Review: The Elizas by Sara Shepard

theelizasThe Elizas by Sara Shepard

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: April 17th, 2018

Publisher: Atria Books

Pages: 352 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: When debut novelist Eliza Fontaine is found at the bottom of a hotel pool, her family at first assumes that it’s just another failed suicide attempt. But Eliza swears she was pushed, and her rescuer is the only witness. 

Desperate to find out who attacked her, Eliza takes it upon herself to investigate. But as the publication date for her novel draws closer, Eliza finds more questions than answers. Like why are her editor, agent, and family mixing up events from her novel with events from her life? Her novel is completely fictional, isn’t it? 

The deeper Eliza goes into her investigation while struggling with memory loss, the closer her life starts to resemble her novel until the line between reality and fiction starts to blur and she can no longer tell where her protagonist’s life ends and hers begins.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

Though I’ve known about her work for years, this is the first novel by Sara Shepard that I’ve ever read—and I ended up being pleasantly surprised by this particular story. It is a pretty solid young adult thriller. Being quite a huge fan of suspenseful mysteries—particularly any type with unreliable or biased narrators—this caught my attention immediately. I am much more used to reading adult psychological thrillers, and this is not quite on par with the plot structure and intensity of many of those. As it is a young adult novel, it is a bit less complex and much lighter, so it’s important to note that going in. However, The Elizas is an entertaining and heart-pounding story that is sure to hook its intended audience.

In this novel, we follow a young woman named Eliza Fontaine, a debut novelist whose book release date is rapidly approaching. But life takes a strange turn when she is pulled from the bottom of a hotel pool. Her family believes it to be just another suicide attempt—she insists it was an attempted murder. With only one person on her side, and what seems like the whole world trying to convince her she’s just insane, Eliza must investigate the attack herself.

However, as she struggles to regain lost memories, every avenue she explores only ends up raising even more questions. And suddenly, her novel is starting to sound less like a story and more like her life. Told in chapters that alternate between Eliza’s point of view and excerpts from her book, The Dots, the parallels become undeniable, and the line between reality and fiction becomes increasingly blurry.

I’ll admit, it took me quite some time to fully immerse myself in this novel. The first half of Eliza’s story plays out very slowly, and is often times extremely repetitive. This makes sense in the grand scheme of things, since we are primarily dealing with her attempting to regain memories she cannot seem to unlock. But I still feel that her plotline is in need of more events—however small—to help us become more invested in her as a character. For awhile, I found myself being much more interested in the excerpts from The Dots instead of the main storyline, though both are equally important.

The narrative came across as a bit choppy to me in the beginning—it feels like things are repeating and going nowhere, there is a sudden heightening of the tension, and then we are back to the same circumstances. This is obviously congruent with the situation of someone dealing with memory loss, so I completely understand the effect that Shepard is going for. However, I do wish there had been a tiny bit more added to Eliza’s experiences, just to gradually pull the reader deeper into her life throughout the novel as a whole.

Unreliable narrators are, by nature, inconsistent, and always add a good amount of confusion into the process of getting to know who they are, as well as what is truly going on. Eliza is especially unpredictable all the way through—but at the start, her personality comes across like Shepard can’t decide what to do with her instead of what might be naturally erratic for her mental state. In general, though, I do think Shepard really captures and deals with all the physical and mental health aspects of this novel clearly and believably.

Even with the initial lagging of the main plotline, Shepard manages to build quite a lot of suspense in both stories. She sprinkles just enough intrigue into most of the early chapters, and I was always at least a little curious to find out what would happen next. The switching between Eliza’s point of view and the excerpts from The Dots added a great deal to the tension building up as things progressed. And, despite it being a little rocky at first, I did consistently become more and more hooked.

That second half though—oh boy. I was absolutely riveted to every page. Every aspect of the story escalates so quickly, and even though I had predicted some of the ending, it still had me on the edge of my seat. For me, Shepard ended in the strongest way possible—she made every last bit pack a punch, and threw in a few surprisingly powerful twists. Though it is not hard to guess most of what is going on and roughly how things will shake out, there are plenty of details that you most likely will not see coming. That, coupled with the strength of the overall reveal, truly enriches the novel as a whole.

Shepard also does a relatively good job with her character creation. They are all very clearly described and, aside from Eliza, have static personalities the whole way through. This means that not all of the characters are very multi-dimensional, but they are still depicted well and fit very nicely into the plot. Eliza is definitely a dynamic character—our view of her is constantly changing and building until everything is fully revealed in the end. And the majority of the relationships between Eliza and the others are highly realistic and comprehensible.

The one element that I never got fully on board with was the romance. In the first place, it was a severe case of insta-love. When they first meet, Eliza goes from describing him like he is sort of gross and creepy to abruptly feeling incredibly turned on basically by her sudden thought of them having sex. Over the short time they initially spend together, she goes back to showing little interest in him, while he is awkwardly proclaiming his undying love for her. And voila, they are now a couple. Though their relationship was sweeter toward the end, I spent most of it trying to comprehend how it happened, while occasionally feeling mildly disturbed.

I found Shepard’s writing style to be fairly strong. It didn’t particularly stand out or completely captivate me, but it flows well for the narrative she weaves and is very easy to read. She crafts a good mystery, following up on all the various threads to the point were I couldn’t personally think of anything left completely unexplained. Shepard also writes very cinematically—her descriptions are vivid, and the interactions between characters were stellar. We are able to clearly visualize everything playing out, and distinctly feel the clarity that Eliza is slowly experiencing.

Overall, if this sounds good to you—or if you’re looking for a quick thriller—I would highly recommend giving this novel a try, especially if you are a young adult reader. While, like I said, it’s not going to have the intensity and depth of an adult psychological thriller, and it isn’t entirely unpredictable, it really does have a lot going for it. It is gripping enough to pull a mystery fan in, and just chilling enough to make for an entertaining read. As for me, I ended up enjoying this story more than I thought I would, and I am definitely interested in reading some more of Shepard’s work.

3.5 TARDISes

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Review: The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace

35924698The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Women Are Some Kind of Magic

Date Published: March 6th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 208 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: 2016 Goodreads Choice Award-winning poet Amanda Lovelace returns in the witch doesn’t burn in this onethe bold second book in her “women are some kind of magic” series.

The witch: supernaturally powerful, inscrutably independent, and now—indestructible. These moving, relatable poems encourage resilience and embolden women to take control of their own stories. Enemies try to judge, oppress, and marginalize her, but the witch doesn’t burn in this one.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

Unfortunately, this collection of poetry ended up really disappointing me. After the fantastic first collection, The Princess Saves Herself in This One, I felt rather let down by this one. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it quite a bit, but I didn’t think it was on par with Lovelace’s previous work. Her first collection tells a story of her life—a personal journey of discovery with messages that evoke intense and relatable emotions. Alongside these poems, there is a loose fairytale-type narrative going on at the end of each section, and they reflect every part of her journey.

That same format of the background story is true for this collection, but the poems deal with broader topics, so they don’t have that same intimate quality as her previous poetry. Lovelace deals with some incredibly tough matters here, and she does so in a very eye-opening way. However, though I of course applaud the fact that she is speaking out on these subjects, I just personally did not feel as emotionally invested in the poems, and I found them a bit repetitive at times.

One of the things that still rings true in this collection is Lovelace’s incredible talent for writing beautiful and impactful poetry. Though these particular poems did not resonate with me quite as much as her others, her words are still extremely powerful and relatable. Everything she has to say is thought-provoking and empowering, but the messages she is trying to convey come across as somewhat one-sided at times.

She has a very strong feminist voice, though I felt that she approached the topic in more of an all-or-nothing style rather than speaking in an equal and balanced way. Feminism, and any type of empowerment movement in general, should not focus on being dominant over others, but should instead focus on creating equality among all. I still do very much enjoy Lovelace’s poetry, so I definitely plan on continuing to read her work in the future.

3.0 TARDISes

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Mini Review: Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen

herdingcatsHerding Cats by Sarah Andersen

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Sarah’s Scribbles

Date Published: March 27th, 2018

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 108 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Sarah valiantly struggles with waking up in the morning, being productive, and dealing with social situations.

Sarah’s Scribbles is the comic strip that follows her life, finding humor in living as an adulting introvert that is at times weird, awkward, and embarrassing. 

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is the third installment in the Sarah’s Scribbles series of graphic novels and, like the first two, it is another hilarious and adorable book. She always creates such charming and relatable comics that are bound to make you laugh, especially if you see yourself in her work. Andersen’s endearing art and witty text combine to tell a story of the daily struggle to “adult” from the point of view of an introvert. And, as I definitely fall into this category, you can understand just how much I relate to her experiences.

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These are always short, fast reads that unfailingly lift my spirits and put me in a better mood. Andersen makes us look at ourselves and our various quirks by opening up about her life and who she is. Never once have I had trouble connecting the topics she focuses on to my personal life experiences and behavior.

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Apart from the hilarity of it all, it does serve another purpose in my opinion. While everything about this book is pretty light and fluffy, it still reminds you that you are not alone in this world—you are not alone in the way you feel. And it teaches the most important lesson of all—the best way to deal with the difficult things in our lives, and really any aspect in general, is to combat them with a great sense of humor.

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4.0 TARDISes

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Review: The Crooked Castle by Sarah Jean Horwitz

thecrookedcastleThe Crooked Castle by Sarah Jean Horwitz

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Carmer and Grit

Date Published: April 10th, 2018

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 368 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Shortly after saving the faeries of Skemantis, magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III and his faerie companion, Grit, head out to see the world. They soon come across a mysteriously magical flying circus. As they get to know the outlandish world of Rinka Tinka’s Roving Wonder Show, it becomes clear there’s something not quite normal about this circus or its inventor—and that recent airship disasters plaguing nearby Driftside City may have a sinister explanation.

Fans of the Wildwood trilogy and Lockwood & Co. series will love the thrills and chills of The Crooked Castle as it takes readers up in the air with a flying circus, under the sea to the evil Unseelie kingdom, through a terrifying magical snowstorm, and on a chase with the menacing Wild Hunt.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

This is one of those novels that is very challenging to review because of how much I loved it—I have absolutely no idea where to start. At the beginning of last year, I read the first book in this series, The Wingsnatchers, and it quickly ended up becoming one of my all-time favorites. The Crooked Castle was, by far, my most anticipated book of this year, and I was not disappointed in the least. This novel is equally as charming, thrilling, and heartwarming as the last. I so enjoyed returning to this beautifully crafted world and following the adventures of this incredible cast of characters. This novel is pure magic.

We begin following Carmer and Grit not long after their heroic acts in Skemantis, as they set out on their journey to see the world. Though they are pursuing adventure, it usually finds them first—and this time around, it literally comes crashing into their lives in the form of a balloon and its balloonist, Bell Daisimer. Bell joins the pair in order to get to a city where he can find the necessary parts to repair his balloon, but his stay is not quite as temporary as they all expect.

They soon discover a glider mixed up in the remnants of Bell’s balloon, and inside the glider is an exclusive invitation to Rinka Tinka’s Roving Wonder Show—a massive flying circus. Upon arrival in Driftside City, and after gaining access to the Wonder Show, it becomes apparent that there is more to this flying circus than meets the eye. Everything appears to be much more mysterious—and decidedly too magical—than they ever could have anticipated.

To top it off, they learn of a whole slew of unexplained airship disasters that have recently been plaguing the city. In their attempts to investigate just what is behind these accidents and the inner workings of the show itself, they stumble across dark secrets and a lot of wicked Unseelie fairies as they attempt to save the lives of their newfound friends, as well as their own.

I completely devoured this novel. It immediately pulled me in, swept me away on an adventure, and melted my heart once again. Taking place in a steampunk world and packed with lovable characters, amazing inventions, and enchanting magical elements, it is such an utterly charming read. The narrative is incredibly fast-paced and exciting, with new twists and turns constantly popping up. Each page makes you eager to get to the next, and I found it difficult to put down.

Reading this story was an absolute joy–there is such a nostalgic tone to it for me. It made me feel so warm and comforted, as though it had wrapped itself around me like a cozy blanket. That is the same pleasant sense so many of my favorite books from my childhood evoked, and I love that I can still reflect on and experience that today due to novels like these. I can see myself cherishing these stories for a long time.

Horwitz’s remarkable talent for storytelling stands out even more than it did before. Her description and world-building are top-notch and her words flow flawlessly from page to page. Every single part of this story is crafted so meticulously, down to the most minor details, and filled with a tone that sparks that childlike sense of wonder. She knows exactly how to unfold fascinating stories, brimming with elements similar to those of a classic tale. It is easy to see the appeal of her work and nearly impossible not to feel a connection to it on some level.

The characters are one of the most wonderful aspects of this story. Whether they are lovable or despicable, they are so vivid. I love the fact that we are able to see more of Carmer and Grit’s friendship and how it has progressed since the last novel. They are a perfect pairing and complement each other so well. And I absolutely adored the new additions to the cast, particularly Bell and another character that enters closer to the end (no spoilers!). Everyone is so fleshed out and multi-dimensional, so it is hard not to become emotionally invested in them and their lives—they will work their way into your heart.

Horwitz seamlessly captivates her readers by making her work accessible to all generations. It is hard not to get caught up in this fantastical world—the type that fuels your imagination and feeds your soul. She not only has a huge amount of talent as a writer, but she is also extremely gifted when it comes to writing fresh, unique stories that still retain that timeless, fairytale-like quality. She is truly doing what she is clearly meant to do by writing these types of novels, and I am completely blown away by what she has created.

Overall, I wholeheartedly adored this novel and never wanted it to end. It met and exceeded all of my expectations, and I was completely enthralled all the way through. Just like the previous installment, Horwitz has produced a story that—while targeted at a middle grade audience—is universally enjoyable, spanning every age group. This novel is an absolute masterpiece and will undoubtedly touch the hearts of every reader. I very highly recommend diving into this enchanting world, and I hope there will be more stories to come in the near future.

5.0 TARDISes

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Review: The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos

thedisturbedgirlsdictionaryThe Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: February 1st, 2018

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Pages: 344 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Macy’s school officially classifies her as “disturbed,” but Macy isn’t interested in how others define her. She’s got more pressing problems: her mom can’t move off the couch, her dad’s in prison, her brother’s been kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and now her best friend isn’t speaking to her. Writing in a dictionary format, Macy explains the world in her own terms—complete with gritty characters and outrageous endeavors. With an honesty that’s both hilarious and fearsome, slowly Macy reveals why she acts out, why she can’t tell her incarcerated father that her mom’s cheating on him, and why her best friend needs protection . . . the kind of protection that involves Macy’s machete.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I have so many feelings about this book—some that are conflicting—but let me start out by saying that this is a wonderfully diverse novel. It focuses on many topics that I personally have not seen much, particularly in the world of young adult fiction. I found it very hard to collect my thoughts both during and after reading this story because of the quantity of thought-provoking material that is present. While my overall opinions on and experience with this novel were somewhat mixed, that in no way means that I did not truly enjoy reading it.

In this novel, we follow a fifteen-year-old girl named Macy, who is chronicling her life through entries in her own personal dictionary. Macy has been classified as “disturbed” by everyone—including herself—but really, she is just a teenager trying to survive in a horrible situation. Her father’s in prison, her mother treats her terribly and is too busy having multiple affairs to think about the welfare of her children. Macy has little to no food to eat and only a couch to sleep on, and on top of everything, she has just lost her little brother to Child Protective Services. However, Macy is not going down without a fight, and she will do everything she can to prove that she can beat the odds, as well as protect the people she loves the most.

The plot was not at all what I had been expecting going into the novel. Personally, I thought this sounded as if it would be sort of a dark mystery/thriller type story. It is definitely on the dark side, given the nature of the subjects it addresses, but that’s about all that it has in common with what I predicted—it is more of a heartbreakingly realistic, fictional recounting of a person’s life and hardships. This came as a huge surprise, though a good one, as I thoroughly enjoyed the powerful and impactful story that I found within these pages. It took me quite a while to wrap my head around everything that occurred—in a good way.

My absolute favorite part of this novel are the characters—they are beautifully crafted. Whether lovable or despicable, there is absolutely no denying that each and every one is multi-dimensional and highly memorable. Macy is such a wonderful main character and narrator. Her personality is so distinctive and vibrant, and she is someone who is very easy to care about and root for—she is strong, badass, and just plain awesome. Also, out of all the other characters, George is the one that I adored the most.

Ramos uses a writing style that is both very unique and not commonly seen in literature. The uniqueness comes from Macy herself and her personal way of voicing her thoughts. She relates her story using very choppy sentences filled with grammatical errors. This fits her absolutely perfectly, and truly adds a great deal to the way Ramos depicts her. Macy’s views on life have a distinct peculiarity of their own, which also contributes to both the realism and charm of her character.

On a technical level, the style used is most like a stream-of-consciousness narrative, as we follow the events of Macy’s life as they happen. Since Macy is narrating through entries in her dictionary, she is essentially writing out her train of thought. There is a very diary-esque feel to it, and her internal monologue is all over the place, another factor I found added depth and relatability to her as a character.

I will acknowledge, the format in which this novel is presented—stream-of-consciousness coupled with grammatical inaccuracies—may not be the easiest to read. However, Ramos does a fantastic job with it, and the more you read, the better it flows. I thought this stylistic choice suited the novel extremely well—I loved it, and I cannot see any other type of narration relaying Macy’s story as perfectly as this does.

I’m still trying to collect all of my thoughts, partially due to the fact that some of the issues I had with the novel conflict with aspects that a loved. I believe that many of my complaints stem from the style of narration that is used. However, as I said before, that style was absolutely perfect and really brought Macy’s story to life in a way no other type of narrative could have. As you can imagine, this is causing me a lot of difficulty when it comes to reviewing the novel—but I will try my best to explain things as clearly as I can.

Let me preface this by saying that I have absolutely no personal experience with the types of trials and horrors that the characters in this novel have to face on a daily basis. And while I feel as though I learned a lot from reading this, I will never say that I can even begin to understand the pain of being in these situations. The fact that any person, especially a child, should have to deal with these struggles upsets me to no end, and I have the utmost respect for the strength and bravery people have even during the of darkest times.

There were a few times where I struggled to understand certain events in the narrative. Admittedly there were some occasions where it was extremely obvious that the problem was simply my lack of knowledge on certain topics and not at all the actual writing itself. But there were also a number of instances where I felt as though more detail needed to be used in order to clarify what had taken place. This could be explained by the narration style, since a person writing entries in a journalistic way is bound to be less descriptive. Nevertheless, there were times when I wasn’t able to explain what had just happened.

On the other hand, even when I felt unsure of what exactly was happening in a scene, Ramos did such a wonderful job of crafting her characters that it never fully detached me from the narrative. She conveys the emotions so clearly, I could always relate and comprehend on that level, thus allowing me to remain closely connected to everyone. So, while I wish I could have some clarity about those particular events, it was less of a detriment to the plot as a whole than it would have been in most situations.

I also understand that this narrative can be a bit hard to follow and therefore might be a slow read. That is due to both the stream-of-consciousness format—which can make everything feel jumbled and random—and the obvious grammatical errors in Macy’s writing. The main plotline can be a bit tough to find because, having that diary style, the plot is not going to be as linear. Personally, while I did read through this a bit slower that I normally might, I found all of these qualities to be incredibly fitting to the story and Macy’s voice.

One very minor detail—and by minor, I mean I’m just putting far too much thought into things like always—that confused me a bit was the timeline of the novel. It comes across as though Macy is writing each entry in alphabetical order as it happens, since we do follow somewhat of a connected storyline. However, she frequently references other entries in the dictionary, many of which haven’t happened yet. Like I said, this isn’t a huge issue by any means, it just made it a bit unclear to me how exactly events were progressing.

The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary is a book that I know is going to stick with me for quite a long time. It is an extremely eye-opening and powerful read that addresses many dark but incredibly important topics—ones that are hard to hear about but desperately need to be discussed. The realistic characters and vivid emotions really brought the events to life, and make this story an even more educational experience. I am so glad that I picked this up, and I very highly recommend giving this novel a read.

3.5 TARDISes

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Mini Review: A Beautiful Composition of Broken by r.h. Sin

abeautifulcompositionofbrokenA Beautiful Composition of Broken by r.h. Sin

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: July 25th, 2017

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Pages: 480 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: r.h. Sin, bestselling author of the Whiskey, Words & a Shovel series, returns with a collection of poetry and prose meant to remind the wounded that they are, in fact, beautiful in a way society may never comprehend.

A Beautiful Composition of Broken is inspired by some of the events expressed artistically by Samantha King in the bestseller Born to Love, Cursed to Feel. It serves as a poetic documentary of the lives of people who have been mistreated, misunderstood, and wrongfully labeled in a way that limits them in this world. The author’s most personal volume yet, A Beautiful Composition of Broken builds a conceptual bridge between r.h. Sin’s earliest work and his forthcoming series, Planting Gardens in Graves.

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I am so conflicted over this collection of poetry. Having enjoyed the previous two collections of r.h. Sin’s work that I’ve read, I really wanted to love this one. And at first, I was once again pulled in by his words. Unfortunately, my expectations were a bit too high, and I ended up feeling very disappointed by this collection as a whole. The quality writing that I have come to expect from Sin is definitely there, but the power and impact of his words is severely lacking.

The biggest issue that I have with this compilation is how incredibly repetitive it is. At the very beginning, the poems are deceptively unique. They are extremely reminiscent of his previous works, but not so much that they are completely uninteresting to read. However, it quickly goes downhill, as each poem begins to feel like the last—variations of the same exact story. Nothing is inherently bad about the poems themselves—they are still well-written—but the ideas and themes in them repeat to the point of monotony.

This collection feels very much like it is made up of cookie cutter poetry instead of many distinct pieces that come together to form a unified work. Everything ties together, but this is due to the fact that each piece comes across like it is the same exact poem articulated in a different way. It sucks out all of the emotion in the message he is trying to convey through his words, and things begin to feel forced. The poems start feeling cheesy rather than meaningful, and they take on an unappealing hollowness.

There are still plenty of redeemable qualities about r.h. Sin’s poetry, particularly the general beauty of his words. With his talent, I feel as though he could easily do so much better than this. If he varied his topics, even staying within the theme of love, betrayal, and eventual empowerment, this would have been a much more interesting and impactful reading experience. This has caused me to lose some enthusiasm about reading Sin’s work, but I will still be giving some of his other collections a try.

3.0 TARDISes

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Review: The Splendid Baron Submarine by Eric Bower

thesplendidbaronsubmarineThe Splendid Baron Submarine by Eric Bower

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Bizarre Baron Inventions

Date Published: November 7th, 2017

Publisher: Amberjack Publishing

Pages: 244 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis:Waldo “W.B.” Baron is back with another amazing adventure in another incredible invention! Pirate treasure? A clandestine meeting? A terribly rude monkey with personal boundary and hygiene issues? Two of those things sound like a dream come true to W.B, whose clever inventor parents are hired―by the Vice President!―to go on a super secret and intensely important treasure hunt to repay a national debt. If only it weren’t for that lousy, rude monkey, it would be the beginning of a perfect adventure. But at least it isn’t squirrels…

The treasure hunt gives the Baron family the opportunity to use their exceptional steam-powered submarine, freshly biggened and ready for adventure! But things are seldom straightforward for the eccentric Baron family, and this treasure hunt is no exception. W.B.’s trademark bad luck has him suffering monstrous marine misfortune and marauding monkey misery.

Can the Baron family embark on their newest adventure without the eggy and depressing Aunt Dorcas? Will the Barons find the treasure they seek? Will they save the country from financial ruin? Where does the monkey fit in, anyway? Do we like asking questions? Not really, but inside you’ll meet someone who likes asking questions and then answering them (despite his claims to the contrary, he really does like it).

Oh, did we mention the pirate’s curse?

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*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This is a spoiler-free review.

After reading and thoroughly enjoy the previous novel, I had no idea that there were going to be any other books following it. So I’m sure you can imagine just how excited I was when this randomly showed up on my doorstep one day. And this new installment did not disappoint—it was equally as hilarious and entertaining as the first Baron adventure. In fact, this plotline is my favorite of the two. Just like the first one, this story is a madcap adventure with the significance of family, friendship, and love at its core.

I fell even more in love with the characters Bower has created for these stories. It is so wonderful to see the new dynamic between them—building on that of the first novel. Even with the many misunderstandings that happen between the members of the Baron family throughout the course of the novel, they still remain tightknit and incredibly loving. This creates an appealing warmth in the tone and atmosphere.

In this novel, the Baron family is approached by the Vice President of the United States, who sends them off on a new adventure—this time at the bottom of the ocean. They have been given the task of tracking down a lost pirate treasure, which will be used to help the government repay a national debt.

Traveling in their steam-powered submarine, W.B. and his family go through another overly complicated journey. We follow them as they run into an enormous amount of outlandish obstacles, many involving W.B.’s usual clumsiness and his feud with a rather mischievous little monkey. However, not all is as it seems. Unsavory forces are at work, and maybe the troubles of their nautical excursion are the least of their problems.

While this is obviously not a deep and thought-provoking read and the target audience is fairly young, it is still so much fun. The characters’ wacky antics and escapades will have you laughing out loud. It is absolutely impossible to read these stories without a smile on your face. I will admit, the humor is not for everyone—older readers may not be as captivated by the childlike nature of it. In addition to that, the events of the story are quite random and jumbled, which does not negatively impact the narrative by any means—it is very fitting for the plot. However, this format is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

On the other hand, it is perfect for children—and for some adults, it will entertain the inner child we all have. This is one of those stories that had me wishing it had been around when I was younger. The outlandish nature of the events of the plot is what makes this story so great. One must suspend their disbelief and go along with the far-fetched and preposterous aspects of Bower’s unique version of the past.

The actual text of the novel itself is very easy to fall into and flows extremely well. Bower’s style is unquestionably a style that is appropriately accessible for the intended audience. He does a fantastic job of making the unbelievable believable—an essential part of this narrative. And at no point does it feel like it would be difficult for a child to understand or that it might make them lose interest. This book can be read as a standalone, though I personally feel that reading the series in order works a bit better.

Overall, this novel was equally as entertaining as the previous one, if not even more so. The Splendid Baron Submarine is a fast-paced and universally enjoyable read. Filled with hysterical surprises and humor that is just plain silly, this quirky tale is perfect for people of any age. This is a light and incredibly big-hearted series as a whole, and will undoubtedly pick up your spirits. I highly recommend this series to anyone looking for a warm and cheerful story or something amusing and wholesome for your child to read.

4.5 TARDISes

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