Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Beautiful Chaos - Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Title: Beautiful Chaos
Authors: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Reading Method: Library Book

Ethan Wate thought he was getting used to the strange, impossible events happening in Gatlin, his small Southern town. But now that Ethan and Lena have returned home from the Great Barrier, strange and impossible have taken on new meanings. Swarms of locusts, record-breaking heat, and devastating storms ravage Gatlin as Ethan and Lena struggle to understand the impact of Lena's Claiming. Even Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals is affected -- and their abilities begin to dangerously misfire. As time passes, one question becomes clear: What -- or who -- will need to be sacrificed to save Gatlin?

For Ethan, the chaos is a frightening but welcome distraction. He's being haunted in his dreams again, but this time it's not Lena -- and the mysterious figure is following him out of his dreams and into his everyday life. Worse, Ethan is gradually losing pieces of himself -- forgetting names, phone numbers, even memories. He doesn't know why, and he's afraid to ask.

Sometimes there's no going back. And this time there won't be a happy ending.

Beautiful Chaos, the third book in the Beautiful Creatures series, takes us back to Gatlin for even more strange and curious happenings. Although the writing in Beautiful Chaos is not superb, the story has kind of (unwittingly) hooked me.  I didn't think I would finish the series after reading Beautiful Creatures, but I just can't help myself. 

In Beautiful Chaos, Ridley is no longer a Siren, Link is now part Incubus (or Linkubus, as everyone calls him), Liv is no longer a Keeper in Training, and Ethan is now in full knowledge of the fact that he is a Wayward, charged with keeping Lena safe.  This book has things I would expect a teen romance/fantasy book to have - teenagers falling in lust, jealousy, and anger for some pretty stupid reasons.  (You know, like Savannah getting mad at Ridley for being on the cheerleading squad...)

The cover of the book says that Ethan kept forgetting things with increasing frequency throughout the book.  However, that was misleading - it wasn't until over halfway through the book that he started forgetting more and more, like what Lena's "usual snack" was at the movies.  That being said, I still had to keep reading, if only to find out how the book ended. 

I think the most well developed character int he book was Liv.  She showed real emotions over things - like her sadness at no longer being a Keeper in Training.  Also, I liked Liv because I feel like she and Ethan had more chemistry than Ethan and Lena have.  With Ethan and Lena, it feels like they have a relationship together because it's easy and because he's her wayward, not because there is any real dying attraction or romantic love for each other there. 

The biggest thing that kept me reading this book was wanting to find out what was going on with Amma.  Throughout the book, Ethan keeps talking about her "going dark" again, and saying that this is the darkest she's ever been.  I needed to know why!

With it's lackluster writing and lack of depth in the characters, this is definitely a book I wouldn't heartily recommend.  However, the magical aspects of the book will keep you interested should you choose to read it.

Monday, September 26, 2016

All Fall Down - Jennifer Weiner

Title: All Fall Down
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Read Via: Audiobook

Allison Weiss got her happy ending: a handsome husband, an adorable daughter, a job she loves, and the big house in the suburbs. But while waiting in the pediatrician's office, she opens a magazine to a quiz about addiction and starts to wonder: Is a Percocet at the end of the day really different from a glass of wine? Is it such a bad thing to pop a Vicodin after a brutal Jump & Pump class, or if your husband ignores you? She tells herself that the pills help her make it through her days; but what if her increasing drug use, a habit that's becoming expensive and hard to hide, is turning into her biggest problem of all?

Allison, a woman pushing middle age, is married to Dave and has a cute yet sensitive daughter named Ellie.  She started taking Percocet after her c-section, then moved to Vicodin after she pulled her back during an exercise class.  When she can't get a refill for Vicodin, she convinces her doctor to give her a prescription for Oxycontin.  Long story short, Allison finds herself addicted to opiates (though she would tell you otherwise.)  All Fall Down is Allison's story of addiction and thinking she needs to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders.  

Allison believes that she has to be the one to take care of her dad who has alzheimer's.  Because her mom just can't handle it all and won't do anything.  Allison believes she has to be the one to do all the household cleaning and shopping and cooking, because her husband Dave won't do anything.  Allison believes she has to be the one to take care of their daughter Ellie and her "sensitivities" all the time, because Dave, again, won't or can't handle it.  In Allison's mind, everything will fall apart without her.  Which is why she thinks she needs the pills.  Because the pills give her the ability to juggle everything with energy and to survive all the little annoyances that come along with being the only person who can handle it all.  

In case you haven't figured it out, Allison is kind of a control freak.  I think that she likes to be the one doing it all - she sees herself as being the only one who can do anything.  Everybody else will mess up if they try to do something on their own.  So, Allison's decent into drug addiction (and denial, and stealing from her job, and anger at everyone else) seems like the thing that would happen.  I hate to say that her addiction is her own fault, but in a way, I view it as that.  I think that it was inevitable, and was another way for her to control something in her life when things felt so out of control.  She felt like taking the pills was her own thing, and like it was what gave her the ability to do everything that she thought nobody else could do.  

When Allison's husband finally found out the extent of her drug use, and found out that in less than one year, she had spent over 10,000 dollars buying Oxy and Vicodin from an online covert website, he confronted her.  And I secretly cheered that he was finally talking to her about her addiction that she still maintained she didn't have.  She ended up in rehab, where she said she'd hit her bottom when she took a nap and her husband found the details of her online purchases.  After sneaking out of rehab to go to her daughter's birthday, Allison finally hits her bottom and admits it when she's at a friends house searching through the cupboards for a pill to take while her daughter stands outside the door saying "Sorry if I am a bother."  

While I don't know if this was a book I would re-read - it is definitely a book I would recommend to others.  The story is well plotted and moves effortlessly from beginning to end.  It was believable, even in the chapters where Allison was driving me crazy because she was so selfish.  The characters were all well-developed and distinct - even in rehab when there were a couple young characters all named "Ashley," which made Allison laugh, because it's such a generic name.  I could feel myself wanting to punch Allison in the face, and yet also cheering for her to get better.  I didn't always love the attitude Allison had, but I was in her corner, waiting for her "come to God" moment, even though she's not very religious.  

If I could rate this book 10 stars, I would.  Read it - you won't be disappointed.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Road Back to Us - Kira Adams

The Road Back to Us is another novel by indie author Kira Adams. I read the book for free from Kindle, and while the writing was marginally better than the book I read previously, I still found myself grateful that I hadn't actually spent any money on this book.

The two main characters - Jace and Peyton - have known each other since they were in high school.  They dated for a while, and then Jace started getting famous.  So, his agent pushed him together with a co-star from the movie that he wasn't at all romantically interested in, and Peyton got upset.  Needless to say, they haven't been together for a while, and Peyton claims it's better that way.  Then, after a sort of chance re-meet, they end up partying and getting married.  Instead of getting it annulled and, you know, getting to know each other first, they just jump right in and stay married - because romance novel ya know. 

Throughout the novel, a series of rather over the top events make them realize they are still and always have been madly in love with each other.  One of the events involves a crazed stalker fan of Jace's kidnapping Peyton and having a hitman try to kill her.  I think this event alone should make the readers wonder about the sanity of the characters.  Let me tell you why: Peyton came home one night to find her apartment door wide open.  All the lights were off.  She was on the phone with Jace and said that she thought someone had broken into her apartment, and that she thought they were still in her apartment.  Despite her believing that someone is still in her apartment, she goes into said apartment, and then everyone is surprised when she gets kidnapped.  I can't help but wonder what was going through her head that would possibly make her think going INTO HER APARTMENT after it had been broken into like that was a good idea. Did the thought of going outside and calling the police never occur to her?!

In addition to the unbelievable plot points, the writing was shoddy at best, littered with grammatical errors and weak sentence structure, and should have been more well-edited.  The characters were weak and didn't change or grow at all throughout the novel.  The whole story felt unrealistic and implausible to me.  I just didn't believe that two people who hadn't dated since high school would take to a surprise marriage like that and suddenly just be so madly in love without really knowing each other anymore. 

I would give the book 1.5 stars at most.  Read it if you must, but be forewarned that there are much better options out there to read instead.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Learning to Live - Kira Adams

Learning to Live, by Indie Author Kira Adams, leads us through the life of a high school senior dying from a brain tumor.  Ciera, who lives in Oregon, is a bullied, slightly overweight, extremely poor kid who has to work almost full time in addition to going to high school, because her mother just doesn't earn enough money at her job.  When she started high school, Ciera was friends with Sophia, who will do whatever she can to become the popular girl.  When Sophia finally achieves that popularity, she becomes one of Ciera's biggest tormentors. 

Throughout high school, Ciera survives by the grace of her strong will and her friendship with Mack.  When she learns about the brain tumor, Ciera makes a list of things that she wants to accomplish before she dies.  She never though falling in love with Topher, one of the "cool kids" at her school, would be on that list.  But fall in love with him she does.  They develop a most unlikely friendship and Topher does a complete 180 in terms of his attitude and how he treats other people.

There were several things I found remiss about this novel, not the least of which is the fact that it doesn't feel plausible that Topher would do such a complete turnaround in a matter of weeks.  The plot was flimsy, and the characters were all just too similar.  All the bullies were exactly the same, with the same cardboard personalities, and the same motivations for everything they did.  None of the characters thought for themselves except Ciera.  I know that's a good quality to have in the lead character, but that's something that should extend to other characters as well. 

The book had a good premise that fell flat due to lackluster writing, sloppy grammar, and weak plot development.  Had the author edited the project or hired an outside editor, many of these issues could have been fixed.  Overall, I would rank this book 1 star, if only because of the effort that it takes to actually sit down and write a book.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Book Club Picks - Back to School

Hi y'all!  It's September (and holy crap where on earth did the rest of 2016 go?!)  Kids are back to school, and every parent who doesn't homeschool is heaving a collective sigh of relief right about now!  But, we're not here to talk about kids - we're here to talk about books!  And in the spirit of school and reading, here are some books that relate to school in some way that you all just HAVE to read in your book clubs.  Have fun!

 The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton 
How could one resist this classic of drama, rivalry, and a little schooling between gangs.  Read it (if you haven't already.)  There's so much for any book club to talk about.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling
Technically a kids book, but still - who could resist the book that started it all?!  Book clubs with readers of any age are sure to delight in the back to school antics of Harry and Friends.

Stargirl - Jerry Spinelli
This angsty book about a weird girl in a school full of kids who deem themselves normal is the perfect back to school book.  Read it for your book club, then share it with your teens!  Everyone will love it.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky 
This book deals with some pretty heavy shit (including teen suicide) but it's a must read on the school book list.  Don't be fooled by how short this book is - there is more than enough going on to keep your book club talking.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Awakening - Karice Bolton

Awakening, by Karice Bolton, seemed intriguing to me.  Now, I admit that the first thing that drew me in was the cover.  It's pretty enough that I thought - "Hey, why not give it a shot."  After having actually finished the book, the only thing I can say is - Thank god I got it for free!

The book starts with Ana, a waitress at a local bar, going to work after a painful night of no sleep.  She arrives at her job to find her coworker rushing out in a fit of illness.  Ana gets charged with one of the tables that Karen would have had to wait on.  At said table, she finds a man and woman who intrigue her so much she almost finds her self unable to speak in their presence. She gives them three drinks (for a missing person who shows up later) and finds herself wishing the third drink was for her. The mystery man who shows up draws her attention even more than the other two.  At the end of the shift, Ana goes home, thinking the entire time of the weird (and all green-eyed) trio at the bar.  Later that night, the mystery man, who we find out is named Athen, shows up at Ana's home completely unannounced.  Instead of being weirded out that a stranger just showed up at her house (without her having told him where she lives,) Ana just decides to go off with him and have some fun.  This leads to an entire weekend of her hanging out with him, spending the night at his place, and falling in love with him in the course of a day and a half.  The novel keeps getting stranger from then on out - Ana quits her job, follows Athen, his sister Arie, and her fiance Cyril to Seattle for a week, gets told that she's an angel, and undergoes an "awakening" process in which she regains memories from her apparently very lengthy life. 

Let's start with the actual plot: It's weird that Ana would go off with a stranger without knowing anything about said stranger.  The fact that Athen shows up at Ana's home without ever having been told where she lives is weird and creepy and she should be running for the hills!  (Has she never been taught that this could be a precursor to rape or murder?!)  The rest of the book is poorly written and poorly executed.  It's mostly talk, with two or three scenes of demons attacking just to make it seem interesting.  There is no depth to the story or the characters.

In addition to all that, the writing is sloppy and read like it could have been written by a teenager.  There were commas in the most outrageous places, and grammatical errors that could have been done away with had the author had a better editor. The ending was rushed and felt like it was thrown in just to add a little more action to an otherwise boring story.

Readers, trust me when I say you won't be disappointed if you skip this book!