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Book Review #41: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Revenge is worth its weight in gold.

When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.

I listened to this book on audio, and it was narrated by Amy Rubinate. The audiobook didn’t add a whole lot extra to the experience, but it was good all the same. I think it might be better to check this out on audio if you don’t like Kate’s way of speaking while reading. It is much better to listen to; I really enjoyed her turn of phrase.

Vengeance Road was everything I needed in a western and much more. Too long have westerns been a sausage fest of cowboys and filled with damsels in distress. Kate Thompson shows that not only women can be tough and stop at nothing to get what they want, but they can also have flaws, moments of weakness, and make mistakes. Pretty much every woman we meet in this story has their own strengths, and they are not flat characters.

The plot was just enough kicking ass and taking names as much as it was a survival story. Kate had nothing left to her life, other than the urge to take revenge for her father’s murder, and that really showed in the initial tone of the novel. Kate didn’t really care for what happened after she would take revenge on the Rose Riders, nor did she care if she died as long as she would take the leader with her. She thought she would never care about anyone. There is a budding romance in this book, and it was enough of a slow-burn for me to actually root for them and care whether or not they actually got together.

This novel had so much action packed into it and it was so easy to invest in the characters lives. I’m saddened that it only has 3.88 on GoodReads because it deserves so much more. The cover is gorgeous and the story is the same.

I keep flipping my rating from four to five stars and back again; when I lowered it to four, I couldn’t think why I should leave off a star because there is nothing I would change about this novel. It is truly that good. Bowman really has crafted a genuinely amazing story, one that I would be glad to pick up again.

 

★★★★

Five Stars!

 

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Book Review #40: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.

Let me first start off by saying that the second paragraph of the blurb is very misleading. It made me think that this book was going to be centred around this love triangle between Suzette, Rafeala, and Lionel. However, that was not the case. I found myself sucked into this narrative for very different reasons, the love triangle part being a small part of it.

The story was interspersed with flashbacks explaining the beginnings of Suzette’s and Lionel’s relationship as step-brother and step-sister, the beginnings and signs of Lionel’s bipolar disorder, and Suzette’s relationship with a girl in her past, Iris. I thought the writing was good, but what really held up the story was its characters.

Suzette and Lionel flawed sibling relationship marks some reality with most sibling relationships, especially if one of the people in the relationship has a mental illness. I could relate a lot of Suz and Lion’s actions to my own relationship with my sister. I could also relate a lot to both Lionel and Suzette; Suzette’s questioning of her sexuality and Lionel’s mental health and book obsession.

Spoilers In This Next Paragraph…

When Lionel decided to go off his medication, I empathized with him. I know the feeling of being frustrated with symptoms of medications and finding the right ones and doses to take. I also understood Suzette’s very protective nature towards her step-brother during this time.


 

Little & Lion was not what I expected (ie. the blurb) which is why I took off a star, along with the writing not being very memorable. I also took off the star because it teetered on the very edge of having a bisexual cheating stereotype. But, Little & Lion was very diverse in terms of race, illness, and sexuality. I feel like a lot of people can connect to this novel like I have.

 

★★★★

Four Stars!

 

Book Review #39: Looking For Alaska by John Green

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter is done with his safe life at home. His whole life has been one big non-event, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave “the Great Perhaps” even more (Francois Rabelais, poet). He heads off to the sometimes crazy and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young. She is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart. Then. . . .
After. Nothing is ever the same.

Before I move forward with this review, I do realise that this novel has the definition of a “manic pixie dream girl.” With that being said, however, Looking For Alaska does paint a portrait of a complicated love interest if even that.

Miles, or “Pudge,” seems to fall flat as our main character and narrator; I could count on one hand the intriguing things about him. Pudge, who is supposed to be our main focal point, transcends into this narrator being.  I usually forget he is there most of the time while reading until he decides to say something. Forgettable is not a word I like to associate with the main character. Almost everything even remotely interesting happened around Pudge, whose personality was as dull as an unsharpened pencil.

I found some of the other characters a lot more interesting and developed, like the Colonel. I honestly wished Alaska had been more fleshed out. Other characters that gained importance towards the end, like Takumi, I wish were more developed as well.

Looking For Alaska was separated into two parts, “Before” and “After,” which was then separated into small chapters detailing the days before and after. Only for a moment, the novel had me wondering what pivotal event happened in between with that structural set-up.

The plot overall had just enough engagement to keep me reading. At the end, I was left wondering… what was the point? The pivotal event in the story occurred for a bunch of men (okay, as well as one other minor female character) to achieve a coming-of-age growth and confirming the prior mention of a manic pixie dream girl premise.

Although given this trope, Looking For Alaska did have some good things to say and I didn’t outright hate it.  I even saw some quotes I want to go back and underline if I find the time. However, I can’t really justify giving it a higher rating. My enjoyment was at about a constant three stars for the entire thing so I guess it has consistency? I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t woke enough to understand the literary references?

Looking For Alaska, in short, had its moments where it could have been great, and there was some floppy character development. I’m not sure what this book was trying to say, essentially. Was it that Pudge had turned the thought of Alaska into something almost mythical, a being that was perfectly unperfect when really she was just as fucked up as anyone else? Maybe I need to chew on this book for a while.

 

star-rating-three

Three Stars!

 

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