Summary From Goodreads:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Summary From Goodreads:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Photographer’s Muse by Dominic Rod
Summary From Goodreads:
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.
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!
The Dream Thieves
Summary From Goodreads:
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…
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. ^.^
Sacrifice (Elemental #5)
Summary From Goodreads:
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?
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! >.>
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.
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. ^.^
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!
As Long As You Love Me by Ann Aguirre
Summary From Goodreads:
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.
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.
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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! ^.^
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.
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.
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!
Enter the Giveaway!