Review: The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

TheBrilliantDeath_BlogBanner_18

thebrilliantdeathThe Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 30th, 2018

Publisher: Viking

Pages: 352 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: For Teodora DiSangro, a mafia don’s daughter, family is fate.

All her life, Teodora has hidden the fact that she secretly turns her family’s enemies into music boxes, mirrors, and other decorative objects. After all, everyone in Vinalia knows that stregas—wielders of magic—are figures out of fairytales. Nobody believes they’re real.

Then the Capo, the land’s new ruler, sends poisoned letters to the heads of the Five Families that have long controlled Vinalia. Four lie dead and Teo’s beloved father is gravely ill. To save him, Teo must travel to the capital as a DiSangro son—not merely disguised as a boy, but transformed into one.

Enter Cielo, a strega who can switch back and forth between male and female as effortlessly as turning a page in a book. Teo and Cielo journey together to the capital, and Teo struggles to master her powers and to keep her growing feelings for Cielo locked in her heart. As she falls in love with witty, irascible Cielo, Teo realizes how much of life she’s missed by hiding her true nature. But she can’t forget her mission, and the closer they get to the palace, the more sinister secrets they uncover about what’s really going on in their beloved country—and the more determined Teo becomes to save her family at any cost.

____________________________________________________________

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

This novel was, by far, one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it absolutely did not disappoint. I was instantly drawn into this story from the very first page and it held me captivated all the way through. The richly designed, Italian-inspired world of Vinalia is incredibly immersive, combining magic and politics in a way that deeply intrigues. A long-believed fantasy come to life, the magic-wielding strega—that come to us in the forms of our protagonists—drive the narrative to fascinating lengths. A tale of family and friendship, bravery and strength, gripping conspiracies, capped off with a refreshingly unique, gender-fluid romance, The Brilliant Death is an absolute delight to read.

In this novel, we follow Teodora DiSangro, a strega and the daughter of a mafia don. The strega are nothing but a myth to the people of Vinalia—there is no way they could be real—but Teo’s powers prove otherwise. She has kept her powers a secret from her family for many years, partaking only in turning their enemies into music boxes or other such trinkets. But circumstances change suddenly when her father, one of the heads of Vinalia’s Five Families, is sent a poisoned letter that leaves him critically ill.

Teo is thrust into a world of politics where secrets abound and enemies lie in wait, and must fully harness her gift by transforming herself into a DiSangro son. With the help of Cielo—a strega who can shift between genders, and with whom she is falling in love with more each day—Teo embarks on a journey to the capital in order to save her family and face the man responsible for their suffering.

The magic system featured in this story is truly unique and beautifully woven into the fabric of the plot. I appreciated how it begins in a somewhat humorous way that, while it is weighted with much importance, takes off to a lighter start. However, as the narrative progresses and becomes increasingly more complex, Teo’s abilities reflect this change, showing more depth and dimension—from the creation of decorative objects to the shifting of one’s entire being. Her power is inextricably linked to and bolstered by her love for her family and the pure strength that she shows in order to protect them proves that they are, in a way, the true source.

The characters are some of the best parts of this novel and they are a major force that drives the narrative forward. Teodora is a superbly crafted, multi-dimensional character who makes the perfect protagonist and heroine for this particular story. She is easy to connect with and root for and works brilliantly as the narrator. Seeing the events of the plot through her eyes and thoughts serves to further enhance the already intriguing tale. We see her move from transforming people and objects on the outside to learning to transform herself on the inside—both literally and figuratively—as she grows and develops as a character. And as if I could not love the characterization found here any more than I already did, in comes Cielo.

Cielo is charismatic, mischievous, and one of those characters who is just impossible not to love. I do not often go for the romances in most stories—I do not find myself shipping many characters or falling in love with them myself. They have to be extremely special and well-crafted to really reach me, and this one did reach me by a long shot. As Cielo takes on the role of Teo’s magic tutor, as they come together and grow in and with each other, Capetta depicts their interactions in such a pleasing way. The chemistry between Teo and Cielo is palpable and their story is an absolute joy to watch unfold.

Capetta’s writing is excellent and very captivating. From her loveable characters to her detailed and strong world-building, it is easy to become completely immersed in every aspect of the novel. She creates a compelling backdrop for the myriad of events that form this spectacular saga and seamlessly entwines her characters with each other and their surroundings. At times I felt the events were a bit too fast-paced and I occasionally became a little lost among everything. Some scenes and character decisions were a bit rushed and confusing. Nevertheless, these moments did not detract much from the overall storyline. Capetta’s words are fluid and I still felt carried effortlessly through the pages.

I feel I must admit that I do believe this book is not one that will appeal to every reader. Much of it is quite quirky and unusual, a very singular and extraordinary style, and the action moves very rapidly. However, I highly recommend giving it a read. The messages that this novel conveys are progressive and important beyond words. It strives to remind us to always be true to ourselves and to never give in to the expectations and pressures of others or the world around us. It speaks of the significance of getting to know ourselves and discovering our identities. The power at the core of these words increases in intensity and takes hold of you through—and well-beyond—the final pages.

Personally, I found The Brilliant Death to be a beautiful and enchanting story of love and the lengths that one is willing to go to save and protect their family. It was all that I hoped it would be and more. Capetta has created an utterly distinctive tale—a powerful and enjoyable adventure with characters that will undoubtedly win many readers’ hearts. It is one of those novels that is quite refreshing to come across in today’s young adult fantasy market, and I applaud her for breaking the mold and making her own voice stand out. She proves herself to be a very talented writing through and through, and I really look forward to reading more of her work. This is a story that will stick with me for quite a while.

4.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

Amy Rose Capetta c. Cori McCarthyAmy Rose Capetta [she/her] is an author of YA fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery. Her first novel, Entangled, was a BEA Buzz Book. Her latest, Echo After Echo, is a queer love story wrapped in a murder mystery and set on Broadway. It received two starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild selection. Upcoming: The Brilliant Death (Viking 2018), The Lost Coast (Candlewick 2019), Once & Future (co-written with Cori McCarthy, from Little, Brown’s Jimmy Imprint in 2019). She holds a BA in Theater Arts from the University of California at Santa Cruz and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. Amy Rose is the co-founder of the Rainbow Writers Workshop, the first-ever LGBTQIAP workshop for YA and middle grade. She lives in Vermont with her partner and their young son.

logo2

Review: I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

ihateeveryonebutyouI Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

My Rating: 1/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: September 5th, 2017

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 352 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Dear Best Friend,

I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.

Sincerely,

Ava Helmer

(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.

Stop crying.

G

So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

I Hate Everyone But You, the debut novel by two emerging major talents in YA, Allison Raskin and Gaby Dunn, is a story about new beginnings, love and heartbreak, and ultimately about the power of friendship.

____________________________________________________________

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

I have put off writing my review of this novel for quite a while now for a few reasons. First of all, it has been a long time since I disliked a book as much as I disliked this one, therefore, I have a lot to say. So many aspects annoyed, frustrated, and completely enraged me due to how close to home they hit. However, I absolutely despise writing rant-filled reviews—I like to be as fair as possible—and immediately after I finished reading, I didn’t think I was capable of being calm.

Another aspect that is still causing me to be hesitant is my lack of real-life, firsthand knowledge of the situation that one of the girls was experiencing. Even though I was not able to fully connect to what she was dealing with, I still found that I had a lot of opinions on the way it was handled and presented from a bit of an “outsider’s” point-of-view. It’s about time that I gave this a try though, so I will do my best to explain my feelings as well as I can. Please remember, this is all just my personal opinion and interpretation of the novel.

In this novel, we follow two best friends—Ava and Gen—as they navigate their first year of college on opposite sides of the country. This is the first time they have had to deal with a separation this huge, and understandably, the new experiences ahead feel incredibly daunting without the other by their side. In lieu of seeing each other in person, they keep up a correspondence every day, discussing all the aspects of their new lives and trying to maintain their strong friendship.

Admittedly, this is not something that I would have normally been interested in reading. However, the format that the story is told in is originally what caught my eye, and my attention. The entire novel is told through texts and emails sent between Ava and Gen as they support each other while trying to bridge the distance between them. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved stories told through messages—I’m not sure why, but they have always been so much fun for me. Unfortunately, that was not the case this time around.

Let me begin by talking about Ava, as the themes used in her storyline are ones that I have the most personal experience with. These main themes are anxiety/social anxiety and OCD, and the obstacles mental illness can throw in your way—or at least that is what it is trying to portray. Instead, it ends up coming across as a very stereotypical and downright inaccurate caricature of serious mental illnesses, used many times for comedic purposes.

So, I may be overreacting to this as I do on occasion when it comes to the depiction of mental illness. And I completely understand that all mental illnesses manifest in unique ways for every single person dealing with them. But, as someone who has dealt with severe anxiety/social anxiety and OCD all their life, I am incredibly upset by the way it is shown here. Believe me, I am someone who truly values the medicinal effects of humor, and I do enjoy poking fun at the strangeness of my anxiety plenty of the time. However, here, every aspect is treated as a complete joke.

The absolute biggest problem I have with it is that a huge part of the time, her actions show the exact opposite of the severe social anxiety she claims to have—no, joining a sorority and throwing yourself at men is not a good example. As I said before, her anxiety only pops up when it can make a situation into a joke, and it is written in that clichéd “oh, I’m so ‘hashtag relatable’” kind of way. I apologize for the way I’m coming across here. I’m just absolutely fed up with the way people belittle the incredible amount of pain that this type of mental illness inflicts on those of us who have to deal with it on a daily basis.

Then we have our other main character, Gen. The main themes in her storyline are exploring one’s sexuality, experimenting and discovering what is right for you, and how one’s sexuality does not need to conform to a strict label. However, this is not the message that I feel her actions conveyed. It comes across more like she is very sure of herself and is just using people, manipulating their emotions, and putting herself at risk.

Granted, maybe this is my interpretation because of my own personal experiences, or lack of experience. I connect with her on what it’s like to learn about one’s sexuality and that desire to break away from society’s habit of labeling it. I am unable to connect with her actions though, as my journey, purely due to my personality, has been much less active. All in all, I am fairly irritated because I do not feel like her plotline positively or realistically portrays the queer community, particularly what it is like for those of us who find that we attracted to both genders.

Now, on to Ava and Gen’s friendship in general. Things started out well at the beginning of the novel—they are shown to have a rather sweet relationship and are incredibly close to each other. It’s very easy to relate to the sadness of having to be separated from your best friend whom you’ve always had by your side to face the challenges of life—I have been going through the exact same thing in the last few years. They are faithfully there to support each other through the changes that come with college living. However, somewhat quickly, things begin to take a turn for the worse, and by the halfway point of the novel, their friendship has proven itself to be horrendously toxic.

First of all, Ava is constantly acting relatively homophobic in many of her conversations with Gen when Gen shares things about her sexuality. And again, this is used as another tactic to create humor in the plot, which I think is atrocious. But the most major issue with their friendship is how they support and strongly encourage each other to make terrible, dangerous, and damaging decisions. It is so over-the-top, it’s extremely hard to believe that either of these girls actually cares about the other. Their relationship feels manipulative and destructive more than anything.

Suffice it to say, I think we can conclude that I Hate Everyone But You was clearly not for me. I of course applaud any authors committing themselves to helping diversify literature. Diversity is something we need so much more of, and sexuality, gender labels, and mental illness are all wonderful topics to choose. And I did love the format of the book—it made for a very fast read, and was the only really enjoyable part. The overall story itself just did not come across in the right way at all. Personally, I cannot, in good conscious, recommend giving this a read.

1.0 TARDIS

logo2

Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

illuminaeIlluminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Illuminae Files #1

Date Published: October 20th, 2015

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers

Pages: 602 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

____________________________________________________________

This is a spoiler-free review.

Illuminae is a masterpiece—an absolute work of art in so many ways. It is one of the most captivating and utterly addictive books I’ve read in a long time. I’m always wary when it comes to books that have extreme amounts of hype surrounding them, but now, I can’t believe it took me so long to pick it up. I feel like I have so much I want to talk about, so many thoughts, and yet I have absolutely no idea where to even begin. Suffice it to say, this book absolutely blew my mind and has easily become one of my all-time favorites. It was everything I love in a science fiction novel and so much more—it completely exceeded my expectations.

We are thrown into the action right from page one. At the start of the novel, a small, ice-covered planet called Kerenza is attacked by a corporation named Beitech. The planet is completely destroyed, resulting in the deaths of many of its citizens. However, three ships are able to evacuate those lucky enough to reach them in time. The refugees begin a long journey to safety, pursued by the only surviving Beitech ship, which is intent on wiping out all witnesses of the Kerenza attack.

But the danger is not limited to their attackers—there are darker forces at work among the survivors as well. Internal conflict, a mutating virus, and a massive amount of deceit are at play. Not to mention a rogue and potentially deadly AI system controlling one of the main ships. The principal characters, Kady and Ezra, are thrust into the middle of the conflict, and must reconcile in order to work together to separate truth from lies and ensure the safety of their people.

The novel is told entirely through documents such as transcripts, emails, instant messages, and official files, all compiled together into one dossier. I’ve always had a huge issue when it comes to concentrating on things like textbooks that are set up with a bunch of extra boxes of information scattered all over the pages, and I was worried that this would be structured in the same way. Thankfully, this is absolutely nothing like that—it is incredibly easy to follow and maintains a very smooth reading experience throughout.

The style and art of the files is wonderful, and this was definitely the most unique book I’ve ever read. Everything is meticulously put together and highly detailed, adding to the realism of the format. This pulled me so deeply in and completely absorbed me into the world, making every moment even more heart-pounding and tense—it suits the narrative perfectly and truly enhances the reading experience.

Character creation and portrayal is a bit unconventional compared to the most common presentation in many novels. Here, we follow a huge cast of characters, but since the entire story is told through documents, the reader doesn’t get a chance to connect with them on a first-hand or very personal level. I’ll admit I was pretty wary about this going in, thinking there would be too much of a disconnect to actually feel for and become attached to any of the characters. However, I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the way it ended up coming across.

For me personally, I had absolutely no trouble feeling the intense emotions prevalent throughout the narrative. This is a testament to the incredibly strong writing of Kaufman and Kristoff. No matter how well or for how long I knew a character, their struggle and their emotions touched me deeply.

Knowing every little detail about their lives and who they are isn’t important—the focus is on connecting with them and the situation on a basic and relatable level. The universal and instinctual human reaction to the profound suffering, pain, and fear of others is relied upon to create the powerful story that is found within these pages.

In terms of primary characters, Kady, Ezra, and AIDAN are the main focus of the narrative. Kady is an extremely strong, intelligent, and badass heroine. She demonstrates such bravery through all her actions and commitment to saving the lives of others. Overall, I felt as though I connected with her pretty well, especially toward the end, and I really loved her. And AIDAN—AIDAN is utterly brilliant. AIDAN definitely ended up being the most intriguing and three-dimensional character, in my opinion.

I had the most trouble connecting with Ezra, though he also does not have as much of a part in the novel as the others do. He honestly doesn’t do a whole lot, though I was actually really glad that there was more of a focus on Kady anyway. Some of Ezra’s humor was a bit off-putting to me at times, but he did grow on me the further I got into the story. He is a very kind and caring person, and obviously loves Kady very much. I wasn’t thrilled with the romance—it didn’t really stand out to me and the way it’s presented is a bit awkward. However, I got enough of a sense of their feelings for each other that I still rooted for the pair.

Returning to the writing itself, it is absolutely fantastic and enthralling. At no point in the novel do you get any sense that it has been written by more than one author—the entire story is one fluid piece. I loved the combined storytelling style of Kaufman and Kristoff—they are clearly both incredibly talented authors and they work wonderfully together as a pair. Every aspect of the plot is spectacularly vivid. I was able to visualize everything so well, and I distinctly felt all the emotions the events of the story evoked.

So basically, I’m sort of completely obsessed with this novel—I already want to go back and read it again. It was action-packed and riveting from start to finish, and I found that I could barely put it down. I have been thinking about it non-stop since I began reading, and I am still so excited by every aspect. I am currently trying my hardest to be responsible and avoid picking up Gemina until after I’ve caught up on some review books, but the temptation is intense. Just in case it’s not obvious enough already, I very highly recommend reading Illuminae.

5.0 TARDISes

logo2

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.

____________________________________________________________

*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

logo2

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.

____________________________________________________________

*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

logo2

June 2017 TBR

june2017tbr

Happy June, everyone!

I’m so excited because, once again, I had another amazing reading month! I managed to get through eleven books! As usual, I didn’t quite stick to my TBR entirely…but I tried! So this month, I am also going to create a rather ambitious TBR. I should have a lot of time to read this month and during my travels toward the end of the month, so I’m really hoping to get a lot of reading done. Here are some of the books I would really like to get to during the month of June! 🙂

June TBR

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

downamongthesticksandbones

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
This is the story of what happened first…
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. 
Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.
They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.
They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

Paper Wishes by Spencer Hoshino

paperwishes

There is a belief that with each origami star folded, a falling star is saved. After folding 365 stars while mourning the loss of her mother, Vilvian makes a wish that will change her life forever.
Enter Nox Bright, the handsome and mysterious guy who has been haunting Vilvian’s dreams. She can barely believe it when he walks into her homeroom near the end of the school year. Has she gone crazy or is it possible that wishes really do come true?

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber

theevaporationofsofisnow

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.
Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.
For Miguel, Earth’s charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

The Windfall by Diksha Basu

thewindfall

A heartfelt comedy of manners, Diksha Basu’s debut novel unfolds the story of a family discovering what it means to “make it” in modern India.
For the past thirty years, Mr. and Mrs. Jha’s lives have been defined by cramped spaces, cut corners, gossipy neighbors, and the small dramas of stolen yoga pants and stale marriages. They thought they’d settled comfortably into their golden years, pleased with their son’s acceptance into an American business school. But then Mr. Jha comes into an enormous and unexpected sum of money, and moves his wife from their housing complex in East Delhi to the super-rich side of town, where he becomes eager to fit in as a man of status: skinny ties, hired guards, shoe-polishing machines, and all.
The move sets off a chain of events that rock their neighbors, their marriage, and their son, who is struggling to keep a lid on his romantic dilemmas and slipping grades, and brings unintended consequences, ultimately forcing the Jha family to reckon with what really matters. Hilarious and wise, The Windfall illuminates with warmth and charm the precariousness of social status, the fragility of pride, and, above all, the human drive to build and share a home. Even the rich, it turns out, need to belong somewhere.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

agatheringofshadows

**Minor spoilers for A Darker Shade of Magic**

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London. 
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

sixofcrows

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:
Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)
Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)
Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)
Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

thegunabove

The nation of Garnia has been at war for as long as Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupre can remember – this time against neighboring Vinzhalia. Garnia’s Air Signal Corp stands out as the favored martial child of the King. But though it’s co-ed, women on-board are only allowed “auxiliary” crew positions and are banned from combat. In extenuating circumstances, Josette saves her airship in the heat of battle. She is rewarded with the Mistral, becoming Garnia’s first female captain.
She wants the job – just not the political flak attached. On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat – a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. He’s also been assigned to her ship to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision. When the Vins make an unprecedented military move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself to the top brass?

Birthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

birthrights

To escape the burden of his family’s past, Whym accepts an apprenticeship with a master his parents fear and revile. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of treachery and on a perilous journey to locate a creature of myth and magic-a journey that will transform Whym and shape the future of the realm.
Meanwhile, Quint, the son of a powerful religious leader, abandons his faith to join the fight against a corrupt council. As the adviser to a remote tribe, he must find in himself the wisdom and fortitude to save the people from the invading army-and their own leaders.
Civil war looms, defeated foes plot revenge, and an ancient deity schemes to destroy them all. While navigating the shifting sands of truth, the two young men must distill what they believe, and decide on whose side they will stand in the coming conflict.

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman

hellandhighwater

Mystery turns to mortal danger as one young man s quest to clear his father’s name ensnares him in a net of deceit, conspiracy, and intrigue in 1750s England.
Caleb has spent his life roaming southern England with his Pa, little to their names but his father s signet ring and a puppet theater for popular, raunchy Punch and Judy shows until the day Pa is convicted of a theft he didn’t commit and sentenced to transportation to the colonies in America. From prison, Caleb s father sends him to the coast to find an aunt Caleb never knew he had. His aunt welcomes him into her home, but her neighbors see only Caleb s dark skin. Still, Caleb slowly falls into a strange rhythm in his new life . . . until one morning he finds a body washed up on the shore. The face is unrecognizable after its time at sea, but the signet ring is unmistakable: it can only be Caleb s father. Mystery piles on mystery as both church and state deny what Caleb knows. From award-winning British author Tanya Landman comes a heart-stopping story of race, class, family, and corruption so deep it can kill.”

Marriage of a Thousand Lies by S.J. Sindu

marriageofathousandlies

Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.
As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. The result is a profoundly American debut novel shot through with humor and loss, a story of love, family, and the truths that define us all.

May Wrap-Up

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – 5/5 stars (Full Review)

Thin Places by Lesley Choyce – 2/5 stars (Full Review)

Alice by J.M. Sullivan – 4.5/5 stars (Full Review)

Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson – 3.5/5 stars (Full Review)

Send by Domenico Capilongo – 2.5/5 stars (Full Review)

Leave This Song Behind by Teen Ink – 4/5 stars (Full Review)

The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower – 4/5 stars (Full review)

Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid – 4/5 stars (Full review)

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan – 4/5 stars

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – 5/5 stars

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis – 4/5 stars

What are your reading plans for the month? What were some of your favorite May reads? Let me know in the comments!

signaturetardis1

logo2

Top 5 Wednesday – May 17th, 2017

topfivewednesday

Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey at Gingerreadslainey and is now hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Every week, book reviewers all over the world are given a bookish topic and respond with their top 5 books (or elements of books) that relate to that topic. Click here for the Goodreads group if you would like to learn more about Top 5 Wednesday and join in!

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is books that remind you of summer and are your quintessential summer reads. I’ve decided to go back a few years and pick out my top five favorite reads that I randomly picked up from the library during the summer and fell in love with. The library always reminds me of summertime, and it is the perfect time to not only do a ton of reading, but also to go out of your comfort zone and choose some books you might not normally have picked up. So here are my reads that I loved and thought were perfect for reading in the summer! 🙂

Love and Other Unknown Variables by Shannon Lee Alexander

loveandotherunknownvariables

Charlie Hanson has a clear vision of his future. A senior at Brighton School of Mathematics and Science, he knows he’ll graduate, go to MIT, and inevitably discover solutions to the universe’s greatest unanswered questions. He’s that smart. But Charlie’s future blurs the moment he reaches out to touch the tattoo on a beautiful girl’s neck.
The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy at the donut shop—until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy.
By the time he learns she’s ill—and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness—Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second squared).

Precious by Sandra Novack

precious

The summer of 1978, ten-year-old Vicki Anderson rides her bike to the local park and goes missing. Her tight-knit blue-collar Pennsylvania neighborhood, where children roam the streets at night playing lightning tag, aboveground pools sparkle in backyards, and flowers scent the air, will never be the same.
Down the street from Vicki’s house, another family is in crisis. Troubled by her past, headstrong Natalia Kisch has abandoned her husband and two daughters for another man. Frank Kisch, grappling with his anger, is left to raise their girls alone, oblivious to his daughters’ struggles with both disappearances: Eva, seventeen, plunges into an affair with her married high school teacher, and nine-year-old Sissy escapes to a world of imagination and storytelling that becomes so magical it pierces the reality of the everyday.
When Natalia unexpectedly returns, the struggles and tensions that have built over the summer erupt into a series of events that change the Kisches irrevocably—forcing them to piece together their complicated pasts and commitments to each other.
In this haunting, atmospheric debut, Sandra Novack examines loss, loyalty, and a family in crisis. Lyrical and elegiac, Precious illuminates our attempts to make sense of the volatility that surrounds and consumes us, and explores our ability, even during the most trying times, to remember and hold on to those we love most.

Wherever Grace is Needed by Elizabeth Bass

wherevergraceisneeded

In this thoroughly heartwarming novel, Elizabeth Bass-author of Miss You Most of All-creates an unforgettable story of friendship, compassion, and the extraordinary love that lies at the heart of every ordinary family.
When Grace Oliver leaves Portland for Austin, Texas, to help her father, Lou, recuperate from a car accident, she expects to stay just a few weeks. Since her mother’s divorce thirty years ago, Grace has hovered on the periphery of the Oliver family. But now she sees a chance to get closer to her half-brothers and the home she’s never forgotten.
But the Olivers are facing a crisis. Tests reveal that Lou, a retired college professor whose sharp tongue and tenderness Grace adores, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Grace delays her departure to care for him, and is soon entwined in the complicated lives of her siblings-all squabbling over Lou’s future-and of the family next door.
Ray West and his three children are reeling from a recent tragedy, particularly sixteen-year-old Jordan, whose grief is heightened by guilt and anger. Amid the turmoil, Grace not only gives solace and support, but learns to receive it. And though she came to Austin to reconnect with her past, she is drawn by degrees into surprising new connections.
With wit, wisdom, and unfailing insight, Elizabeth Bass tells a story of loving and letting go, of heartache and hope, and of the joy that comes in finding a place we can truly call home.

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

thedaybefore

One moment can change everything.
Amber’s life is spinning out of control. All she wants is to turn up the volume on her iPod until all of the demands of family and friends fade away. So she sneaks off to the beach to spend a day by herself.
Then Amber meets Cade. Their attraction is instant, and Amber can tell he’s also looking for an escape. Together they decide to share a perfect day: no pasts, no fears, no regrets.
The more time that Amber spends with Cade, the more she’s drawn to him.  And the more she’s troubled by his darkness. Because Cade’s not just living in the now—he’s living each moment like it’s his last.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

wewereliars

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Honorable Mention:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

What books remind you of summer or have been your favorite summertime reads? Let me know in the comments!

signaturetardis1

logo2