Random Musings by Frodosco

Book Review

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver: Frodo’s Review

TotallyRandomTuesday

Summary From GoodreadsVanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred and the two sisters totally estranged. When Dara vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl, nine-year-old Madeline Snow, has vanished, too, and Nick becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances are linked. Now Nick has to find her sister, before it’s too late.

In this edgy and compelling novel, Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

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There are books that you fall in love with because of the world, the author’s creativity, or the relationships that are forged both inside of the story and between you and the characters within. Then there are books that you connect with because they feel like yours, stories that seem like the author’s intended audience was you and you alone. The latter was my experience with Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver, and it made me both love the book, and reflect a lot on my life. With that said, I clearly have a bias here, but if you don’t mind then read on.

First, I should expand on my connection with the story of Vanishing Girls. This is the first blog post since October 2014, and there is good reason for that. On January 11th of this year I attempted suicide, and my mode of choice was to crash my vehicle into a tree at high speed. I hadn’t felt like blogging again until reading this book, and while Nick and Dara weren’t involved in the car accident because of a suicide attempt, the results were similar.

Scars, both emotional and physical. Major life changes in behavior, friendships, and overall lifestyle. Overwhelming guilt.

Now that you have an idea of why I connected with the story and characters so much (if you want more on my life just hit me up via Twitter and such) let’s get into the review.

Lauren Oliver’s writing is as wonderful as ever. I became a fan of hers after reading Liesl & Po, an adorable MG read, and Vanishing Girls is even better. The story flows extremely well, despite the confusion of the characters within, and transitioning between the POV of the sisters is seamless. Everything concerning the sisters, the accident, their warped family and relationships was fascinating, with just enough edge to keep it from becoming too sappy. However, I will admit that while I understand why the hunt for Madeline Snow was included (spoilers!) it did feel forced, and her character never really adds much to the book.

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The characters are what makes or breaks this book in my opinion. You have to feel for Dara and her physical injuries, struggles to return to her usual self, and her black sheep role in her discombobulated family. There needs to be sympathy for Nick’s guilt and emotional struggles over the crash, her frayed relationship with Dara when they were so close before, and her drive to find out the truth to fill the gaps in her memory and the resulting world around her.

Vanishing Girls utilizes the sisters so well, equally showing off the issues and negativity between them after the accident (the usual way sisters are represented in YA), and the positively cute development of their close friendship prior to it (something rare in YA). There should be more books that have sisters who actually like each other in YA, that are also main characters, at least in my opinion. It’s a relationship that doesn’t seem to be tapped enough.

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There is also the trio of friends/relationships dynamic with Nick, Dara, and their best friend Parker. All three were really good friends growing up until Dara and Parker became a bit more. That played a major role in Nick and Parker’s relationship, as well as Dara and Nick’s due to Nick feeling like a third wheel. It’s awkward, and the book doesn’t try to hide that, instead exploring each pairing (as well as the atmosphere when all three are together) with plenty of love and care.

In addition, Vanishing Girls explores all kinds of issues, something I really applaud Oliver for, and a big reason why I think the book is worth the read for any teen or young adult. Divorce, step parents and siblings, PTSD, depression, guilt, DID, drinking, drugs, and a plethora of other issues are explored and in just the right amount of detail. Best of all, Oliver manages to do all of that without saying anything that might trigger problems for those suffering from or dealing with those same issues. There is an art in doing that, and I really appreciated that she pulled it off.

Finally, the setting does a lot of the work in the fun department, making lighter situations to balance the deeper parts of the book. Nick is forced into a job at the local amusement park FanLand. It’s old, the employees are bizarre as one would expect, and best of all Parker is there for all the nostalgic feels. FanLand is a diversion from all the shitty things happening to Nick, and it’s one that she and the reader need every so often, plus metaphors, so many metaphors. I loved how Oliver brought it to life.

a metaphor

Overall Vanishing Girls was an excellent read, even if it was pretty dark at times, and while my bias is real, I don’t think it is clouding my judgement. I loved this book so much that it made me blog again. I HAD to share my thoughts on it, and a book that powerful is worth reading. Yes, I’m late to the party (the book came out in March), but hopefully I’m only fashionably so. It’s been fun. Thanks as always for reading.

Four Smiling Frodos w Background


Loop by Karen Akins: Frodo’s Review

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Summary From GoodreadsLoop

At a school where Quantum Paradox 101 is a required course and history field trips are literal, sixteen year-old time traveler Bree Bennis excels…at screwing up.

After Bree botches a solo midterm to the 21st century by accidentally taking a boy hostage (a teensy snafu), she stands to lose her scholarship. But when Bree sneaks back to talk the kid into keeping his yap shut, she doesn’t go back far enough. The boy, Finn, now three years older and hot as a solar flare, is convinced he’s in love with Bree, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a complete pain in the arse. To make matters worse, she inadvertently transports him back to the 23rd century with her.

Once home, Bree discovers that a recent rash of accidents at her school are anything but accidental. Someone is attacking time travelers. As Bree and her temporal tagalong uncover seemingly unconnected clues—a broken bracelet, a missing data file, the art heist of the millennium—that lead to the person responsible, she alone has the knowledge to piece the puzzle together. Knowledge only one other person has. Her future self.

But when those closest to her become the next victims, Bree realizes the attacker is willing to do anything to stop her. In the past, present, or future.

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I received an eBook copy of Loop from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have a fascination for everything involving time travel, whether it is in the form of a book such as with the MG/YA Pendragon series, in a tv show like Forever or Doctor Who, or a movie like Back to the Future. It doesn’t seem to matter what medium it is in, if it involves time travel even at a small level I’m going to at least be interested and willing to give it a try; that’s where Loop by Karen Akins comes in. I heard about Loop from the publisher who was looking for people to do reviews for its blog tour, and while I did not participate in that, I did request it because I was curious to see if this would be a good example of time travel, and a way of quenching my thirst for it.

Time Travel Back to the Future

The result? A bit of a mixed bag. I found the beginning of the book to be a struggle to get through, adjusting to Akins using fake curse words in place of regular ones (something I know bugs some people and in this case was a mild irritant to myself), and getting accustomed to the jargon used to describe the process of time travel itself, and everything that goes on with it.

Fake Swear Words Battlestar Gallactica

Unfortunately, even when I had immersed myself in the world, it never felt like something I could wrap my brain around, especially concerning the bits and pieces of explanations we get for how the world functions in the 23rd century. This isn’t due to lack of experience with various reasoning given in other examples of future worlds, but that Akins doesn’t do a very good job at describing it in a clear way.

Part of the issue here, and something that is the case across the board with this book (technical babble aside), is that it seems like the reader is intentionally led in circles in order to give the story a kind of mystery. In reality, all that occurred was that I was increasingly frustrated at the contradictions that started to arise, the dense main character that took forever to realize what was right in front of her face (where the reader could put the pieces together chapters before), and being left to wonder if (from a technical aspect) this world even made sense at all.

Going Around in Circles

Every time a technical bit was brought up it was almost immediately discarded and a vague response given instead. My head hurts just trying to put those last few paragraphs together to try and explain what wasn’t explained in the book, but suffice it to say that there are problems in the world building in Loop.

Then there are the characters. Bree (the MC) is dense as I mentioned before, but is also inconsistent. At times she seems lost and unsure, as well as just plain slow, and often can’t figure out what is happening around her, even when it’s pretty clear. Other times Bree plays a Sherlock-esque figure, picking up clues and hatching schemes (even if they aren’t always brilliant ones), all the while complaining about the same issues repeatedly. She had a pretty rough past, but despite that I was never able to pity her after the first couple of chapters because she is so abrasive and whiny.

Finn, the love interest, grasps things often before Bree does despite being from the 21st century, but otherwise is just an overprotective lug, and one that happens to be quite attractive seemingly just for gushing at random intervals from Bree. The supporting cast outside of them are even more cliche, from the standard BFF Mimi who is only there to be overly devoted to Bree, to one of the “villains” that is confused and used, and that eventually goes a tad nuts but still garners pity for whatever reason. Just…no.

nope

The part of Loop that pulls you in, however, is the past-to-future experiences, at least if you love time travel like I do. Unfortunately, while some of those aspects are pulled off well, such as with various cultural references in the 21st and 23rd centuries, much of the future elements are not well done at all. The world Bree lives in is barely discussed, the book focuses way too much on a couple modes of transportation instead of the time travel part, and the cliched joke of instant meals was used a couple times and wasn’t really funny. There is always a lot to work with in time travel books because you have such a wide range of times and locations to choose from, but that wasn’t showcased in Loop at all. The world in the 23rd century was simply bland.

Bland World

The writing and conversations that took place were decent, but it wasn’t enough to grab me, especially with the previously mentioned issues involved. A few solid jokes were made, and the sheer awkwardness of various situations were enjoyable, but there wasn’t enough chemistry between the main characters to enjoy those scenes fully. Having the inevitable future of the timeline Bree and Finn were on, something that was told almost immediately in the story, made it so there were hardly any surprises or suspense.

Overall, while the idea of time travel was present, and some of the issues with it (even if many are obvious) were addressed, I couldn’t enjoy Loop like I had hoped to. It isn’t a bad book, it just doesn’t excel in any category. Time travel wasn’t exciting in Loop, it was just a way of circumventing plot issues, something it didn’t do all that well anyway. The ending of the book only serves to try and confuse the reader even more, and too many issues remain unresolved, even for a book in a series. Thanks as always for reading.

Two Smiling Frodos w Background


Frodo’s Frisky Friday: The Photographer’s Muse

Frodo's Frisky Friday

The Photographer’s Muse by Dominic Rod

Summary From GoodreadsThe Photographer's Muse

Nick lives a solitary existence in NYC. Invisible. Alone. Until a photographer walks up to him in the park one day and asks to take his picture.

Esteban lives in a world of art, sex, and domination. Nick is introduced to this world and he falls in love with it…and Esteban.

This is an 8,500 word short story. It contains graphic scenes of gay sex, rough sex, masochism and BDSM. It is intended for mature readers only.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

 The Photographer’s Muse is a M/M BDSM erotica story, so if that’s not for you I understand, maybe skip this one. However, if any of that sounds like your cup of tea, and if you want well written and deliciously descriptive sex scenes, then I’d recommend giving this a try.

The Photographer’s Muse is another solid entry from one of my favorite erotica sources, Luna Erotica, and it came with the writing level that I expect from them. The pacing is a bit quick, and the MC Nick does a serious 180 in terms of how he sees himself, but that doesn’t stop it from being an exciting journey of sexual discovery, as well of that of the self. I imagine that for some people The Photographer’s Muse would accurately depict how they came to find out whatever sexual preference they really had, or at least their first sexual experience in the new-found territory; slow realization, then incredible desire all at once.

The BDSM in The Photographer’s Muse is a bit tame compared to much of that sub-genre, almost done in a gentle way while still maintaining the control of it, but it is enjoyable. Also, if you have ever felt so average as to be invisible, something I can understand completely, then this might be the fantasy for you. Thanks as always for reading, and happy Friday!

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Mini Review Monday: The Dream Thieves

MiniReviewMonday

The Dream Thieves

Summary From GoodreadsThe Dream Thieves

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same.

Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life.

Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I’ve been waiting to read The Dream Thieves until Blue Lily, Lily Blue came out, but I managed to get a copy on Netgalley that I’ll be reviewing later, so I decided to dive in a little early. If you really enjoyed The Raven Boys then I’m sure you love or will love The Dream Thieves because the tempo, majority of the characters, and the feel of the book are very similar to the first one. However, if you had issues with the previous book in the series you might enjoy this one anyway, it’s more polished, the characters even more fleshed out (especially Ronan), and the magical bits that started in The Raven Boys take an even greater focus in The Dream Thieves.

Ronan is a fascinating character. He’s broken, constantly putting himself down and questioning himself (though mostly in his head), but he’s also a badass, and he pulls off that semi-facade masterfully. His powers of retrieving items from dreams are shown in detail in The Dream Thieves, and by the end they are flat-out amazing.

While Ronan is somewhat of the focus in book two (kind of like Adam was in book one), that didn’t detract from the rest of the cast of characters, a group that has become one of my favorites. Blue is still quirky and hilarious, Noah is an oddball of a ghost, Adam is conflicted and broody (but crazy levels of determined), and Gansey is well…Gansey. The dialogue and banter in this series makes for some of the most entertaining reading I’ve had recently, and I haven’t ever come across a series quite like this before, it’s fantastic.

The plot takes a ton of interesting twists and turns, there are a few new characters that are introduced or that get fleshed out a bit more outside of the main group, and the ending will blow your mind. I felt like The Dream Thieves was everything I wanted The Raven Boys to be, like a fully realized version, and I can only hope that Blue Lily, Lily Blue will continue the upward trend. Thanks as always for reading. ^.^

Five Smiling Frodos w Background


Sacrifice by Brigid Kemmerer: Frodo’s Review

Sacrifice (Elemental #5)

Summary From GoodreadsSacrifice

Michael Merrick understands pressure. He’s the only parent his three brothers have had for years. His power to control Earth could kill someone if he miscalculates. Now an Elemental Guide has it in for his family, and he’s all that stands in the way.

His girlfriend, Hannah, understands pressure too. She’s got a child of her own, and a job as a firefighter that could put her life in danger at any moment.

But there are people who have had enough of Michael’s defiance, his family’s ‘bad luck’. Before he knows it, Michael’s enemies have turned into the Merricks’ enemies, and they’re armed for war.

They’re not interested in surrender. But Michael isn’t the white flag type anyway. Everything is set for the final showdown.

Four elements, one family. Will they hold together, or be torn apart?

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I received a copy of Sacrifice from NetGalley, and I’m sure glad I did because I was really running out of patience to get my hands on the latest book in the Elemental Series. I was starting to have withdrawal symptoms! >.>

Let Me Love You

So, we are finally getting the book I know a lot of the fans in the series have been anxiously waiting for, Michael Merrick’s! The stoic leader, the steady rock (and the earth elemental puns begin!) of the family, Michael is the closest to a parental figure we see consistently in the series, a role he was forced to take when his parents died. The thing I wanted to know is, how has he been able to handle that role when he really was a kid himself at the beginning, and what on earth (you like puns right?) is going on in his head?

The simple answer is he’s as freaked out as you might expect, especially since his family is in constant danger, only getting worse as time goes on. Michael needs a shoulder to cry on, or at least someone to confide in to take some of the burden off of his shoulders, as much, if not more than any of his brothers. The problem is, he knows better than to involve any more people because it would put them in danger, including his sort-of girlfriend, Hannah. If you’ve read the series you already know how kind, caring, and simply good Michael is, I don’t need to tell you that, but Sacrifice does give a little more insight into his fears, and that was interesting to see.

Hannah is the other MC of the book, as it shifts between her and Michael’s perspectives, and this was the first glimpse we got into her life in any detail. What I took away from Sacrifice in regards to Hannah is how much she cares for her son, how she has handled having a child when she was 17 until now, and how her relationships with her family and the people around her have affected the way she sees the world. She’s tough, she’s a fighter, but she’s also not the most trusting, usually jumping to a negative conclusion about people who are trying to help her. I can’t say I really connected with Hannah too much (unless you are a teen mom, or were, it would be hard to), but her perspective is well worth looking at.

Life is Pain

The biggest change for me from the previous books to Sacrifice, as you might have guessed by the previous paragraphs, is how dark this book is. The two main characters are both dealing with pretty bad situations, the supporting cast (especially the brothers) aren’t faring much better and are in freak-out mode for much of the book, and then there is the new Guide threat coming after the other Elementals. It’s not a light and fluffy read whatsoever, but it is compelling, especially when the elemental battles are concerned.

Sacrifice is not light on the fantastic displays of elemental power, despite all of the drama going on that would be enough to make the book interesting, and since it is Michael’s book we finally get some earth-shattering (you thought I was done with the puns?) displays. While you are in store for an earthquake or two, there is also plenty of fire, some air, and even a good bit of water as well. We are finally seeing how well the elemental brothers can operate when they are connected and not constantly fighting each other. It’s freaking awesome. ^.^

I've Got The Power

The tone of the book being so somber did drop my enjoyment level a tiny notch, along with Michael’s constant worrying over his brothers (though I understood it), but overall I definitely enjoyed the book. The ending quarter of the book or so is a whirlwind of activity and the final bit leaves potential for more books in the future, though I know this is supposed to be the end of the series. If Kemmerer isn’t planning on doing a novella or something to add to the end of Sacrifice then I’ll say it is more open-ended then I would like, even though the paths of the characters are mostly understood. I would love to get more of the Merrick’s and the large family they’ve created in the future, but it’s been a wild ride either way. Thanks as always for reading, and get your copy on the 30th of the month!

Four Smiling Frodos w Background


Mini Review Monday: As Long As You Love Me

MiniReviewMonday

As Long As You Love Me by Ann Aguirre

Summary From GoodreadsAs Long As You Love Me

Most people dream about getting out of Sharon, Nebraska, but after three years away, Lauren Barrett is coming home. She has her reasons; missing her family, losing her college scholarship. But then there’s the reason Lauren can’t admit to anyone: Rob Conrad, her best friend’s older brother.

Football prowess and jaw-dropping good looks made Rob a star in high school. Out in the real world, his job and his relationships are going nowhere. He’s the guy who women love and leave, not the one who makes them think of forever; until Lauren comes back to town, bringing old feelings and new dreams with her.

Because the only thing more important than figuring out where you truly belong is finding the person you were meant to be with.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I received a copy of As Long As You Love Me on NetGalley along with book one, I Want It That Way which I reviewed earlier if you’d like some context. I enjoyed book one of the series quite a bit, so I couldn’t help myself and read book two already, even though it doesn’t come out until the 30th of this month. ALAYLM was a solid NA read with some good humor and plenty of sexy fun time, just like IWITW, but this time more serious issues were tackled, something that was greatly appreciated as it gave needed depth to the book.

Lauren, the MC and best friend from IWITW, takes center stage in ALAYLM as she adjusts to life back at home, a new job and online university, and an old flame. She’s not quite as funny as I found Nadia to be, but she is probably more realistic than Nadia, having some serious issues to work through that people can identify with. She has major anxiety issues, dealing with a lot of people (especially new ones) is not her strong suit, and she’s just starting to return to her usual self, unlike the fake version she forced out that was seen in book one. All of that is made more complicated when Rob comes back into her life, and she has to deal with past feelings (and new ones) coming to light.

Then there is the love interest, Rob, who is having a rough go of it in life from work (construction that he barely scrapes by on) to his relationships (a bad one with Avery). Having Lauren come back completely alters his life, from new potential financial avenues, to a potential relationship that might actually be good for him. However, Rob has his own issues, from incredibly strong self-doubt (stemming from how his parents treat him) to his troubles with opening up to people and believing them when they seem to genuinely care. He doesn’t have as much personality as you might expect from a secondary main character, but (especially those from small towns) he is extremely easy to identify with.

The rest of the cast brings up plenty of issues of their own. There are long distance relationships (and pregnancy to go with it), sexual abuse, and physical disabilities that are all brought up by various people throughout the book, and there is a wide variety of ways that all of them are dealt with which I found pretty interesting. The tone of the book is certainly more somber than IWITW, though there are still plenty of truly happy and exciting moments, but it is something to keep in mind. This isn’t your purely light and fluffy contemporary read.

Though ALAYLM was more serious, something I appreciated in some ways, I did enjoy the majority of what I read. However, there were a few negatives I should mention. The beginning of the book was a bit of a struggle as a lot of the dialogue felt repetitious and the first quarter of the book or so felt pretty rushed, not enough to be jarring, but certainly noticeable. Also, while I know that there is a lot of history between them, it felt like Aguirre might have used that as an excuse to move things forward pretty quickly in the beginning, and that was unfortunate. The story ended up getting to more of a normal pace, but if you liked book one, and book two intrigues you, I would say not to give up if you notice those same issues at the start.

Wow, this got a little longer than I planned for a Mini Review Monday post, but I guess that’s because ALAYLM covers so much ground, especially on different serious topics. Would I recommend it? It’s a good read, but there were some issues with it, and some of the sexual acts as well (the first one in particular) that didn’t sit well, but overall yes, it’s worth your time. If you want a New Adult read that isn’t all about getting your freak on and going crazy over a guy/girl, then this is for you. Thanks as always for reading.

Three Smiling Frodos w Background


Official Blog Tour Review of Exo by Steven Gould + Giveaway!

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I really enjoyed Exo, getting to dive back into science fiction was a blast! A big thank you to Jean Book Nerd Tours, Steven Gould, and Tor for giving me an ARC to enjoy, and for letting me be a part of this fabulous blog tour! My stop on the tour is a review and spotlight of the book, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post for your chance to win a copy of Exo for yourself! ^.^

EXO

Synopsis 

Cent can teleport. So can her parents, but they are the only people in the world who can. This is not as great as you might think it would be — sure, you can go shopping in Japan and then have tea in London, but it’s hard to keep a secret like that. And there are people, dangerous people, who work for governments and have guns, who want to make you do just this one thing for them. And when you’re a teenage girl things get even more complicated. High school. Boys. Global climate change, refugees, and genocide. Orbital mechanics.

But Cent isn’t easily daunted, and neither are Davy and Millie, her parents. She’s going to make some changes in the world.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

STEVEN GOULD is the author of Jumper, Wildside, Helm, Blind Waves, Reflex, and Jumper: Griffin’s Story, as well as many short stories. He is the recipient of the Hal Clement Young Adult Award for Science Fiction and has been nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards. Gould lives in New Mexico with his wife, writer Laura J. Mixon, and their two daughters.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | GOODREADS | FACEBOOK

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My Review

Exo is the book you give to a true science fiction fan just to see their eyes light up. Much of the science fiction that is out there today, at least from what I have encountered, has dramatically decreased the amount of actual science involved, and this is especially true in young adult. It has almost reached the point where sci-fi has turned into fantasy, scary I know. However, Exo is a throwback to a previous era of science fiction writing, glorifying the science that is involved instead of hiding it.

Have you ever wanted to be an astronaut? It’s a common dream for many young children, although with the deterioration of the space program a bit less so in recent times, but if you want to know just about everything involved in that process then Exo is for you. It doesn’t use the typical launch missions, spacecraft, or the like because of Cent’s powers, but there is more than enough realistic space jargon to excite your inner geek.

What makes Exo so great, though, is that it doesn’t overdo the technical aspects, or focus on just that side of the book. There is something in it for everyone! If you like some teen angst you’ll get a decent helping here, or if you prefer some daring rescues or dangerous escapes you can have your cake and eat it too! Also, if you are looking for some more of those cool teleportation displays from the previous books that’s included and even amplified to new levels!

I’ve come to really enjoy the series, especially with Cent (the main character) leading the way. She’s incredibly smart, quick witted, but not full of herself in the slightest, something that must be incredibly difficult when you can teleport all over the world with ease. Cent is also relatable, from her relationship issues (both with friends and her love life) to her squabbles with her parents for more freedom. She’s caring, but refuses to bend to anyone’s will (and I mean anyone!), and has plenty of badass in her when she needs it. Overall, Cent is just a fabulous MC, and a solid role model for YA readers, or any aged readers for that matter. She’ll inspire you.

There aren’t any real criticisms I have when it comes to Exo. The supporting cast is great and you still get the POV of her parents at times, so don’t worry if you miss the voices from the earlier Jumper books. Travelling to new areas in the world isn’t as much of a focus, mostly because SPACE!, but Gould managed to make it so I didn’t miss it, and that’s pretty difficult to do. I’d recommend Exo to any science fiction fan, regardless of age, but for teens and college-age this would be perfect. Thanks as always for reading, and good luck with the giveaway below!

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Red Blooded by Amanda Carlson: Frodo’s Review

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Red Blooded (Jessica McClain #4)

Summary From AmazonRed Blooded

Jessica is going to Hell.

After settling a fragile truce between the vampires, werewolves and witches, the last thing Jessica wants to do is face the demons head on. But when the Prince of Hell kidnapped her brother, he set into motion a chain of events that even Jessica doesn’t have the power to stop.

Now, Jessica must go into battle again. But Hell is a whole new beast — new rules, more dangerous demons, and an entirely foreign realm. And when Jessica is dropped into the Underworld too soon, without protection or the help of her friends, she must figure out just how powerful she can be… or she will never make it out alive.

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When I got the invitation to read Red Blooded on NetGalley I jumped on the opportunity. Full Blooded, book one in the series, was the first ARC I ever received, back when I first started blogging, and I’ve been hooked ever since. So to say I was excited to see what Red Blooded had in store would be an understatement. Also, the book came out today (Sep. 9) so if you want to go get a copy you can!

Red Blooded delivered in just about every way, giving me the diverse paranormal group I’ve come to expect, and the wide array of talents and powers displayed, all in a brand new world to explore. One of my favorite things about the Jessica McClain series is that Carlson takes the standard paranormal creatures (werewolves, vampires, witches, etc.) and alters how we think about them by combining some, and giving others new traits and personalities that you might not expect. Red Blooded has all of the paranormal beings you could possibly want, and introduces plenty of new ones as Jessica makes her way through the Underworld/Hell.

Carlson’s version of the Underworld/Hell (I have to use both because she does interchangeably, tad annoying I know) is an intriguing one. She makes it feel at times more alive than you might imagine, with vivid descriptions of ever-changing colors and textures of structures and tunnels, and the vast differences of the world at night and during the day. Alternatively, it is a very structured and clean place, with seemingly identical demons roaming around in vast numbers, and at times it seems regimented and even a bit cold. The combination makes for a really interesting experience on all sensory levels.

The character list remains pretty expansive, as I was alluding to earlier, and the new additions in the book are well worth the read by themselves. I can’t get into too much detail without spoilers, but one of the new creatures Jessica meets when she arrives in Hell has a very interesting personality, and instantly had me gravitating toward them. The supporting cast is really strong as well, from the BF Rourke to the bizarre (and adorable) young oracle Maggie, the quick-witted Ray and the incredibly stubborn Vampire Queen, and all sorts of other compelling characters make it one wild ride.

My complaints for Red Blooded are ones I’ve made consistently throughout the series, so I’ll keep them short. Jessica often seems incredibly dense, the last to pick up on what’s going on, and yet it doesn’t seem like she is intentionally being portrayed as a moron, so that’s frustrating. That leads me to my other issue, which is the repetitious conversations, weird pauses for info dumps, and the amount of info dumps throughout the book that feel awkward because it is so forced, all of which seems to stem from how slow Jessica is, and it is annoying to deal with.

Overall I definitely enjoyed Red Blooded, as I have with the rest of the series. While I do have complaints, they are for things I’ve come to accept come with the better parts of the books in the series, but those issues have kept the last few books from being five stars. I would recommend the series to anyone who enjoys a wide variety of paranormal creatures in different (and usually pretty awesome) worlds. I’m looking forward to book five to see what craziness happens next! Thanks as always for reading.

Four Smiling Frodos w Background


Mini Review Monday: The Iron Trial

MiniReviewMonday

The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Summary From GoodreadsThe Iron Trial

From NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare comes a riveting new series that defies what you think you know about the world of magic.

From two bestselling superstars, a dazzling and magical middle-grade collaboration centering on the students of the Magisterium, an academy for those with a propensity toward magic. In this first book, a new student comes to the Magisterium against his will — is it because he is destined to be a powerful magician, or is the truth more twisted than that?

It’s a journey that will thrill you, surprise you, and make you wonder about the clear-cut distinction usually made between good and evil.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I received a copy of The Iron Trial via NetGalley, which I was thrilled about because I love Holly Black’s work, had never had the pleasure of reading Cassandra Clare’s, and needed some more MG in my life. The Iron Trial was a highly enjoyable fantasy MG read, filled with magic of all kinds, not just of the elements on which it is focused. There is also the magic of the bonds you make, the wonder of a new world, and the thrill of facing your biggest fears and conquering them.

With the book being by Black and Clare, it is no surprise that the writing style was fantastic, and that I easily read The Iron Trial in one sitting. The pacing is excellent, the world has been fleshed out really nicely, and the Magisterium is a fascinating place to explore. Plus, how can anyone resist elemental powers and all of the cool ways you can use them? I know I couldn’t!

The cast of characters is one of the biggest highlight of the book. Black and Clare really took their time in developing each one, not giving away too much about any one character early on, including the MC. Call (short for Callum) is not your typical main character, being more moody and reserved than a standard hero, and the way his mind works is something quite fresh and interesting, though difficult to describe. Without giving too much away, he does open up after a while, which isn’t too surprising given that the supporting cast is stellar. I can’t wait to see how they develop going forward!

Comparisons to Harry Potter have been made, and while I can see how that might be, I would argue that The Iron Trial is darker in its undertones, and with significantly better (and more interesting) twists. Also, the Magisterium is nothing like Hogwarts, of that I can assure you! If I had to give any criticism to the book it would be that (even for 12yr olds) the characters are a tad slow on the uptake for certain things, and seem a little to clueless at times, but that’s a small issue. If you are looking for a MG fantasy story in the vein of Harry Potter, but with a unique personality and tone, then I’d recommend giving this one a try. Thanks as always for reading.

Five Smiling Frodos w Background


Mini Rant Monday: Glitch

 

Mini Rant Monday

Glitch by Heather Anastasiu

Summary From GoodreadsGlitch

In the Community, there is no more pain or war. Implanted computer chips have wiped humanity clean of destructive emotions, and thoughts are replaced by a feed from the Link network.

When Zoe starts to malfunction (or “glitch”), she suddenly begins having her own thoughts, feelings, and identity. Any anomalies must be immediately reported and repaired, but Zoe has a secret so dark it will mean certain deactivation if she is caught: her glitches have given her uncontrollable telekinetic powers.

As Zoe struggles to control her abilities and stay hidden, she meets other glitchers including Max, who can disguise his appearance, and Adrien, who has visions of the future. Both boys introduce Zoe to feelings that are entirely new. Together, this growing band of glitchers must find a way to free themselves from the controlling hands of the Community before they’re caught and deactivated, or worse.

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It’s time for a rant, befitting of a Monday such as this. Enjoy!

Glitch is a bit of a mess. It has parts that I really enjoyed, especially when the action was able to sweep me away a time or two, but there were glaring issues with it as well. Let’s start with the main character, Zoe.

Zoe is supposed to be emotionless, essentially a robot right down to the chip, but she glitches and is able to discover emotions and colors and such, albeit rather slowly in terms of comprehension. The problem is there isn’t a time in the book where she actually is emotionless, even when she supposedly reconnects to the Link network. I understand that she has been learning to keep a tiny bit of her subconscious active while being under the Link presence, but at no point does she act fully robotic without constantly saying how hard she is concentrating on keeping that blank facade going. It’s really frustrating.

Basically she's this guy.

Basically she’s this guy.

Also, Zoe is a tad slow on the uptake when it comes to… well everything really. She follows the lead of anyone who she perceives to have a clue about what’s going on, acting more like a puppy than a human. She doesn’t understand what’s going on most of the time, can’t seem to grasp when people are feeling emotions that might lead to harm for her or those she cares about, and half the time she starts having crying fits and hyperventilating when she is stressed. I’ve mentioned in other reviews about characters just being shells that go in the direction the author needs them to at any given time, but this is probably the worst case I’ve seen.

Then there are the relationships. You’ve got your pick! Behind door number one is insta-love, our old favorite! Behind door number two is the aggressive arse that nearly turns into a rapist at multiple points in the story, aren’t you excited?! While Zoe seems to understand her feelings (as much as can be expected with her) pretty quickly about who she likes and who she loves, it doesn’t stop her from going between the two boys like a ping pong ball, randomly going in one direction or the other based on who convinces her more at the time.

I Hate Instalove

Oh, right, the world, you probably want to know how this dystopian world is realized correct? It’s a cliche. Surprise, surprise, there was some sort of world war and to fix it some scientists and power-hungry leaders got together and programmed a chip so that everyone would behave. Oh, except they stripped the bits that make them human. As usual there are people that broke through somehow, developed a resistance, and now they are trying to make a difference. The resistance on the outside (in this case the surface) and the dystopian rat maze underground in a grid-like gray labyrinth.

As bad as all of that may sound, I actually enjoyed some of what happened with the story. Even though Anastasiu wasn’t able to convey from her MC what it would be like under the Link, she was able to show what discovering each new emotion would feel like, or how powerful the little things around us would be to someone who had never experienced taste, color, or the expansiveness of the sky. There is a better appreciation you can gain from a piece like this about the beauty of our world, especially compared to the one in Glitch.

that's nice i guess

On a less deep level, Glitch does a really nice job at displaying powers, and the variety of ways that they can be brought out. To me at least, those powers were just extensions of various feelings, and Anastasiu seemed to be using them to show an even greater depth of the feelings and emotions we can have for one another, the strongest (as corny as it is) being love. Although, hatred makes a pretty close second in this one, but the point remains.

Still, as cool as telekinesis is, I never felt like Zoe was the badass that she was supposed to be. Without there being a real connection formed for me to care about her, I guess the rest just felt too unreal, too forced. It could have been anyone using those cool powers, Zoe doing it was simply the way it happened in this case, but it didn’t feel like they belonged to her.

The rest of the characters, while somewhat interesting in their own ways, felt way too creepy for me to get behind and enjoy. Sorry future boy, but being obsessed about someone before you meet them and then being all over them when you do is not endearing, it’s just eerie.  Don’t even get me started on Max. *shivers*

Threw Up

So no, I won’t be recommending this book, nor will I continue the series. It might get better now that the facade of being a “drone” is gone there won’t be any reason for Zoe to pretend, but it doesn’t matter. I just can’t get over the variety of issues presented with Glitch. The characters were a minus for me, the “love” interests even more so, and the world wasn’t original. Blah. Thanks as always for reading.

One Smiling Frodo w Background


Frodo’s Frisky Friday: Bathhouse Nights

Frodo's Frisky Friday

Bathhouse Nights by Cameron D. James

Summary From Goodreads??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

In the bathhouse, anything is possible, especially at night when all the studs come out to play.

For cheerleader Daniel, his dream-come-true is a football jock named Justin, but no one in the bathhouse measures up, no matter how hard he tries to play pretend.

Justin is straight, of course. Aren’t they all? There’s no reason for Daniel to expect he’ll score with him…until the night he spots him in the hot tub.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Bathhouse Nights is something a bit different than my usual “naughty” read. I tend to gravitate toward novellas or short stories that at least have a decent amount of compelling story involved, and while I understand that is somewhat niche, it is also what separates them from being flat out written porn. James walks that fine line, but includes just enough decent plot to make it work.

There are a few issues brought up in Bathhouse Nights that are briefly examined and discussed, such as that of fixation, domination, bullying, and especially that of someone who thought they were straight having to come to grips with their reality. The transition isn’t the same for anyone, and while I can’t go into too much detail without spoiling the ending (given it’s a short story), I will say that this was a different perspective then what I’ve come across in the past.

I enjoyed that feeling of uniqueness, at least in terms of literary story if not in real life. As for the sexier moments, there were plenty of those, so if that’s what you’re into… well I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself fully. It’s all M/M, which is still somewhat rare, and the sex scenes are written out quite nicely, though they are often pretty short.

If I had to make any complaints about Bathhouse Nights it would be that its transition from Then to Now points of view were a bit to frequent, and a tad rough. This might have been better had it been a glimpse of the present, then a bulk amount of the past, before a full scene back in present time, but oh well. It’s a good piece, and I think most M/M enthusiasts will find something in it for them, as there is a decent variety of sex styles. Thanks as always for reading. ^.^

Three Smiling Frodos w Background


Mini Review Monday: I Want It That Way by Ann Aguirre

MiniReviewMonday

I Want It That Way (2B Trilogy #1)

Summary From GoodreadsI Want It That Way

Nadia Conrad has big dreams, and she’s determined to make them come true—for her parents’ sake as well as her own. But between maintaining her college scholarship and working at the local day care to support herself, she barely has time to think, let alone date. Then she moves into a new apartment and meets the taciturn yet irresistible guy in 1B….

Daniel Tyler has grown up too fast. Becoming a single dad at twenty turned his life upside down—and brought him heartache he can’t risk again. Now, as he raises his four-year-old son while balancing a full-time construction management job and night classes, a social life is out of the question. The last thing he wants is for four noisy students to move into the apartment upstairs. But one night, Nadia’s and Ty’s paths cross, and soon they can’t stay away from each other.

The timing is all wrong—but love happens when it happens. And you can’t know what you truly need until you stand to lose it.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I received a copy of I Want It That Way from Netgalley, which I was really excited to get into since it is by one of my favorite authors, Ann Aguirre. This also gave me a reason to try some New Adult, something I’ve read hardly any of, and see what I thought of it. After reading it, my first thought is that I should give this new-ish age range/type of books a shot. My second was that I’m really happy that I was able to enjoy Aguirre’s work outside of my favorite series by her, the dystopian Razorland trilogy.

That being said, I will warn potential readers that there is some insta-love involved, something I’ve been open to saying I’m not a fan of. However, it’s not quite as fast as what I’ve encountered in the past, and Aguirre made it feel as real and understandable as something like that could be. Sometimes there is that instant attraction, and once you get to know the person a bit more, and understand who they are outside of just a great set of abs or pretty face, you just connect on a deep level faster than average.

Outside of the quick love connection, the romance is very touching, sometimes steamy (in a fantastic way), and it is tested in all the right (highly believable) scenarios. The MC Nadia has a great voice, is incredibly caring and sweet, but determined when it matters. Ty is a great guy, but reserved for reasons that are incredibly obvious, and not the standard bad-boy type that plagues this type of book, something I was really thankful for.

The banter in the book is great, humor is interspersed with the serious areas to keep the reader engaged, and the supporting cast is very strong, and completely fleshed out. Some of the scenes are a bit corny or predictable, but not in a bad way, just what you’d expect from college life. I’m looking forward to reading book two soon!

If you are looking for a NA contemporary read, especially if (like me) you are a college student yourself, then this is a solid book for you to try. It comes out tomorrow, so take a look if you’re interested! Thanks as always for reading. ^.^

Four Smiling Frodos w Background


Frodo’s Frisky Friday: Daybreak

Frodo's Frisky Friday

Daybreak by Leigh Wilder

Summary From GoodreadsDaybreak

Both Jamie-boy and Damian have suffered since their break-up, but they are thrown together when a vampire is brutally murdered. Damian is too depressed to care and ready to let the cops deal with it–Jamie-boy is willing to do some investigating on his own.

Then there’s Lucas, a vamp tramp with a Daybreaker’s tattoo on his neck. Whose side is he on? How many people is he willing to hurt to get what he wants?

This is M/M romantica containing explicit sex, rough sex, BDSM, blood play, and violence.

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Daybreak is book 5 in the Deadly Liaisons series, one that I’ve enjoyed quite a bit, and this entry didn’t disappoint. Where the first four books focused on the points of view of Jamie-boy and Damian, Daybreak also takes a look at things from the POV of newcomer Lucas. It gives a refreshing new voice and perspective to the series, seeing things from outside of Damian’s immediate influence, and giving us a closer look at the Daybreakers aka the anti-vampire group.

However, the MCs are still in control of some of the action, and for much of the story in a bit of a role reversal. Damian shows that even an older vampire can be pretty childish when hurt, drinking and sulking around his room, and seeing Jamie-boy briefly at a crime scene doesn’t help.

Then there is the normally shy and subservient Jamie-boy acting tough, going to investigate in hostile territory where he could get himself killed, and messing around with Lucas who he barely knows. He keeps himself busy and involved to show Damian that he can be of help without him, and to keep his mind off their uncertain relationship.

This is erotica, so of course there are a few naughty scenes. I won’t spoil them too much for you, because that’s one of the most fun parts, but I will say there are a few new pairings for you to enjoy. Jaime-boy stars in a couple of them, one being a tad embarrassing, but both quite enjoyable. The one completely new pairing is a little violent for my taste, but I imagine those looking for the BDSM and such will like it. As with the rest of the book, though, all of it is really well written.

With the additional POV there weren’t a whole lot of surprises until the very end, but it still worked out pretty well. There was plenty of action, a solid amount of drama, and great character development. The ending leaves a lot of arcs up in the air, and that is the way I like it in this case. I can’t wait to find out what’s coming next! For anyone looking for some well written M/M I’d certainly recommend this series. As always, thanks for reading. ^.^

Four Smiling Frodos w Background


Book of the Week: Horde

BookOfTheWeek

Every Saturday I will talk about my favorite book that I read during the week, whether it be a review or a spotlight, or maybe having the author over to talk about it. Who doesn’t want more happy bookish goodness? ^.^

This week I’m gushing about: Horde by Ann Aguirre

Summary from GoodreadsHorde

The horde is coming.

Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they’re not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn’t run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade’s love.

Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn’t been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them.

This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity.

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Book of the Week is often one of the toughest posts that I write each week, which makes little sense seeing as how I should be able to go on and on about it, but when there is so little (if anything) to criticize all I can do is gush. With Horde it is no different. So prepare yourself for all of the positive feelings!

Horde, just like Rogue last week, is an excellent ending to a fantastic trilogy. It was the perfect blend of heartbreak and elation, thrilling action and tender romance. Horde is the type of book you stay up until 4 AM reading, and when you finish it you have to sit for another hour just to digest it all. There are so few books that have writing as powerful as Horde does, and considering the type of main character Deuce is, that is all the more impressive.

Let’s start with the action because that’s what Horde is filled with. Sure, some down time happens now and again, but for the most part these people are moving it across the world at a pretty fast clip. There are major battles that were written in amazing detail thanks to all of the research Aguirre did into similar wars. Add to that some cross country style running, skirmishes in the forests with traps and cunning tactics, and so many types of weapons displays it will make your head spin, and that makes for one wild and fun ride.

headspin

Oh my goodness the characters are incredible. O_O I fell in love with all of them and Horde had me going from incredibly sad, to super excited, and then to freaked the heck out because Aguirre puts them through hell and then some. Deuce is such a different MC from anything I’ve experienced. She’s so socially awkward and hyper-focused on the battle ahead that she misses and doesn’t experience a lot of what normally is the central topics in a story, and it makes for a very interesting perspective. Deuce is fiercely loyal once she counts you as a friend/family member, one badass fighter, and the transformation she goes through from Enclave to Horde is fascinating to experience.

There are so many other great characters, from Tegan the healer, to Stalker the bad boy turned softie, to Fade the love interest. The list never really ends with this series, which is what makes the battles so freaking tough to endure. Every loss is a big blow, all of them have lasting impacts.

I Love Them All

Since I brought up the love interest I should probably touch on the romance in Horde, and the series in general. While all of this crazy action is going on and everyone is simply trying to survive, Aguirre manages to display a wide range of romance types and developing emotions. Of course Fade and Deuce (the MCs) are going to be a big one, and their romance is fantastic, but there are so many other sweet pairings! Stone and Thimble and their easy-going relationship (beginning of the series), Momma Oaks and Edmund as the ideal parental unit (Outpost & Horde), and even a hard to read type like Spence and Tully (Horde). The diversity and beautiful nature of them all is outstanding.

All of these wonderful things are contained in an equally impressive world that Aguirre created in the series. There was the tunnels and underground civilization of Enclave, which was dark and grungy but so alive at the same time. Then came the outside world in Outpost where Aguirre was able to take a character like Deuce and show how amazing all of the little things we see every day can be to one who hasn’t experienced it before. Finally, Horde showed readers beautiful forests, a huge variety of town structures and types from garrisons to standard villages, and the wonders of an island paradise.

It's so beautiful

 

Every bit of Horde and the Razorland series was epic. Horde might not be the ending I wanted in terms of some character arcs (because I’m selfish and love them all), but it was the right one. To try and fight for paradise you have to make sacrifices and incur losses along the way, and Horde proves that. If you haven’t read this series and want one of the best dystopian ones out there, then this is for you. Heck, if you just want great stories then the Razorland trilogy is for you as well. Thanks as always for reading.

Five Smiling Frodos w Background


Frodo’s Frisky Friday: He Needs Discipline

Frodo's Frisky Friday

He Needs Discipline by Dominic Rod

Summary From GoodreadsHe Needs Discipline

Their relationship never felt normal. Jake and Dorian never quite bonded the way they were supposed to.

It made things a lot easier when little twenty-two year old Jake came to older Dorian for help with his out of control lifestyle, and Dorian’s solution was…taboo at best.Jake needs discipline. Dorian is more than happy to dish it out.

M/M erotica. 18+ Contains BDSM, and taboo situations.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

He Needs Discipline is another great find that I discovered over at Luna Erotica. Luna has become one of my go to sites when I am looking for something of the naughty variety, but also want something really well written, and it has yet to fail me.

Containing somewhat incestuous as well as fully BDSM scenes, He Needs Discipline is certainly not going to be for just anyone. However, if you aren’t bothered by that, and certainly if that is your thing, then I highly recommend giving it a read. There is even a sequel already released that you can get here, just in case your desire isn’t completely… satiated.

There is plenty of M/F, and even F/F pairings in the world of erotica writing, but M/M is a bit harder to find. While this is short, as are most of the works from Luna, it will put you in just the right mood, and you don’t have to worry about it sounding like a fifth grader wrote it, something that happens far too often with this type of work.

The banter between the brothers is well done, the sex scenes and what might be considered foreplay is certainly exciting, and the stimulating aftermath isn’t shabby either. I’d definitely recommend giving it a shot, and if you like it check out what else LE has to offer. Thanks for reading and enjoy. 😉

Five Smiling Frodos w Background


Killing My Kindle: Alexander Death by J.L. Bryan

KillingMyKindle

For 2014 I am tackling my Kindle app in an effort to make a dent in the large library of often forgotten eBooks. Every week I will talk about an eBook I read, be it good or bad, so that I can stay motivated and share some of it with you.

This week I took a stab at: Alexander Death by J.L. Bryan

Released On: September 23rd, 2011

Summary From GoodreadsAlexander Death

While Seth searches for Jenny, Dr. Heather Reynard of the CDC unravels Seth and Jenny’s secrets.

Alexander opens Jenny’s mind to her deep past, and to the full horrific extent of her powers.

Torn between her feelings for Alexander and Seth, and between her past lives and her present, Jenny must prepare to face her enemies, as well as the darkness within her…

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Alexander Death is book three of The Paranormals series. The series is focused on a group of six entities that have a variety of powers, all of which have been residing in humans since the beginning of mankind, and that reincarnate after every death, though it varies as to how much of their past they remember each time.

In the last book Alexander was introduced, showcasing his power of controlling the dead. He swept away the impressionable Jenny, and in this book devises a way for her to remember their shared past. Jenny abandons Seth after catching him in an act of betrayal, and in this story she tries to figure out who she was, is, and wants to be.

I’ve enjoyed The Paranormals series for the most part thus far, and that remains true with Alexander Death. The range of emotions that Bryan can elicit from his characters is very impressive, and a big part of why the books work so well. I can always get a feel for what the various characters are thinking (he changes point of view a lot) even when they aren’t saying so outright. Often it is what they don’t say or do that is the most telling.

My Emotions

The displays of powers is also pretty cool, although they do achieve some pretty mundane things to go along with the miraculous, though I suppose that leads to more believability. While the characters are great, and the powers are always intriguing, it is the peeks back into history that I enjoy the most.

There are stories of different battles, major events, and great leaders, all of which are woven to be seen in a way where some of these entities could have been controlling things behind the scenes, or even right in front. The discussions of architecture, grand kingdoms, and the wide variety of ways that people can rule is fascinating.

There remains the issue, something I mentioned when I reviewed Tommy Nightmare, book two in the series, that Jenny tends to flip flop as to where her loyalties lie. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in any book, when a character has a set path and then they do a 180, so when it happened again I was pretty frustrated. Without any spoilers, let’s just say Jenny doesn’t really know what the heck she wants most of the time, usually following someone else’s lead, and this is the case in Alexander Death. It didn’t kill my enjoyment of the book, but it kept it from being as good as it could have been.

Oh Hell No

There is quite a bit of action in Alexander Death, from gun fights, to zombie attacks, and even involving some naughty scenes. The book has a bit of something for everyone. The romances are just as varied with power plays, love in its seemingly truest form, and pure lust. It doesn’t get too incredibly graphic, which makes sense since it is YA, but there are a few romps to be had.

Overall I thought Alexander Death was a pretty good book. If there had been just a bit more development spent on the transition that Jenny had towards the end that would have made it excellent, but alas it is not to be. I do recommend the series, beginning with Jenny Pox, and I look forward to reading Jenny Plague-Bringer (the fourth and final book) in the future. Thanks as always for reading.

Four Smiling Frodos w Background


Mini Review Monday: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

MiniReviewMonday

I Hunt Killers

Summary From GoodreadsI Hunt Killers

What if the world’s worst serial killer…was your dad?

Jasper “Jazz” Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal’s point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I ran across I Hunt Killers on Netgalley when all three books in the trilogy were on there thanks to the newest one, Blood of My Blood, coming out in September. I didn’t want to get greedy though, so I decided to just get the first book and see what I thought, and I’m glad I did.

I Hunt Killers is disturbing, but not because of the murders or the tales of a serial killer. It’s Jazz and his messed up mind that make the book have a creepy, almost dirty feel to it. Being brought up by a serial killer, and one that not only didn’t hide that fact, but tried to train his son to be an even better one than his father was, had some serious side effects on Jasper’s psyche. It is chilling, an surprisingly realistic in depicting his budding tendencies to become a sociopath, all working in the book’s favor.

Jazz has to constantly battle his father’s teachings and the way that he sees the world because of them, something that causes issues with his friends, his girlfriend, and more than anything else, himself. He is always afraid that he’ll become his dad, that he’ll use his training for something evil instead of good, and that he’ll hurt those closest to him. To top it off his memory is shaky at best, and he can’t remember details of much of his childhood, including what happened to his mother.

The thrill of the chase and the way that Barry Lyga explores the depths of the human mind and the lengths it can be pushed to before it snaps make this book a very compelling read. It was another one where I took it all in one sitting, not wanting to miss a detail with a similar passion to the main character, and I Hunt Killers definitely made me want even more.

The small town made a lot of what happened possible, but it might be the only negative I have about the book. I never really got a great feel for what the place was like outside of a few specific areas, and while they weren’t specifically needed, it would have been nice to know the surroundings a bit better. Being as small as the town is it also constrained some things, forcing limitations of what the author could do, while giving them an easier manipulation of time because things took longer to come to pass versus the same scenario in a city. It will be interesting to see what happens later in the series when there is more room to work with.

Overall this was a great, thrilling read. I am looking forward to continuing the series in the somewhat near future, and learning more about what type of person Jazz will become, though I have my hunches. It is pretty graphic though, so keep that in mind if you consider picking it up. Thanks as always for reading.

Four Smiling Frodos w Background


Book of the Week: Rogue

BookOfTheWeek

Every Saturday I will talk about my favorite book that I read during the week, whether it be a review or a spotlight, or maybe having the author over to talk about it. Who doesn’t want more happy bookish goodness? ^.^

This week I’m gushing about: Rogue by Gina Damico

Summary from GoodreadsRogue

Lex is a teenage Grim Reaper with the power to Damn souls, and it’s getting out of control. She’s a fugitive, on the run from the maniacal new mayor of Croak and the townspeople who want to see her pay the price for her misdeeds. Uncle Mort rounds up the Junior Grims to flee Croak once again, but this time they’re joined by Grotton, the most powerful Grim of all time. Their new mission is clear: Fix his mistakes, or the Afterlife will cease to exist, along with all the souls in it.

The gang heads for Necropolis, the labyrinth-like capital city of the Grimsphere. There, they discover that the Grimsphere needs a reboot. To do that, the portals to the Afterlife must be destroyed…but even that may not be enough to fix the damage. Things go from bad to worse, and when at last the fate of the Afterlife and all the souls of the Damned hang in the balance, it falls to Lex and her friends to make one final, impossible choice.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Normally for a Book of the Week choice I would avoid doing a mini review because I want to give it as much praise as I possibly can and explain why I love the book so much. The problem with Rogue in this case is twofold; I had so many emotions after I finished the book that I was (and still am) a bit in shell shock, and it’s the third book in a series and I don’t want to spoil too much for any readers that haven’t started it yet. So that’s why I’ll be brief, keeping it short and sweet and to the point.

Rogue was one of the best endings to a series that I have ever come across. The ending was absolutely perfect in every way, something I had been worried about, and what had kept me from reading this book for so long despite how much I enjoyed the first two. The writing in this series, and in Rogue in particular, is bar none, just flat out some of the best I’ve ever read. Rogue is equally devastating and heartrending as it is hilarious and sweet. It is filled with equal parts of love and despair.

Every single character in the Croak series is amazing, and in Rogue they are so fully developed and I was so emotionally invested in every one that their experiences really felt like my own. At minimum I felt like I was right alongside them, and that is so incredibly rare to feel for me while reading. Uncle Mort is so much more than he appears, Lex becomes everything I could have ever hoped for and more, and her friends do some amazing things, but Damico makes those acts feel so believable and right that I never questioned them.

The banter and wit displayed in the series is the best I’ve ever seen, and I can’t praise Damico enough for that. She made me near tears on one page and busting out laughing the next. The story was perfectly paced, gripping, and desperate, but wonderfully so. If I had infinite sums of money (which I sadly don’t) this would be one of the first sets of books I’d give to teen readers, especially those that aren’t that into reading, because I swear it could change that in an instant. I can’t recommend them enough, just read it if you haven’t already. Thanks as always for reading.

Five Smiling Frodos w Background


Frodo’s Frisky Friday: The Wicked Ever After

Frodo's Frisky Friday

The Wicked Ever After by Kelly Apple

Summary From GoodreadsThe Wicked Ever After

With the help of her monstrous friends, Ari has saved her beloved from the mating contract that nearly killed him. As he recovers, she tries to figure out how to juggle her relationship with him—and her unwillingness to leave his side—with her family and outside life.

As it turns out, her former lovers might have a solution. If they play their cards right, it would give her a chance to be with her Liath Mor mate while remaining part of the human world.

Ari’s proven to be adventurous and willing to think outside the box. This wicked nymph isn’t one to let opportunities pass her by, especially when it means getting everything she desires.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

The Wicked Ever After is the final book in the Monstrous Tales series by Kelly Apple. I enjoyed this crazy romp through monster sexlevania (my made up term, not Apple’s) more than I ever expected to. There was an incredible variety of monster types, more sex scenes then you’ll know what to do with, and excellent writing throughout it all.

The Wicked Ever After takes after book nine, The Wicked Lovers, in that it focuses more on the new family of creatures as a whole rather than the sex scenes and naughtiness that dominated the earlier entries. There is certainly sexiness to be had, this is erotica after all, but it’s short and sweet, and full of many other emotions.

It’s clear how much Ari has evolved as a person, going from a sex-crazed whiner, always moping about one thing or another and being a pretty bad friend to boot, to a caring person devoted to the people she loves. What makes this even better is that there has been hinting that some of the characters, though I don’t know which ones, might be making appearances in Kelly Apple’s work in the future. I’d be thrilled to see them again and to have their stories really be fleshed out, something not possible in a series like this where so much else was going on.

The writing is so strong in The Wicked Ever After, the banter perfectly placed and balanced with tender moments, that I would recommend it to anyone looking for a little naughty fun in their day. These stories are short, and easy to breeze through, but worth every second you spend on them. I can’t wait to see what the author will share with us next! Thanks as always for reading.

Five Smiling Frodos w Background


Killing My Kindle: Elusive Memories

KillingMyKindle

For 2014 I am tackling my Kindle app in an effort to make a dent in the large library of often forgotten eBooks. Every week I will talk about an eBook I read, be it good or bad, so that I can stay motivated and share some of it with you.

This week I took a stab at: Elusive Memories by Amanda Shofner

Released On: June 13th, 2014

Summary From GoodreadsElusive Memories

The Northern Alliance Betterment Society, better known as the Hunters, has persecuted the Gifted for years. When Sam Benson is taken and her memory stolen, she certainly isn’t their first victim. But she’s determined to use her family’s influence as memory-bringer elders to make sure she’s one of the last.

As soon as she escapes the Hunters’ compound, anyway.

Two Hunter guards claim to be working to get Sam free, but only one has her best interests at heart—and holds the key to mounting an offense against the Hunters. With her memory fractured and the Hunters set against her, can she choose the right person to trust?

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Elusive Memories is designed to throw you off track at every possible moment and in ways you never stop to consider before it’s too late. In that it succeeds. One of the types of powers in this series is that of illusionists, able to disguise all sorts of things, and the book seems to work as if the reader is under one powerful illusion, altering their perception so they don’t really see what is in front of them. For that I give Shofner major credit, it is not something easily done.

However, my main issue with the book is that it takes a long time to build up into anything really interesting. Now, I’m a fan of authors like Stephen King, and most of us know how much setup he uses, so I’m used to that, but he does it with purpose. He also manages to enthrall you even while just giving you a layout of the world or slowly working you into knowing certain characters.

With Elusive Memories there is no gripping effect, the main character is so broken, lost, and hollow that there is no connection to be made there, and while we find out about the different abilities pretty early they aren’t made fascinating until around the middle of the book. There’s no big draw to lure the reader in and keep them there.

Hollow

Why So Hollow?

Despite that, I decided to keep on reading, figuring that the buildup had to lead to something pretty crazy, and it did. New powers, a struggle between regular humans and gifted, experiments on the latter, and some needed action and suspense. There was even a bit of potential romance thrown in. I’d say there is enough there in the second half of the book to warrant being patient through the first.

I still didn’t really connect with Sam, even though I understand her motivations. She seems to much of a shell, someone being forced to go through the motions that the author needs while not having much of a sense of self, and while losing some of her memories explains a bit of that away it doesn’t excuse it. I’m intrigued enough by the concept of the gifts to read further, and I’m hopeful that new characters will make the series more interesting, and that I might find a connection with them. Thanks as always for reading.

Three Smiling Frodos w Background


Mini Review Monday: The Cutting Room Floor

MiniReviewMonday

The Cutting Room Floor by Dawn Klehr

Summary From GoodreadsThe Cutting Room Floor

Behind-the-scenes secrets could turn deadly for Desmond and Riley

Life in the Heights has never been easy for seventeen-year-old Riley Frost, but when she’s publicly dumped and outed at the same time, she becomes an immediate social outcast at her high school. So Riley swears off romance and throws herself into solving the shocking murder of her favorite teacher, Ms. Dunn.

Riley turns to her best friend, budding filmmaker Desmond Brandt, for help. What she doesn’t know is that Dez has been secretly directing her life, blackmailing her friends, and hoping his manipulations will make her love him. When his schemes go too far, Dez’s web of lies threatens to destroy both of their lives.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews on Mini Review Monday! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

The Cutting Room Floor first and foremost is addicting. With the distractions of Twitter, video games, more Twitter, sports, and Twitter, I often find myself pausing every so often when I’m reading a book, rarely do I devour it in one go. This was an exception to that, but honestly I’m not sure exactly why.

My first guess is that it has to do with the pacing of the book, that the sheer amount of action kept me going. The devious plotting, revenge, the insane amount of relationships that will make your head spin, and the transformation of the main characters many times over keep the book moving rapidly. The Cutting Room Floor is never dull, but all that action does mean some arcs are underdeveloped, and others aren’t even explored. The characters tend to do a 180 whenever Klehr needed them to, not necessarily when it fits the person they seem to be or even the way the plot was going. It’s a bit disconcerting, but I got caught up in the whirlwind of it nonetheless.

scatplo1

I can’t say that there is a love triangle, or anything really close to it in this book, because it feels more like a love scatter plot with no correlation. Sure there is the main “romance” arc between Dez and Riley, but there seem to be a bunch of other ones that come and go randomly. There is no logic to the progression, if it can even be called that, and the reader finds out about random flings for no apparent reason at times when it has little to no impact on the main storyline. Ugh.

The characters themselves are compelling, and the dual point of view works in this case because Klehr manages to keep the voices of Dez and Riley very separate and unique. Dez is cunning, devoted to Riley and his filmmaking, and incredibly focused on getting what he wants. He is willing to do whatever he deems necessary to win Riley over, regardless of if it is dirty or reckless, and can often be cold to others if they aren’t helping him at the moment. Riley, however, is warm, sweet, and quick to love. She’s unsure of herself, and while she does some questionable things it is because she wants to do good, not out of any malicious feelings. She just wants to figure out who she is and what the best way is for her to be happy.

Devil and Angel

The bouncing between regular writing and script style can be a little jarring, but it’s not too terribly hard to get used to. High school students that participate in theater or acting of any kind will likely enjoy the many acting scenes and discussions on the craft, as well as the scenes done in script format. I feel like The Cutting Room Floor might have been better as a duology or trilogy, that way the arcs could have been more developed, the characters better understood, and the pacing slowed down a bit so the readers don’t get whiplash. It’s a good book, but it could have been a lot more. Thanks as always for reading.

Three Smiling Frodos w Background


Book of the Week: The Murder Complex

BookOfTheWeek

Book of the Week

Every Saturday I will talk about my favorite book that I read during the week, whether it be a review or a spotlight, or maybe having the author over to talk about it. Who doesn’t want more happy bookish goodness? ^.^

This week I’m gushing about: The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

Summary from GoodreadsThe Murder Complex

An action-packed, blood-soaked, futuristic debut thriller set in a world where the murder rate is higher than the birthrate. For fans of Moira Young’s Dust Lands series, La Femme Nikita, and the movie Hanna.

Meadow Woodson, a fifteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in Florida. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, an organization that tracks the population with precision.

The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is—although he doesn’t know it—one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family?

Action-packed, blood-soaked, and chilling, this is a dark and compelling debut novel by Lindsay Cummings.

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The Murder Complex does live up to its name. It is full of violence, of gore, dead bodies, and killings galore. The book is pretty action packed while keeping a steady, sometimes even methodical pace, as the main characters strive to learn more about themselves and the world they live in. It’s dystopian meets thriller in the best of ways.

Meadow is a young bad-ass that is all about survival and fighting through any obstacles she believes are in her way. She’s ruthless when she has to be, a protector of those few she holds dear, and a sweet big sister to Peri. I will say that I found Meadow to be a bit slow on the uptake in certain situations and also very quick to believe large shifts in her reality without a second thought. She doesn’t waver, but she doesn’t really question much either, choosing to attack first and worry about the rest later. She kind of reminds me of someone…

katnisseverdeen

Zephyr is a very intriguing character because of how different his world view and perspective is from Meadow’s. He’s been in the slums all of his life, living under the boot of authority, and despite that he is quite the funny guy and usually has a positive and light outlook. He’s just as devoted to those he cares about as Meadow, but he’s better at expressing those feelings in a seemingly normal way. Watching him learn more about who and what he is really was fascinating, even if it was pretty obvious.

That obviousness carries through the entire book. The Murder Complex isn’t going to surprise you very much in terms of plot, it is straightforward and fine with that being the case. However, luckily it doesn’t need to be shocking or incredibly innovative because it takes those dystopian tropes and uses them extremely well. The book is good at what it wants to do, and shock and awe simply isn’t it, but there is enough substance for it not to be needed.

Instalove

The romance in the book is rather insta-love for my taste and I’m not sure how much it adds, if anything. Perhaps in the future books for this series there will come a time when the way the romance is set up will work to its benefit, but for now there just wasn’t a lot of depth there, or reasoning behind them falling the way they did. It was a little disappointing, but romance isn’t why you’re getting The Murder Complex anyway.

The action scenes and the descriptions of bodies and weapons are excellent. The banter between characters is solid and the familial bonds are strong. I was left wanting for more information about what happened to the world and why things got to be so bad so quickly, because the brief bit that this book described wasn’t enough. I’m hopeful that the character development and the bonds they create will improve in the coming sequels. Thanks as always for reading.

Four Smiling Frodos w Background


Frodo’s Frisky Friday: The Wicked Lovers

Frodo's Frisky Friday

The Wicked Lovers by Kelly Apple

Summary From GoodreadsThe Wicked Lovers

Ari’s chance to free her beloved is here. With her allies standing beside her, she must face down two territorial females and save her imprisoned love. All while trying to keep the human world blissfully ignorant of the monsters moving among them.

Her monstrous friends might be willing to fight on her side, but having that many alpha males in one place could be a recipe for disaster. And that’s before her mom schedules some family time, her best friend shows up heartbroken, and her mysterious bloodline tempts her to give into her urges.

What’s a girl who loves monsters to do when love and lust get tangled? Her wicked lovers are about to find out.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

The Wicked Lovers continues the journey of monster-loving fun that is sadly nearing its end. However, it looks like Kelly Apple has been saving the best for last as this was my favorite entry into the series thus far. Ari’s character is fleshed out, stronger than when she began, and genuinely devoted to the monsters she has encountered on her way back to her love.

For me The Wicked Lovers was a breath of fresh air for the series, blending in a bit of sexual tension and a scene or two of naughtiness, but focusing on the new family she has become a part of. Every character is special, it feels like they’ve each given Ari something that has made her the woman she has become. As someone who has read the entire series to this point I can definitely say that every “monster” has their own unique voice, something that has impressed me from the beginning, and Kelly Apple made me be invested in each of their problems and situations.

Simply put, I want more. There is only one more entry into Monstrous Tales left, and even though there has been hinting of some of these characters coming back in other works in the future, I do feel like something special is coming to an end. I’d guess that’s pretty rare when it comes to erotica, so kudos to the author.

The writing is exquisite as always, the naughty bits just as steamy as ever, and the ending incredibly sweet. The only complaint if I had to make one is that the best friend accepts this new monster-filled reality without hesitation, but when there’s a werewolf and a dragon in your face it would be hard not to be convinced. I highly recommend checking out the series if you haven’t already, and make sure to read this one if you’ve started the series but aren’t caught up! Book 10 can’t come soon enough.

Five Smiling Frodos w Background


Killing My Kindle: Pieces by Michael Crane

KillingMyKindle

For 2014 I am tackling my Kindle app in an effort to make a dent in the large library of often forgotten eBooks. Every week I will talk about an eBook I read, be it good or bad, so that I can stay motivated and share some of it with you.

This week I took a stab at: Pieces by Michael Crane

Released On: May 13th, 2014

Summary From GoodreadsPieces

When a little girl’s body is found in the woods, a once quiet town is shaken to its core as it deals with the aftermath in this short story collection.

A man desperately tries to make a living but finds it difficult when the company van scares potential customers away. A parent fails to see when being protective of her only child transforms into an unhealthy obsession. A man decides he no longer wants children after hearing about the dead little girl, but is there something else factoring into the sudden decision? And in the final story, a child shuts down almost completely and has no idea if she can go on without her best friend.

In these twelve stories connected by a terrible tragedy, grown-ups and children alike try put the pieces back together again without any easy answers.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Pieces wasn’t quite what I had expected when I picked it up. I’m very familiar with Crane’s writing and his style, and usually his books (especially the Morbid Drabble series) have a consistent theme or tone to them. Pieces doesn’t quite fit that goofy or twisted vibe that I was used to, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good.

The twelve stories all center around the young girl that was killed and display different ways that humans might grieve after hearing about that kind of news. It doesn’t matter if they were close to her or not, all that had to happen was it being in close proximity for their lives to change in some way. Some coped with drinking, others with isolation, some become obsessed, others just try to go about as if nothing had changed.

Pieces does a solid job at showcasing how the human psyche can be affected by tragedies such as this under a wide variety of circumstances. However, in terms of just enjoying the writing, it missed the mark a bit. A few of the stories didn’t seem to have much point beyond that general scope, and it felt like they were plugged in just to show variety. Other stories were stronger and had a lot of meaning and power to them, such as the best friend at the end or the lady obsessed with the news even though she didn’t know the girl.

For me it was the inconsistency and how some of the stories were rather mundane that put me off a little. Overall I’d say Pieces does what it is supposed to, but knowing Crane’s skill as a writer, it was unfortunate that it didn’t feel like it was as strong as it could have been. Some people wouldn’t be as affected as others, but that doesn’t mean that those stories need to be lacking in purpose.

If you want to read about the many different ways humans react to a singular event then Pieces is probably for you. If you’re a fan of Crane and want his usual brand of twisted humor, then maybe pass on this one. It’s a good piece, just not a great one. Thanks as always for reading.

Three Smiling Frodos w Background