live off of only eating candy (which, not to mention, can be poisonous to dogs)? Okay, the last two were jokes. But, you get what I'm saying.So yeah, even though this first one was a little "meh" for me, I will probably read the sequel. P.S. I kept getting this song stuck in my head the whole time I was reading this. Also aliens seem to be the "NEXT BIG THING" in YA. Hmm.- Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews
Data Runner - Sam A. Patel You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews.Thank you NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book!Actual rating: 2.5 StarsRed Tail turns her attention back to her thin screen, and we walk in silence for a few minutes, giving me a chance to take in everything she's just told me. But soon her expression changes, seemingly from some disturbing piece of information she's just received."What is it?" I ask."Look, you've come into this at a very awkward time. This is going to sound paranoid, but it's the best piece of advice I can give you right now. Trust no one. Do you hear me? No one.""Wouldn't no one include you?""That's your choice."In the near future, megacorporations have taken over what was once New York City. Without the Internet, important information is passed through a network of "data runners" who physically run information from place to place, carrying it in chips imbedded in their arms. Teenage math genius Jack Nill chooses to become a data runner so that he can help his father out of a gambling debt. But when Jack receives cargo that everyone wants, his life is soon in danger. Teaming up with his best friend, Dexter, and a fellow data runner girl who goes by the code name Red Tail, Jack has to outrun his pursuers before they find him.Over all, I have mixed feelings about Data Runner. On one hand, I like the concept a lot. On the other hand, I didn't feel like the book reached its potential.The book started off rather confusing for me. The reader is thrown right into the plot without much explanation. A lot of unfamiliar terms are thrown out into the open and you just have to try to keep up. It does start to piece together after a while … but I have to say, for almost the first fourth of the book or so I had next to no idea what was happening a lot of the time––especially because a lot of the dialogue is like this:"Those EEPROMs all use a modified Floating Gate MOSFET for their storage mechanism. It works like a built-in failsafe. Any attempt to pull the data matrix directly from the EEPROM will trigger a hot-carrier injection into the gate dielectric and wipe it out completely."Uhhh…?Maybe it's because I'm not all that tech-savvy, but … yeah. Reading something like that is just another language to me.The pace picked up a bit for me once I got about a third of the way into the story. Once Jack is a data runner and there are all these crazy people after him, it gets more exciting. There are a lot of chase scenes and whatnot, which were able to hold my attention most of the time.Also, like I've said, I thought it was a cool concept. There was a lot of creativity in the idea of data running, and it was pretty different from most books I read.However, some things really took away from the book for me. For one, there was some painfully bad dialogue. I mean … real bad. "This," he catches my reflection in the blade, "this is not for making ice cream." He pauses for drama like a bad actor. "Not I scream," he finishes, "this is for making you scream."I … Yeah, I don't even know.(Also as I typed that, I realized the punctuation is atrocious. But yeah, moving on.) The book also struck me as being a bit racist. The main villain is this Japanese guy named Mr. Ito, who basically runs around hacking off people's arms with a katana. Right … because every Japanese person owns a katana.On top of that, he's just a pretty flat and two-dimensional villain. So whenever he showed up I was just like:Speaking of which, I just didn't feel much of a connection to any of the characters. Jack is pretty much just a Gary Stu––a math prodigy, outsmarts everyone, yada yada. I didn't find anything compelling in his character.Probably Red Tail was the only character I was close to liking, but I still felt pretty "mehhh" about her. She was a pretty typical sassy female lead and the relationship between her and Jack felt a little too rushed and forced to me.In the end, I found this book to be fun for the most part, and the idea was intriguing. It just wasn't fleshed out enough, and it just wasn't that memorable or compelling for me.- Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews
Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo Actual rating: 3.5 StarsYou can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews."Now, show them."I grinned and did as I had been taught, throwing my arms wide and feeling my whole self open, then I slammed my hands together and a loud rumble shook the ballroom. Brilliant white light exploded through the crowd with a whoosh as the guests released a collective "Ahhhh!" and closed their eyes, flinging up their hands against the brightness.I held it for a few long seconds and then unclasped my hands, letting the light fade. The crowd burst into wild applause, clapping furiously and stomping their feet.We took our bows as the orchestra began to play and the applause gave way to excited chatter. The Darkling pulled me to the side of the stage and whispered, "Do you hear them? See them dancing and embracing? They know now that the rumors are true, that everything is about to change."The Shadow Fold is a land of impenetrable darkness that runs through the nation of Ravka, plagued by monsters that feed on humans. While on a dangerous journey through the Fold with the army, a girl named Alina unexpectedly defeats some monsters with a power she never knew she had. This immediately attracts the attention of the Grisha––the magical elite who rule over Ravka.Their leader, a mysterious and terrifying being called the Darkling, takes Alina into his palace to learn to control her power. He tells her she may be the key to defeating the monsters of the Shadow Fold once and for all. But Alina is torn between her luxurious new lifestyle and everything she's left behind––particularly her best friend, Mal. And can she really trust the Grisha, when she has been taught her whole life not to?I went into Shadow and Bone not knowing what to expect. I had seen a lot of fellow reviewers reading it, but I didn't know much about what it was about or even if people were liking it or not. I have to admit, what interested me in the first place was that gorgeous cover. Hot damn!The beginning of this book completely arrested me. The prologue was a little confusing and maybe unnecessary, but once it got into Alina's narration I was hooked right away. I mean, within the first couple of chapters, we already have these crazy flying demons (called volcra) attacking people, the Darkling chopping people in half with his mind, etc. It was really exciting, I enjoyed the writing style, I loved the dynamic between Alina and Mal … I stayed up until 1 AM reading it and even considered waking up at like 6 in the morning just to keep reading. I was prepared for one crazy ride. Well, this book has a very promising beginning … but it didn't quite fulfill that promise. Don't get me wrong, I still really enjoyed this book. But after that super exciting beginning, things slow down quite a bit. Once Alina is in the Grisha kingdom and studying with the Darkling and all that, the pace gets pretty slow. It isn't until a little over halfway through the book that things get good again––once Alina finds out some important secrets, and once she is reunited with Mal again.That uneventful chunk took away from my enjoyment of the book a bit. However, I did find a lot of things to admire about Shadow and Bone over all.I'm not usually a big fan of "epic fantasy" type books, usually because they are filled with info-dumps. But I think Leigh Bardugo does a fine job in creating this fantastical world without shoving too much information at the reader at once. There are a lot of new terms to pick up, but they're all pretty self-explanatory and presented in contexts that don't make them confusing. That takes a lot of skill, and I applaud Bardugo for that. The book also has a very strong atmosphere––very dark and mysterious, which kept me intrigued. The more exciting parts of the book (the very beginning of it and the second half of it) really kept me hooked. The action scenes were engaging, the descriptions were vivid, the dialogue (especially between Alina and Mal) was very charming and enjoyable. The romance also didn't go in the direction I quite expected. I will try not to spoil much … but yes, the Darkling and Mal are both involved. And I really liked both of them––in very different ways, but I thought they were both good characters.Mal is really sweet. I kept just wanting to reach through the book and hug him. Sure, the "childhood best friend love interest" is an overused trope, but … oh well. I still loved Mal nonetheless. Like I said, I especially loved the dialogue between him and Alina. Bardugo is great at showing (rather than telling) that these two are best friends and that they have such a strong connection. It was easily believable.The Darkling is a very intriguing character. Like Alina, I was torn between fearing him and being … weirdly attracted to him. I mean, he can slice people's bodies in half without even touching them, and that's pretty dang frightening. And as the story unfolds, we learn some pretty disturbing things about him. Yet … well, he's kind of sexy. Not gonna lie. I hope we learn more about him and his motives in the sequel, because I think his character has quite a lot of potential.There are still a few things about the book that bothered me somewhat.Firstly, there are so many clichés. So, so many.- The whole light vs. darkness thing, where light is good and dark is evil.- The main character spontaneously discovers powers she never used or knew about before, and is basically a "chosen one" who has the power to save everyone, yada yada.- Before all of this, the main character was just a plain orphan girl who never thought she was anything special.- The main character considers herself very boring and "ordinary-looking" because she's small and has brown hair … and apparently that automatically equals ugliness.- … But she's actually super sexy.- Main character has to choose between the sexy new "dangerous" love interest and the "childhood best friend" love interest … well, kind of. Part of me was really glad that the Darkling turned out to be a traitor. I was afraid it would go further down the clichéd route and it would turn out the Darkling is actually just full of angst because of a horrible childhood or something, but he wasn't actually "bad." So I was glad in a way that he actually turned out to be a villain in the story, although I hope that in the sequels there is more development of his character. I don't want him to end up being a totally two-dimensional "bad guy."I could go on, but I think that about covers the basics. You get the idea. And look, I still really had fun reading this book. But I have to admit, it's not very original, and I see why a lot of people dislike it because of that.I also agree with what I've seen a lot of other reviewers say about the book's focus on looks/beauty. I hadn't really thought about it until I saw so many other people point it out, but I see what they're saying. Alina often stresses the beauty of the other females in the book, while comparing it to her own "plainness." It's kind of the only way she judges other women, which is sad. And in general, I had mixed feelings about Alina. I thought she was cool in the very beginning, but for the rest of the book she had a tendency to act kind of naïve/pathetic a lot of the time, and didn't really do much until towards the end of the book. I still think she has a lot of potential as a protagonist, but I'll have to see more of that in the sequel to believe it.Another small thing … I don't really see the point of the "Russian flavor" of the whole thing. I don't claim to know much about Russian mythology, but from what I've read of more knowledgable reviewers, the book doesn't draw from mythology so much. And apparently the author has said that it's not really based on Russia, just slightly influenced by it. But this is really only apparent in the names of the characters, some of the language they use, and not much else. So … while it doesn't really take anything away from the book, I don't think it adds anything either. But anyway, ultimately I had a lot of fun reading this book. The plot may not be very original, and the story slowed down a bit too much for me for most of the first half––but the world-building is interesting, the writing is good, and I'm intrigued by the characters. My fear for the next two books is that it's going to become a predictable and typical "good vs. evil" story, but I'm really hoping that won't happen. I think this first installment laid out a foundation that could lead to something truly great, and I'm just hoping it reaches that potential.- Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews
The Sea of Tranquility - Katja Millay You can also read this review on Flying Kick-a-pow! Reviews."If we had a telescope, I could show you the Sea of Tranquility." She points up at the sky. "See? Up there on the moon. You can't really tell from here.""Is that why you have a picture of the moon in your bedroom?" At this point I'm an expert at going along with her tangents. "You noticed that?""It was the only thing on the wall. I thought you were into astronomy.""I'm not. I keep it there to remind me that it's bullshit. I thought it sounded like this beautiful, peaceful place. Like where you'd want to go when you die. Quiet and water everywhere. A place that would swallow you up and accept you no matter what. I had this whole image of it.""Doesn't sound like a bad place to end up.""It wouldn't be, if it were real. But it's not. It's not a sea at all. It's just a big, dark shadow on the moon. The whole name is a lie. Doesn't mean anything."After a violent attack leaves her scarred and disfigured, former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov has two simple goals––survive through high school without anyone uncovering her past, and find the boy who destroyed her and make him suffer for it.Josh Bennett has lost his whole family and lives on his own, and the only thing he loves anymore is building furniture. But when Nastya starts showing up everywhere in his life, he starts to become curious about her … and the more their relationship intensifies, the closer Josh comes to discovering Nastya's darkest secret––a secret she is desperate to hide from everyone.I went into The Sea of Tranquility with very high expectations, considering how overwhelmingly positive the reviews of it seem to be. In fact, when I found it on Goodreads just a few weeks ago, I was shocked that I hadn't heard of it before, due to all the hype. After finishing it, I have a lot of mixed feelings. It was definitely a novel that had a lot of ups and downs for me. I would say that yes, I enjoyed it over all. But there were also numerous things that just … got under my skin a bit, and ultimately I didn't love it the way a lot of other people seem to. Let's start with the length. Apparently this book is about 380 pages long, and I think it should have been more like 280. Don't get me wrong––I love a slow-building romance and a lot of character development, and so forth. But I think even with a hundred or so pages cut out, it wouldn't have taken much away from either of those things. And why? Because a lot of it was pretty repetitive. A great deal of the narration is dedicated to internal monologues––and often, we have the protagonists just thinking the same things over and over again.Nastya: I miss being a piano prodigy. My hand is messed up. I died once. I like dressing in skimpy clothes. I'm going to go for another twenty-mile run. Mmm cookies. I can't talk to anyone. Except Josh. He's cool and stuff. Did I mention my hand is messed up and that I died once?Josh: Nastya looks like a whore but I like her anyway. She is like a ray of sunshine. I am just going to call her Sunshine all the time, even in my thoughts. La di da. My parents are dead and my life sucks. Nastya is sexy and so are chairs.It was like, they both had these thought-banks that only consisted of like five things that they just kept talking about over and over again. And a lot of that could have been cut out.I also had problems with the characters. As I just illustrated, I felt that the two protagonists both had kind of one-track minds. Also, besides the chapter headings, I had trouble distinguishing their alternating voices from each other. I'm not a huge fan of switching first-person points of view, and in the case of this book I think it could have easily just been in third person or stuck to one first-person point of view. It also bothered me that practically everyone in this book was some kind of prodigy. Nastya was a piano prodigy, Josh is a furniture-building prodigy, Clay is an art prodigy, Drew is a debate prodigy, etc. Look, I love to see authors put thought into all the characters' interests, and I liked that all the characters had their individual passions. But the fact that they were all so damn good at everything just didn't feel realistic. Couldn't at least one of them have just been mediocre at their hobby?There were also just a lot of traits/moments the characters had that made me a bit (or really) uncomfortable.First, Nastya. I had a lot of problems with her, and in the end I honestly didn't even like her that much. I wanted to sympathize with her, after the horrible things she'd been through––but a lot of things about her personality really rubbed me the wrong way.I was bothered by her choice to wear really revealing clothing all the time––not because of that in itself, but because of the reason behind it and her general attitude about it. I'm all for women wearing whatever they want and not being judged for it. But I mean, Nastya is like, "Well, everyone is going to be staring at me because of my screwed-up hand anyway, so they might as well have my boobs to look at as well!" Which leaves me a bit like, "… Huh?" I'm sorry, but if you were self-conscious about people seeing your hand, wouldn't you not try really hard to draw attention to yourself? And look, I'm not saying that a disfigured hand makes you any less beautiful. It just seemed like kind of flawed logic in accordance with her don't-look-at-me attitude. But I think what bothered me more than that is that she constantly puts herself down for the way she dresses. Like, she's constantly thinking to herself, "I look slutty, I look like a whore." And like I said, I think women should dress however they want. But on the other hand, I don't think a woman should dress in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable. And on top of that, she then acted like it was okay when guys were sleazy towards her. She'd basically be like, "Well, I dress like a slut, so I was asking for it."Ummm no. It doesn't matter what you're wearing. You don't put up with guys saying disgusting things about you. It's your life, it's your image, it's your body, and no one has a right to spread rumors about you or try to touch you without your consent. *Steps off soapbox … for now*It also concerned me that Nastya barely eats anything and has a grueling run every day, and this was passed off as being some sort of cute, quirky thing. It would be like:Josh: What have you eaten today?Nastya: Two cookies. And then I ran for three hours.Josh: Hahaha you adorable thing, you.Uhh, no. I mean, not only did Nastya's whole running thing seem really obsessive, but eating nothing but candy/cookies (which, of course, give you hardly any nutrition at all) plus over-exerting yourself every single day is super dangerous for your health. So, no. That's not cute. That is scary and a serious problem. So … Josh. He was a slightly better character for me, but I still wasn't that crazy about him. He was a nice guy most of the time, but then he just had some super asshole moments. For example, there's a point near the beginning where his friend Drew drops off a very drunk Nastya at his house. She spends all night puking her guts out, and the next day she has a mega hangover. Nice-guy Josh holds back her hair while she pukes and all that. And then the next day when she's super hungover, he's like, "Oh hey I'll get you some water." He then proceeds to pour her some vodka––yes, vodka––and hand it to her, which she promptly drinks and throws up, because––oh right, IT'S FRICKING VODKA. And then Josh is like, "Whoa that was a joke, I didn't think you'd actually drink it."Who fucking does that?! Seriously, just … WHAT? I mean, a) if he didn't think she'd fall for that "joke"––if you could even call it that––then why would he even do it in the first place, and b) why on earth would you do that to a girl who had spent all night drunk and vomiting, especially when you don't even know her that well? There was also the thing with Leigh, which I thought was pretty dumb and unnecessary. Basically, Josh is interested in Nastya, but then he has this friend named Leigh who is just his designated "fuck buddy" and they just use each other for sex all the time. And I guess I would have been a little bit more okay with this had Leigh actually seemed like a thought-out character. But as it was, she was just kind of a prop to cause unnecessary tension. I think she maybe said one thing in the entire book.Josh also ventured into "creepy overly-protective guy" mode a lot of the time. Before he and Nastya even get together, he's weirdly protective of her. Like another guy just talks to her or says something about her, and he flies into a mental rage like, "HOW DARE ANYONE BUT ME TALK TO/ABOUT HER." And even when they do get together … like, Drew and Nastya will be sitting around joking about having sex with each other (when Josh knows very well that it's all a joke and that Nastya is not interested in Drew at all) but he'll still get all furious and jealous over it. It just seemed really silly to me, and kind of a warning sign of a not-so-healthy relationship.The "Sunshine" nickname he gave to Nastya also bugged me. Pet names in general tend to annoy me because I find them kind of condescending. But it was also like, he called her Sunshine all the freaking time––even when he was just thinking. It was bad enough when every time he talked to her he ended every sentence with "Sunshine." But he'd also narrate like, "Sunshine walks into class. Sunshine sits down next to me." Just … ugh. It got kind of nauseating. And then we have Drew. At first, I didn't like him and he seemed like a typical asshole character. Then … I don't know. He gradually grew on me, maybe just because he was funny. And despite him always making sex jokes about Nastya, he actually respected her boundaries and whatnot and they could just like, talk to each other. And I thought that was cool and that he actually seemed like a pretty sweet guy. Buuut then he lost a lot of points at the very end of the book. So, he and Josh find out about the guy who beat Nastya to death (like, she literally died for a minute). And then he says:"I just don't get it. Gorgeous girl, alone, why doesn't he rape her? Why does he just beat the shit out of her and leave her there. It just doesn't make sense to me."Wait … what?So, you're telling me … you just found out your friend was brutally beaten to the point where she literally died and was scarred and disfigured for life, and your first thought is, "Hey when he was beating the absolute living shit out of her, why didn't he also rape her? I mean, she's so pretty!"I just … I don't even know what to say. But like I said, he lost a lot of points there. If it hadn't been for that one line, he would have probably been my favorite character. Anyway, I don't want to make it sound like I hated this book, because I actually enjoyed reading it most of the time. Obviously, I had some major issues with it. But it had its strengths as well.I thought it was well-written. As I said, it was often super repetitive. But the style of the writing itself was good, almost poetic. Even if nothing much was going on in the story, I was still engaged in the words themselves. There was a lot of very vivid imagery, which was especially powerful at the most significant moments of the story. I found the dialogue to be especially well-done. Sometimes it was melodramatic, but I thought most of the time it was realistic. Whenever there was dialogue, that was when I found myself the most invested in the story. The exchanges between the characters usually felt natural, and there was often a good balance between the comedy and the drama. I also was relieved that this wasn't a typical insta-love story. When I picked it up, my fear was that I was going to be reading the typical "girl meets boy" romance book, where two sad people meet each other and just get together right away and then everything is rainbows and unicorns and their lives are all better. So, I was glad that it didn't go down that route. The relationship develops very slowly, and even when Josh and Nastya are together, there is still a lot of complications and in the end it wasn't totally perfect, which felt more believable to me than with a lot of other romance books.Ultimately, things didn't turn out quite like I expected. I had no idea how the story was supposed to end. But I really loved the ending. When I got to the last couple of lines, I couldn't help but smile. And I guess it was pretty cheesy and maybe a little beyond the realm of believability, but I thought it was really sweet nonetheless. And in the end, despite a lot of the issues I had with the execution of the story, I thought it did a good job getting across its message––that even after a horrible tragedy, there are people who will help you heal, and that there are always second chances.

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