Monday, February 29, 2016

Nightmares - Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Words cannot begin to describe how much I loved Nightmares, the delight novel co-written by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller.  I knew I had to read it when I saw who the authors were, and I was not disappointed.

The book opens with Charlie peering out his bedroom window at the darkened street.  He then moves to push no less than 38 boxes up against the bedroom and bathroom doors.  Why?  Well, because they will keep out the witch known as his stepmother, Charlotte DeChant.  When Charlie first met Charlotte, it was shortly after she had moved into the purple mansion in Cyprus Creek.  She gave him a tour of her house, but it wasn't until later, when she and Charlie's dad got married, that Charlie suspected she might be a witch. 

When Charlie, his brother Jack, and their dad move into the purple mansion, Jack falls in love with the house and is completely taken by Charlotte.  Charlie, however, seems to be the only one in the family who has his suspicions about Charlotte. He never lets up on the idea that Charlotte is a witch.

I won't spoil too much, but let's just say that Charlie ends up meeting some people who help him and who finally make him realize that perhaps Charlotte's not as bad as he thought. 

I feel like there are not enough words to really help describe how much I enjoyed this book!  It has action, humor, quirky characters, and for grownups - a little tip of the hat to It.  (Luckily, it's subtle and your kids won't understand unless they're familiar with Stephen King.)  The characters in the book are charming and precocious, as only 12 year olds can be. They are all well-developed with distinct personalities.  The story moves seamlessly from one event to the next, and there is plenty of action to keep kids and older readers interested.

When you get to the end of the book, you'll be glad you read it - it's entertaining and funny throughout with a healthy dose of monsters.  Despite the monsters in the book, this book is definitely appropriate for readers 9 and older!  (Parents will love it, too.)  I give it 5 stars all the way.  Go out and get it now - you won't regret it.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Carry On - Rainbow Rowell

This review contains spoilers.  If you have not read Carry On yet, and want to be surprised, save this review for later. 

If you've every read Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, you are already slightly familiar with the story of Simon Snow and his roommate Baz.  They are fictional fictional characters that exist in the story Carry On.  After finishing Fangirl, Rowell decided to actually write Carry On.  So, when I found out Carry On was coming out, I knew I had to read it.

Carry On starts with Simon catching the bus then a taxi to the magical school he attends -  Watford.  However, he almost gets killed by the taxi driver.  He eventually finds his way to Watford, where he discovers that his roommate, Baz, is not at school.  Simon spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about where Baz might be and searching for him.  When he's not thinking about Baz, Simon is thinking about the Insidious Humdrum, a figure that never really makes much of an appearance in the book.  This is ironic, considering that the Insidious Humdrum wants to kill Simon.

Carry on is basically one long think-fest with a couple of typical teenage diatribes thrown in.  I thought for sure that there would be some attempts by the Humdrum to enter Watford and get Simon.  I thought perhaps there would even be a huge battle between Simon and the Humdrum.  Now, granted, there is a battle in which Simon saves the world of Mages - but that's really the only action in the ENTIRE novel.  In the whole thing.  Even Simon ending the world of Mages is not that big a deal - it felt very anti-climactic. 

The characters were all a little boring - they just seemed flat and dull.  There wasn't any good character development throughout the book at all.  Also, the book read like a drab, boring copy of Harry Potter.  The Insidious Humdrum was the Voldemort of this book, except that Voldemort actually tried to do stuff to Harry.  Baz could easily have been Draco Malfoy - but with less development and insight into his own self.  Penelope was the Hermione of this book. 

The only saving grace was that the book was technically well-written.  Rainbow Rowell can turn a phrase, but even her ability to write well couldn't save this book.  There was not one part of me that ever thought this book was worthy of the fandom it apparently had in Fangirl.  I couldn't find any reason why Cath would go so crazy for Carry On.  You'd be better off reading a different story - one where something actually happens!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Haters - Jesse Andrews

I received a free copy of The Haters through Netgalley.  All thoughts and opinions about this book are my own.
Book: The Haters
Author: Jesse Andrews
Publisher: ABRAMS Kids (A division of Amulet Books)
Release Date: April 5, 2016

If you've ever heard of or read the book Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl, then you are already familiar with author Jesse Andrews.  His new book, The Haters, is coming out this year, and if you're a teenage boy, or you know a teenage boy, or you just love funny books geared towards teens, then this is a book you will have to read!  Add it to your TBR pile right now.
I was intrigued by the premise of The Haters - two friends go to jazz band camp, where the meet a girl (!!!).  The three of them leave jazz camp to embark on a crazy tour adventure and chaos ensues. 
The trio around which this book revolves are Wes, Corey, and Ash.  Wes has parents who stopped worrying about him years ago because he never gets into any trouble.  Corey has parents who worry way to much.  And Ash has a billionaire dad who lives in another city, and an aging model mom who goes out with new guys every night and spends a lot of time drinking.  Corey and Wes have been friends for years, and when they meet Ash at camp, the are fascinated by her.  She is the mastermind behind them deciding to leave camp and go on tour.
I can barely put into words how much I enjoyed this book - it was a laughfest from beginning to end.  When Wes describes himself and Corey as "jazz-nerd chaff," and the worst of the best, I felt bad for them, but also giggled a little.  The descriptions of the tryouts and the way people reacted to Wes and Corey when they got put into the "loser" band were hilarious.  I could imagine their friend just backing away from them like they had just announced they were going to become Hannibal Lector. 
It was great that all the characters have their own very defined personalities.  There was no worry with this book that the characters would blend together.  They all had their own voices.  The story moved smoothly as well - everything just seemed to fit together.  I think the language was spot on for how teen boys talk.  I appreciate that the author doesn't dumb things down or try to make it seem like teenage boys don't swear or talk about girls.  (The boys in the book are 17 after all.)  The only thing I had to sort of steel myself against was how much Wes and Corey talked about their dicks.  Other than that, it was all around fantastic.
I think the ending was believable as well - don't worry I won't tell you what happened.  But it all makes sense and fits in well with the rest of the novel.  The book gets 4.5 stars from me - believe me, you'll want to read this one as soon as it comes out!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Stay With Me - Jenny Anastan

I received an e-copy of this book through Netgalley.  I am not being paid for this review - all thoughts and reflections are my own.

Title: Stay with me
Author: Jenny Anastan
Published by: AmazonCrossing

Release Date:  October 20, 2015

This book started out nice, but I quickly found that the beginning was the only good part of the book.  To sum up this book quickly: We start by meeting our protagonist Zoe, a single mom raising her 3 1/2 year old daughter Olivia, nicknamed Ollie.  Zoe is a single mother because the guy she was involved with, Andrew,  made it clear to her that he never wanted to have a real relationship - and after one year of nothing but sex, he leaves and she never tells him that she's pregnant.  Through a weird turn of events he ends up back in her life, and a crazy series of events ensues throughout the coming weeks. 

I tried really hard to find something, anything that I liked about this book. In the end, the only thing that really stood out for me was Zoe's hard work and willingness to take a leap in opening her own business.  I found the writing to be boring, the characters to be rather drab and unbelievable, and the antics that Andrew pulled on Zoe to be downright psychologically abusive and manipulative.  

We learn that Zoe and Andrew had one year of nothing but sex, per his request.  They never went out together in public, never went on any dates, never spent the night at each others homes, and never got to know anything personal about each other in that year.  Despite all that, Zoe says she has fallen in love with Andrew, and when he leaves to return to NYC, she is heartbroken.  When he returns four years later, it is on the arm of Ashley, the daughter of her mom's best friend.  Zoe's parents and Ashley's dad were killed in a car accident when they were 19. 

Zoe is shocked and finds herself wondering how she is going to hide Ollie from Andrew.  Within a matter of days, he finds out that Ollie exists and is his daughter and then all hell breaks loose.  There are several scenes throughout the next several chapters that involve Andrew practically forcing himself on Zoe, then getting mad at her for refusing his advances.  He also tells her repeatedly that she had no right to hide Ollie from him (which I agree with, but the manner in which he speaks to Zoe about it is very psychologically manipulative.)  He manages to spin every situation so that it seems like it's all Zoe's fault, and he refuses to accept any of the blame for he treated her.

Then there is the way that Ashley behaves throughout the entire novel.  It is made abundantly clear that she does not like Zoe, and that she will do everything in her power to destroy Zoe and make Zoe look like a bad person.  She is constantly taking digs at Zoe, she never once tells Andrew that Zoe's parents were killed in the same crash that killed her father.  She is a cold, calculating, manipulative person, and frankly I have a hard time that all her bad personality traits could all exist in one person.

There was really no character development throughout this book.  None of the characters seemed to grow or learn anything by the end of the book.  Even though Zoe forgave Andrew, I have no doubt in my mind that he has not changed at all, and still only cares about himself.  Ashley was exactly as heartless at the end of the book as she was at the beginning.  And Zoe was a complete pushover from beginning to end.

I had hopes that this novel would be great, but upon finishing it, I know that I can only give it a 1 star rating.  I don't believe this is a book I would recommend to others.