April 17, 2015

Review of One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pub. Date: May 27th, 2015
Pages: 255

Short Sweet Synopsis: Alek is devastated when he learns his parents are forcing him to go to summer school to bump up his grades until he meets Ethan, skater boy extraordinaire.

One Man Guy is a fun book that tells the story of Alek, a 14-year-old gentleman (he literally walks girls to the door!), who is trying to find his identity. Yes he is Armenian, but he knows there is more to him than how his parents see him. When cool Ethan hijacks Alek into a forbidden day trip to New York, Alek discovers more than the secret to experiencing a day in New York with just $5.

If you haven't figure this out from the cover and title, One Man Guy is about Alek falling for Ethan. If realizing you are gay isn't difficult enough, Alek must figure out what this means in relation to his traditional Armenian family. This is the first book I have read about Armenian Americans and I enjoyed the family dynamics. I think Michael Barakiva created a good balance with blending in Armenian culture without feeling like I was being lectured. The recipe for stuffed grape leaves at the end of the book was a great addition; after all, food was an important ingredient in the book (I just couldn't resist!).

I really enjoyed reading One Man Guy. My minor complaint is that I wish we knew more about Ethan's family, but that is really just a personal preference. This is Alek's story, so It makes sense that the focus is on him and his family. I definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in first love, LGBTQ experiences, or a humorous book filled with family drama.

April 3, 2015

Review of "All the Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pub. Date: January 6th, 2015
Pages: 388

Short Sweet Synopsis: Two teens battling depression become unlikely friends after they stop each other from committing suicide. Finch's vivacious personality revitalizes Violet, but Finch starts to slip into a darkness of his own.

Even though I had read great reviews of "All the Bright Places", I had my doubts. I mean a book claiming to be The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park? Yeah right! Those are AMAZING books, there is no way "All the Bright Places" could come close to the brilliance in either book! While it didn't quite reach their level, I did love the book and the claim made sense to me. I was actually more torn up by "All the Bright Places" than "The Fault in Our Stars". I was totally crying on the bus during my morning commute and had trouble getting it together for work.

"All the Bright Places" had me from the first page. It starts off with our two main characters, Finch and Violet, on the ledge of the bell tower at their school. It is clear that at least one of them, if not both, were about to commit suicide; however, I found myself laughing out loud at their exchange. I know that sounds completely twisted, but it is told through Finch's perspective and he is hilarious. Jennifer Niven gave him a strong voice and it carried me through the book. I did switch between the audio and print versions, so the narration by Kirby Heyborne probably played an immense role on my love for Finch. It has been a few weeks since I read the book and Finch is the character that has stuck with me. I'm not saying that I didn't cherish Violet as a character, but Finch was the vibrant force in the book.

If you haven't deduced this already, "All the Bright Places" is about depression and how the characters deal with the issues in their lives. Finch tries to live everyday to the fullest and Violet has tried to cut herself off from the world. These two characters have amazing chemistry and just fit so well together. However you can't fix a person who isn't willing to get better and love does solve all your problems. I don't suffer from depression nor am I well versed in psychology, or anything related to the topic. I can't speak to "All the Bright Places" accuracy on this level. What I can say is I found the book to be uplifting and heartbreaking. It was a roller coaster of emotions, and I'm not talking about in the kiddie section of the park, I'm talking about the you must be 5' tall to ride this sucker and if you have a heart condition, well good luck with that! Any book that can make me feel for the character that much will always have my vote.

I'm trying to think about the things I didn't like about the book. I guess Finch's family didn't seem very realistic, especially towards the end. I can't go into much detail without giving away major spoilers, but they were just too detached from reality. Denial is one thing,but Finch's mom brought a whole new meaning to the word. This didn't ruin the enjoyment of the book for me though, it just felt a bit like a ploy to allow the story develop a certain way.

To state the obvious, I LOVED "All the Bright Places" even though it is early in year, I think it will be a standout title in 2015. This is a book I will definitely be thrusting into people's hands, whether or not I know them, and insisting they read. Seriously, READ IT!

March 27, 2015

Review: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Fairest by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pub. Date: January 27th 2015
Pages: 222
Series: The Lunar Chronicles book # 3.5

Short Sweet Synopsis: Levana's story. Find out why she is such an awesome villain. 

I have a confession to make, I don't usually read novella's or short stories that are part of a greater series. I wish I had a good reason for this, but usually I'm simply not interested enough in a character to take this on. However, I have always been intrigued by Queen Levana in the Lunar Chronicles because she is such an amazing villain. I love to hate her and could not imagine myself empathizing with her, but Marissa Meyer made it happen in "Fairest".

Let's make this clear, you will not end Fairest thinking that Levana is a stand up gal who is just misunderstood. You will have a better understanding of her as an individual, but you will still think everything she has done is unforgivable. What is the point then of reading the book? Because even though Levana was doing some devious deeds, I felt myself hoping that she would surprise me and take the high road. At the same moment, I felt sorry enough for Levana that I was in tears through most of the book. Even though Fairest is very short, a little over 200 pages, Marissa packs enough character development that you will understand how Levana became so twisted.

If you enjoy the Lunar Chronicles, it really doesn't matter your opinion of Levana, you will want to read Fairest. If you are like me and appreciate Levana's demonic plots then you MUST read Fairest because you have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mental torment. I probably just made myself sound like a bit of a psychopath, but I just admire when an author can create an truly terrifying villain.

March 24, 2015

Review: Misdirected by Ali Berman

Misdirected by Ali Berman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pub. Date: November 25, 2014
Pages: 288
*Received free digital ARC for review*

Short Sweet Synopsis: 15 year old Ben moves to a small town in Colorado quickly discovering that atheists are not tolerated by the conservative community. Will he be able to find a way to fit into a high school filled with students with such strong religious beliefs? 

Misdirected was a fast paced and enjoyable read. As someone from Massachusetts who was not raised in a religious household, I could relate to Ben. Although I grew up in a small conservative town so people did tease me because of it, but no where near what Ben faces in the book.

I liked that the characters weren't static, they were human beings that would make mistakes and many tried to grow from them. I was a bit worried that the book was headed in an anti religious direction at the beginning, but by the end it felt completely different. I was really impressed with how Misdirected handled the issue of religion in our country; it is a polarizing subject that can't be ignored. This book could help facilitate some wonderful discussions on the topic. I really liked how the book ended. It was hopeful without having that afternoon TV special feeling.

I just realized that some of what I just said might have made the book sound boring, but it isn't! Even if you don't want to read about religious differences, there are plenty of classic teen moments! Ben has his first kiss, people are sneaking out of their houses, there is bullying, first day at a new school jitters and family drama; Misdirected even has magic! I will say that the magic tricks were probably what I liked least out of this book, but at least it made Ben unique. I appreciated his passion for it in the end.

Bottom line, interesting book with great characters that tackles a timely topic without slowing down the plot. I definitely recommend it.

February 25, 2015

Review: The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Pub. Date: September 1, 2014
Pages: 224

Short Sweet Synopsis: Ceony has worked hard to be first in her class at the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined to fulfill her dream of choosing metal as the medium for her magic; however, her dreams are crushed when the school assigns her to work with paper. Little does she know that there is more to paper magic than she even thought possible. When a magician practicing dark magic enters the picture, Ceony must use all the magic she has learned in order to save the life of her teacher.

"The Paper Magician" was a nice change from the books I have been reading. You may think that the idea of a paper magician is lame, but Charlie N. Holmberg makes it incredible. Like the idea of a magician who can work wonders with paper, there were aspects of "The Paper Magician" that I loved, but there were some issues with the execution of the plot that got in the way of the flow of the story.

I'm going to start with the positives because my experience when reading "The Paper Magician" was a good one. I loved the characters in "The Paper Magician" because they all had strong personalities. Ceony and Emery had great chemistry throughout the book and I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop. I truly appreciated the way Holmberg created his magical world where there Magicians bond to a specific man-made medium. Once bonded a magician can only work with that material. Even though paper sounds like a lame material to work with, it turns out that almost anything is possible if the magician knows his craft and understand the material.

My biggest problem with "The Paper Magician" was the pacing. Much of the book moved very quickly, but then the book slowed down towards the end. There was too much descriptions that didn't add to the world building or story. There was also a point where the plot started to crawl along and Ceony was going around in circles. It was getting really frustrating. I think it would have helped the pace if Emery and Ceony had more time working together at the beginning of the story and less with Ceony running in circles (sorry I'm trying not to give away cool details). Luckily the end of the book made it totally worth it!

I really enjoyed "The Paper Magician" because it felt very unique to other fantasy books out there. Yes it had romance and a good vs. evil plot, but these are elements I enjoy when the author does them well. Even though poor pacing is one of my pet peeves, I still really enjoyed "The Paper Magician" and even plan on reading the second book in the series.