Saturday, June 24, 2017

Book Review: The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket


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Title: The Grim Grotto
Author: Lemony Snicket
Series/Standalone: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Book #11)
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 323
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Year Published: 2004
Format: Hardcover Library Edition
First Line: "After a great deal of time examining oceans, investigating rainstorms, and staring very hard at several drinking fountains, the scientists of the world developed a theory regarding how much water is distributed around our planet, which they have named 'the water cycle.'"



"Dear Reader,

Unless you are a slug, a sea anemone, or mildew, you probably prefer not be damp. You might also prefer not to read this book, in which the Baudelaire siblings encounter an unpleasant amount of dampness as they descend into the depths of despair, underwater.

In fact, the horrors they encounter are too numerous to list, and you wouldn't want me even to mention the worst of it, which includes mushrooms, a desperate search for something lost, a mechanical monster, a distressing message from a lost friend, and tap dancing. 

As a dedicated author who has pledged to keep recording the depressing story of the Baudelaires. I must continue to delve deep into the cavernous depths of the orphans' lives. You, on the other hand, may delve into some happier book in order to keep your eyes and your spirit from being dampened.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket."

My Rating: 4/5

This book took longer than anticipated again to read, but I enjoyed it so much more than the last one. This story shows so much growth for our characters and continues the mystery of VFD even further. Learning more about the Baudelaire's family past and introducing new characters always helps to keep the story interesting, and while I loved these aspects. I felt that Lemony Snicket's voice was missing in an odd way and wanted a bit more of that. I can't wait to wrap up the series in the coming months and then start the Netflix series which people have been raving about on booktube.

Thanks for reading,
Sidny

Book Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

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Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Fiction,
Pages: 470
Publisher: HarperCollins
Year Published: 2010
Format: Audiobook

"With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today's foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman's If I Stay, Before I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person's life can affect so many others.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12th- 'Cupid Day'- should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is... until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined."

My Rating: 4/5

I didn't hope on this train either times it was really popular, both when it first came out and when the film was released this past year. I just missed the boat, but when I saw it available on audiobook through Overdrive I jumped at the chance to understand the conflict behind this book. And I do understand it. This book has triggers for mental illness, abuse, sexual assault, suicide, etc. There are problems with this book for sure, but that being said, this book does something similar to both Thirteen Reasons Why and If I Stay (both books I've enjoyed in the past). It asks questions about how your life affects those around you and what you would choose to do if you could change something. I thought that the author for the audiobook was very good and kept me interested. I would suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of the movie Mean Girls but be warned that this book deals with a few more series topics, rather than comedic ones. 

Thanks for reading,
Sidny

Spoiler: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

So this book has been around for a hot minute. And I've just been skipping out on it because I wasn't sure if it was something I would enjoy, but when I saw it on Overdrive I couldn't resist. I heard a lot of my friends talking about how much they enjoyed the movie, and me being myself I couldn't watch the movie until I read the book. This book does hit on a lot of triggers such as sexual assault, suicide, depression, and that's just to name a few. So it's not that this book doesn't have flaws it most certainly does. But for a debut release (didn't realize this is how Lauren Oliver started), it's a gutsy novel. This story follows the popular girls in high school. You know the ones, hell maybe you were one or maybe you weren't but you know exactly who I'm talking about. You might even be thinking about someone as you read that last sentence. Hell, I was.

I think that those who enjoy Mean Girls might also get a kick out of the audiobook at least. The voice actor(s) did a marvellous job of portraying different characters and helped me to visualise the characters we saw in this gritty novel.

Characters:
Samantha: Her attitude at the first half of the book got me thinking about how the other half of my high school lived. I wouldn't say that I was popular but I had a group of very dorky friends, and as an adult, I'm grateful that it's who I ended up with. But at the time, popular girls did not make my life easy and this book really reminded me of that. I think that the change that Samantha undertakes is an interesting one. She doesn't leave her friends, which is what I expected after the first few times reliving her days, but by the end, she realized that someone had to pay for what they had done, and I guess she chose herself. I am interested to read more from Lauren Oliver, but I am hoping for some more likeable main characters. 

Lindsay: I won't lie. I hated her. I'm sure the author tried to show her redeeming qualities. But there is no reason to ruin someone else's life. And I hope that her loss shows her that. But if anything I think she will hate Juliet more. Probably claim that she pushed Sam. 

Ally: A bit ditsy, but sweet regardless. I do wonder about her future as well as her eating habits which are highlighted in this book but not truly dealt with.

Elody: I hope she straightens up her act because in the end she and Anna aren't so different... some food for thought for sure.

Rob: Ok, if you're an adult reading this I'm sure you could tell this guy was an ass hat from the first few chapters of this book, but if not I'm sure the ending really did it justice for you. He's a piece of crap guy. The type who gets what he deserves in the long run.

Kent: I love him. He's sweet and quirky. The kind of guy I started to fall for in high school and have spent 3 years with now. Needless to say, my kind of man.

Juliet: She broke my heart over and over. She is so many teenagers to me. And if we think that bullying has gotten better all you need to do is go to the internet and see how people are treated by their peers. I definitely related to her bullying experience, but I hope that she recovers in life and leads a different life. A happier one.

Anna: I think she's spunky but hope she does better than the ass hole she was seeing through the majority of the book. She deserves better.

Mr. Daimler: He is creepy. Which didn't really surprise me at all, but it's unfortunate that things played out the way they did.


Thanks for reading,
Sidny


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Review: Saga Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples


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Title: Saga Vol. 2
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Pages: 144
Genre: Graphic Novel, Comic, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Publisher: Image Comics
Year Published: 2013
Format: Paperback trade copy (Own it)

"From award-winning writer Brain K. Vaughan (Pride of Baghdad, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, Done to Death), Saga is a sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the universe. Thanks to her star-crossed parents Marko and Alana, newborn baby Hazel has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies, and horrific monsters, but in the cold vastness of out space, the little girl encounters her strangest adventure yet...
grandparents."

My Rating: 5/5

So I binge read this while I was indulging in some beverages last night and I loved it! Just as much as the first one if not more. I think that this instalment did a really good job of giving some background to the first volume. Readers have been introduced to aspects of this world, but this really explains them. And while this still has very adult themes, they are less in your face in this second volume. I really love the art in these comics and there are times while reading that I pause just to appreciate the hard work that the creators obviously put into this series. I can't wait to continue on with the series next month (I'm trying to pace myself so  I don't run out of volumes that have been published). I am also interested in more graphic novels that are similar to this series, so if you have any suggestions please let me know. 

Thanks for reading,
Sidny

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Book Review: The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket


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Title: The Slippery Slope
Author: Lemony Snicket
Series/Standalone: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Book #10)
Genre: Fiction, Middle Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 337
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Year Published: 2003
Format: Hardback Copy (Library Book)
First Line: "A man of my acquaintance once wrote a poem called 'The Road Less Travelled,' describing a journey he took through the woods along a path most travellers never used."

"Dear Reader,

Like handshakes, house pets, or raw carrots, many things are preferable when not slippery. Unfortunately, in this miserable volume, I am afraid that Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire run into more than their fair share of slipperiness during their harrowing journey up- and down- a range of strange and distressing mountains.

In order to spare you any further repulsion, it would be best not to mention any of the unpleasant details of this story, particularly a secret message, a toboggan, a deceitful map, a swarm of snow gnats, a scheming villain, a troupe of organized youngsters, a covered casserole dish, and a surprising survivor of a terrible fire.

Unfortunately, I have dedicated my life to researching and recording the sad tale of the Baudelaire orphans. There is no reason for you to dedicate your-self to such things, and you might instead dedicate yourself to letting this slippery book slip from your hands into a nearby trash receptacle, or deep pit.

With all due respect,
Lemony Snicket."

My Rating: 3.5/5

I really enjoyed the last book that I'd read in this series and was really looking forward to getting into reading them again, but unfortunately, this one just didn't do it for me. I really thought that Lemony Snicket's writing style would continue to surprise me but it kind of went back to how I felt in the beginning of the series, that I had outgrown the story. I am going to continue the series, for the simple reason that I really need to hear about Beatrice and Lemony. I am far more interested in their lives at this point than the sad lives of the Baudelaire's. I know that this is going to catch a lot of flack from people who really enjoyed this series, but I'm hoping to get through the series and then collect my thoughts on the series as a whole.

Thanks for reading,
Sidny

Book Review: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco


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Title: Stalking Jack the Ripper
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series/Standalone: Stalking Jack the Ripper (Book #1)
Pages: 326
Genre: Historical, Young Adult, Mystery
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Year Published: 2016
Format: Audiobook

"Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world."

My Rating: 4.5/5

I thought that this audiobook would just fill time while I was doing house work or driving but it became so much more than that. I would recommend this book as a great who did it novel for anyone interested in historical thrillers. I had heard quite a bit of hype for this book going around booktube, and it was accurate to how the story played out for me. I realize that this story isn't 100% historical accurate, and that this might be a problem for some, but I didn't mind, as there is an author's note in the back of the book explaining what changes the author had made and why. I think that the characters in this book were well fleshed out and for being in a time period where young women were not looked at as powerful, it did a grand job of showing a woman who knew her purpose and planned to be taken seriously. I really enjoyed this book and plan to pick up the next book in the series as soon as possible, preferably on audio. I wanted to note for those who do chose to listen to this book on audio, I loved the narrator and think that she did a tremendous job acting out the story, and keeping the listener's attention. I'm excited to listen to more books in this series and hope to have more reviews soon.

Thanks for reading,
Sidny

Spoiler: Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

This is yet another audiobook that hooked me. And more than any other that I've listened to before. Our story takes place in London during the time of the Jack the Ripper murders. Our main character, Audrey takes little to no shit from anyone and works secretly with her uncle learning the about forensic science. A little strange for a young woman in such a time period. Through her work, she begins to investigate a string of murders where women are butchered in the east end, and begin to piece together who the murderer could be. Is it someone close to her?

So since you've read the book you know who it is. But were you shocked? I was a little underwhelmed at learning who the murderer was, but blown away for the reasons of the murders. I think that the author had a mesmorizing way of writing about such gruesome things that kept me interested and wondering about who the killer was, what it was like to do an autopsy in such times, and why the bodies were being butchered in such ways. The narrator for the audiobook had a tremendous voice and kept me interested throughout the story. Her accent was amazing and I would truly recommend the audiobook to anyone looking for a good thriller. Please excuse the lack of care taken in the character section, I have trouble remembering side characters names in audiobooks.

Characters:
Audrey: I had my doubts that she would be a badass main character in such a time. And while the story does a great job of showing what life was like for young women in the time period, I had trouble believing that she would be able to investigate a body for Scotland Yard. Although if she had someone who admired her who was in charge I suppose that made sense. I did think that at some points she was a bit naive and at others so peculiar. But these two things really helped tie the story together. I think that the way she cared so much for women she had only really known in death was amazing, and how although she had a certain standard for the way she was brought up she didn't look down on these young women. She wondered about the choices that had placed them where they were. I can't wait to read more from her perspective.

Thomas: Now he is a sly fox. I thought for sure that he was going to be the ripper, but after finding out about his trouble past and being thrown out by his father, his actions started to make a lot more sense. I did think there were multiple times where his choice of words were irritating especially when he acted like such a know it all (even though he was). But I can't wait to see he and Audrey flirt even more in the next book.

Nathaniel: I'd be lying if I said he wasn't a suspect for me in the beginning. I had started to brush him aside a little, but after realizing that the author didn't even seem to note him suspicious, I became extra suspicious. Cause that's what kind of anxious person I am.  He was a delusional little shit, and super scary near the end, but I wonder why he became so obsessed with raising the dead, would be interested in a prequel from his point of view.

Uncle Johnathon:  He did seem pretty crazy near the start but after time I realized that science was his family and his job, and his love. So he was devoted? Does that make him crazy... maybe a little bit. I will miss him in the next story, but wouldn't be surprised if he turned up to lend Thomas and Audrey a hand.

Father (Edmond?): He was something, and while he did not deal well with the passing of his wife (who really does?) he tried his best to raise his children in a way that he deemed appropriate. I do feel sorry for him to have seen his beloved wife's corpse being maimed by his crazed son, but at the same time it really shocked him into action for Audrey's future.

 Blackburn: When did you become interested in Audrey and what will happen to you now?

Cousin V: I liked her spunk, but also the way she dealt with the cultural norms at this time. She still obeyed her mother's will, while staying true to who she was as well. A very interesting character to say the least.


Thanks for reading,
Sidny


Monday, June 12, 2017

Book Review: Queen of Hearts by Collen Oakes


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Title: Queen of Hearts
Author: Colleen Oakes
Series/Standalone: Queen of Hearts Saga (Book #1)
Genre: Retellings, Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 306
Publisher: HarperTeen
Year Published: 2014
Format: Hardcover Physical Copy (Own it)
First Line: "'Oh, my future queen, you're late!'"

"Only queens with hearts can bleed.

This is not the story of the Wonderland we know. Alice has not fallen down a rabbit hole. There is no all-knowing cat with a taunting smile. This is a Wonderland where beneath each smile lies a secret, each tart comes with a demand, and only prisoners tell the truth.

Dinah is the princess who will one day reign over wonderland. She has not seen the dark depths of her kingdom; she longs only for her father's approval and a future with the boy she loves. But when a betrayal breaks her heart and threatens her throne, she is launched into Wonderland's dangerous political game. Dinah must stay one steap ahead of her cunning enemies or she'll lose not just the crown but her head.

Evil is brewing in Wonderland and maybe, most frighteningly, in Dinah herself.

This is not a story of happily ever after.

This is the story of the Queen of Hearts."

My Rating: 4/5 

I'm not a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and while I know the story and am interested in the world it creates, I want to start this review by saying I'm not here to critic this book for its alignment with the original classic. I think that retellings are something that you have to take with a grain of salt, which means you have to both respect the fairytale in its original aspect, but also be willing to give up some ideas you might hold it to. And if you do these things I think that you would really enjoy Queen of Hearts. This story is not one for the faint of heart. The author brings together violence and beauty in a way that is both poetic and startling to read about. And while this is a short first instalment in the Queen of Hearts Saga it is a powerful one. The world painted by Colleen Oakes is one of mystery, political intrigue, horror and wonder, after all, what would Wonderland be without that. I think that this book was very well done, but wished that the twists and turns hadn't been quite so predictable. There were points in this book where I could guess what was going to happen next and found that to be extremely frustrating. I look forward to continuing the series and following Dinah in her quest for the crown. 

Thanks for reading,
Sidny

Spoiler: Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

These retellings are really starting to grow on me. This book follows our main character Dinah, Princess of Wonderland soon to be Queen of Hearts. Or at least that's what we all thought. Dinah goes through quite a few struggles in this book, dealing with the loss of her mother, the hatred of her father, the madness of her brother and the introduction to a new sister. One who seems to be favoured by the majority of the people, including her father. I really enjoyed the twists this book had on the classic, making some characters more relevant in palace life by changing their appearance and ranking in Wonderland. I also loved how Colleen Oakes created a beautiful palace, as well as the towers filled with horror. Amazing writing. I did not enjoy the love interest very much but understood why it was necessary. I also wasn't a huge fan of the twist of her crown being taken (um duh, saw that one coming a mile away). I also have some theories concerning the rest of the book. One being that Faina was Vittore's mother.

Characters:
Dinah: She is a strong character, but at the start of this book very much does what she pleases when she pleases which was frustrating to read about. Especially with the naive attitude that everything in Wonderland was good. It was great in fact. It was sad to watch her go through so much and not know who to trust. As well as getting to know the fact that her father was the real villain in all of this, or was he?

Vittore: I honestly think that she was abducted and being used to get rid of Dinah and give the kingdom an heir so they didn't have to worry about Dinah leaving. I also think that we'll get to know so much more of her backstory in the next book. Can hardly wait.

Faina: I strongly believe that Faina was Vittore's mother. And she suffered for her daughter, and her daughter suffered for her. What will her death mean for Wonderland? What whispering did she hear?

The King: I don't know if he was always this way or someone corrupted his thoughts. At this point anything is possible. But he is an evil man and I can't wait to see Dinah go to battle with him.

Harris: I hoped that he survived the interrogation that I'm sure he got after Dinah's running away.

Charles: He met a horrible end, but I wonder about his life as well. What did he know? What did he want from life? Were his riddles predictions? I also wonder if he got some sap from the Black Towers fed to him to add to his madness.

Wardley: He was an amazing main character and love interest. I wonder what he will do without Dinah there? Or was he helping a darker cause? Will he be in the towers? Ahh!

Davianna: Once again I want her story. How did she end up with the King and what was her life like?

Cheshire: I don't know what to think of this asshole. I think that he's on the king's side, but what if he was the guy in the bedroom... ugh.


Moments to Remember:
Final Line: "'How fine you look when dressed in rage.'"


Thanks for reading,
Sidny

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Book Review: The Lightning Thief By Rick Riordan


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Title: The Lightning Thief 
Author: Rick Riordan
Series/Standalone: Percy Jackson and The Olympians (Book #1)
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Adventure
Pages: 377
Publisher: Disney Hyperion Books
Year Published: 2005
Format: Physical Paperback Copy (Own It)
First Line: "Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood."

"Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook, and into his life. And worse he's angered a few of them. Zeus's master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. 
Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus's stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves."

My Rating: 4/5

This is a reread for me and one that's been long awaited. I loved these books when I was younger and the humour made my own middle school and high school experience laughable. I loved Rick Riordan's writing style and still do. I forgot how much I missed this world and this sense of humour towards mythology. I also enjoy the fact that this story gives mythology a new and interesting subject. I hadn't thought about it in a while. In all honesty the most recent time I'd thought about Greek mythology was while reading A Court of Mist and Fury. So this was a refreshing look at classic characters. I can't wait to reread the rest of the series and plan to during the coming months. The one aspect of the book I found lacking was the fact that Percy was only 12 years old while some of his actions made me believe he was closer to 14-15 years old. As an adult that's just a personal observation that I made while reading this book. I can't wait to see where the rest of this series takes me and hopefully start the Blood of Olympus series (is that what it's called).

Thanks for reading,
Sidny