Book Review #36: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Jim Kay

9780763660659_p0_v1_s1200x630 The monster showed up after midnight.

As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting, the one from the nightmare he’s had every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, something ancient, something wild. And it wants the truth.

 

 

Man. This book was amazing. My first completed book from Patrick Ness and I’m surprised I have not read it sooner than I did. I swear there were tears in my eyes as I read the ending. Definitely a must read for middle-readers and up.

In A Monster Calls, Conor’s mother has cancer. It’s a reality for many people. This book showed the reality of cancer and the toll it takes, not just on the person who has this horrible disease, but the family and friends surrounding them. Ness truly put a focus on that grief and that gut-wrenching feeling of not being able to do anything, but to be there for your family and friends.

The illustrations by Jim Kay were haunting, yet very beautiful and they complimented the story immensely. The style of the book reminded me greatly of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which is another book with paired illustrations and written content. Both books also pack a huge emotional punch. Everything about this book made me say “Yes, this will tear me apart and I love it!”

Ness truly brought Siobhan Dowd’s final idea to life, and honored her in writing A Monster Calls. The lessons and truths put in this story are truly a measure of awesomeness by two amazing writers. The book was so sad, yet filled with meaning.

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My Rating

 

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Book Review #35: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

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Image via Simon and Shuster

 Matteo Alacran was not born ; he was harvested. His DNA came from El Patron, lord of a country called Opium–a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt’s first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster–except for El Patron. El Patron loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself.

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by sinister cast of characters, including El Patron’s power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacran Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn’t even expect.

This book reminded me (although I have not read it in full) a bit of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. It is similar in many ways, although this novel was vastly different.

My initial thought when I picked up this book was that it was Dystopian. I was definitely right about that. When you first open the book, you are taken a bit slightly off-guard at the table of contents, which revealed that you were going to be reading the entire childhood of this boy. Next is a list of characters, and an Alacaran family history. In my opinion, those additions to the book didn’t really seem necessary as I could easily follow what was going on, and who the characters were.

Honestly, I really liked this book. Matt is a character that you fall in love with; he is genuinely a good person, thrust into some awful situations. You are watching this boy grow up, and it is really entertaining. I’m not going to reveal too much of what happens in this book, to keep this review spoiler-free. I will say that the twists and turns this book had were very well done, you could hardly expect them coming. The setting and secondary characters in this novel are very well developed. Nothing seemed sort of “out there” as some dystopian books have done in the past. My only gripes with this novel are that some of the excitement and tenseness dropped off about two thirds into the tome, which wasn’t by much, however it is still noticeable.

The idea of Matt as a clone, and how he was treated because of it made him into the character he is by the end of the novel. Clones were treated as less than human; as monsters. As Matt grappled with this concept, you could see his inner most confusion with the idea of what it means to be human and to have a soul.

The House of the Scorpion is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the literary struggle of the concept of humanity.

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My Rating

Book Review #33: The 100 by Kass Morgan

the 100 book cover
Image via hachettebookgroup.com

“No one has set foot on Earth in centuries–until now.

Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth’s radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents–considered expendable by society–are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life…or it could be a suicide mission.

Clarke was arrested for treason, though she’s haunted by the memory of what she really did. Wells, the chancellor’s son came to Earth for the girl he loves–but will she ever forgive him? Reckless Bellamy fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only pair of siblings in the universe. And Glass managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.

Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind’s last hope.”

After watching the first season and a bit of the second season of The 100 on Netflix, I decided to read the book that inspired the fan-favourite series. You know how they usually say that the book is better than the adaptation? Well, that’s not the case, especially for The 100. There were definitely interesting moments in the novel that I’m said to say weren’t translated into the show, but overall the novel was sub-par.

The only interesting and engaging character seems to be Bellamy, as Clarke, Glass, and Wells seem tied up in love triangles of their own (and sometimes with each other, in Clarke and Wells’ case). The story ultimately tells you what happens instead of showing you what happens. It leaves much to the imagination, in this case being that being the bad thing, and leaves us with characters we can’t empathize with.

When you have Sci-Fi or dystopian-like stories like this, you need to be grounded with your characters, settings and plot points. I honestly couldn’t care less about any of the characters.

In short, I’d say pass on the book and just binge watch the show.

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My Rating

Book Review #32: You’re Never Weird On the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day

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Image via Simon and Schuster

Felicia Day is someone I admire for a few reasons; she’s overcome similar things that I have, and she’s a HUGE nerd/geek, like me. She also has a philosophy that I love, which includes lots of positivity statements. In her memoir, she shares a lot about her life, including deeply personal things, and it shows she has a lot of gusto.

She first describes her early days in school, then after a while being home-schooled for the rest of her schooling career. The tone of this book is definitely humorous, as the book is spattered with pictures such as a school photo of her younger self with a upside-down salad bowl photoshopped on her head. Felicia later describes her first gaming love, a online video game series called Ultima. Ultimately (pun definitely intended), Felicia’s game lead her to getting her first kiss with a boy she met through the game.

Amazingly, without graduating high school, Felicia made it to the University of Texas where she studied music and math, excelling in both. She had played violin since she was very young and had always loved math (not only because her grandfather urged her to pursue it due to his profession). After university she goes to L.A. to try to become an actress. Of course, in classic Felicia fashion, many funny hijinks ensue.

She eventually creates a web-series called The Guild based on the massively multiplayer online video game, World of Warcraft, which she may or may not have devoted her life to at one point. The series soon became a success, and she got roles in such media like Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-LongBlog and Supernatural. In 2011, Felicia created a YouTube channel called “Geek & Sundry” where she posted many various videos favoring all of “geekdom.’

During this process, things were not always sunshine in Felicia’s life. She had trouble with anxiety, depression, and disease, making a portion of her life very difficult. Her experiences with these struggles reminded me of my own struggles, and I think I connected with her more as I was reading. I even teared up a bit while reading.

Felicia Day has a way of pulling you in. Her novel is not something you can put down very easily, and I devoured it in less than two days. You’re Never Weird On The Internet (almost) has a fun, spunky atmosphere that shows amazing talent. You go, Felicia.

Book Review #28: Carrie by Stephen King

Image via Talk Stephen King from Blogspot

The story of misfit high-school girl, Carrie White, who gradually discovers that she has telekinetic powers. Repressed by a domineering, ultra-religious mother and tormented by her peers at school, her efforts to fit in lead to a dramatic confrontation during the senior prom.”

I have never read a Stephen King novel prior to this one, but I’m glad I did read one of his novels, because this was great! It wasn’t outlined in chapters like other novels, however it was separated with things such as book excerpts, articles, and court testimonies. That fact of the book made it really raw and gritty, like I was reading something written about an actual event.

However, as much as I did love this book there were quite a few things that really rubbed me the wrong way. First of all, all the foreshadowing like “Carrie is going to kill a lot of f****ing people” and “the town is going to be destroyed.” After all that, it just seemed kind of stale and it took away from what reaction the end of the book was supposed to elicit. I think that if we didn’t know what was going to happen at the end of the novel, we would’ve of been very surprised at Carrie’s development, which brings me to my next point

My second point is that I found that there wasn’t really any character development to Carrie. Like, I can admit she developed when she was slowly getting the hang of learning her powers, but her suddenly deciding to kill everyone kind of seemed out of the blue. She could’ve had thoughts where she wanted to hurt the people that have hurt her prior to hurting everyone.

Overall this is a good horror novel for any horror buff and I really enjoyed it.

My Rating
My Rating