Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Last Man: The Stranger Book Review

Last Man: The Stranger by Bastien Vivès, Balak, and Michaël Sanlaville

Review by Lauren

Source: copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: The Games are already underway when Richard Aldana arrives in town. This mysterious stranger seems to have more in common with our world than the world where the Games are held. He smokes cigarettes and wears a leather jacket while everyone else in this medieval realm is casting spells and weaving tapestries. Nobody knows what to make of him, but when Aldana enrolls in the games he quickly becomes a top contender. Eschewing magic and using only his martial arts prowess, Aldana also befriends and protects a small boy for reasons as mysterious as his origins.
Who will win the games? Who is Richard Aldana, really? And what is the ultimate purpose of this gruelling gladiatorial contest?

Review: This book, and its soon to be released sequels, were originally published in France. Once they became popular, they were translated into English and are now being released here. When looking up the summary for this book, I saw people describe this as a manga (Japanese comic). I’ve only read one manga, so I’m no expert, but I was a bit surprised to read that. I figured I’d mention it for those interested though.

In general, this was a curious graphic novel. It focuses on 11-year old Adrian who is training to fight in a martial arts competition, except most people use powers like summoning wind instead of their fists. This is what makes Richard Aldana truly interesting to the people in this town. He comes from seemingly nowhere, partners up with Adrian, and begins to win battle after battle with his bodily strength alone. Adrian tries to help by always fighting first, but he never wins. If not for Aldana, he would have been eliminated from the game after the first fight. But this is a partner’s competition, and Aldana does do his best to help teach Adrian.

There isn’t a lot of backstory, and it’s something that keeps readers a little confused while reading. I assume most of this will be revealed later though, like the summary states. Why are these games happening? Who is Aldana really? I’m definitely curious to know more, though Last Man: The Stranger was definitely not my most favorite graphic novel. It’s interesting, nonetheless, and I love books from other countries.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ink and Shadows by Rhys Ford

Ink and Shadows by Rhys Ford

Review by Lauren

Source: copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Kismet Andreas lives in fear of the shadows.

For the young tattoo artist, the shadows hold more than darkness. He is certain of his insanity because the dark holds creatures and crawling things only he can see—monsters who hunt out the weak to eat their minds and souls, leaving behind only empty husks and despair.

And if there’s one thing Kismet fears more than being hunted—it’s the madness left in its wake.
The shadowy Veil is Mal’s home. As Pestilence, he is the youngest—and most inexperienced—of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, immortal manifestations resurrected to serve—and cull—mankind. Invisible to all but the dead and insane, the Four exist between the Veil and the mortal world, bound to their nearly eternal fate. Feared by other immortals, the Horsemen live in near solitude but Mal longs to know more than Death, War and Famine.

Mal longs to be… more human. To interact with someone other than lunatics or the deceased.
When Kismet rescues Mal from a shadowy attack, Pestilence is suddenly thrust into a vicious war—where mankind is the prize, and the only one who has faith in Mal is the human the other Horsemen believe is destined to die.

Review: Ink and Shadows is published by DSP Publications, which releases LGBT fiction that is more than just the romance. In the case of this novel, it is a mystery/paranormal novel that focuses mostly on human Kismet who sees the danger within the shadows and Mal, or Pestilence, one of the Four Horsemen who eventually meets Kismet and immediately knows he must help him. There is a bit of romantic overlay to some of the characters, but honestly, it's not featured much. I think there is bound to be more in the sequel, and I am excited about that, but I like that Ink and Shadows helped set up the storyline and characters with a great, suspenseful storyline.

Kismet is hooked on heroin, but he's immediately likeable. You know that he's had a really difficult life, and the ghost of his younger brother follows him almost everywhere. He only takes drugs to keep the creatures he sees in the shadows at bay. Within the Veil is where the Four Horsemen, and other immortals, live. Normally, if a human can see things in the Veil, it means they are insane, but while he may feel like he is, Kismet is far from crazy.

As for Mal, he's the youngest Horsemen (Death, War, and Famine are the other three), and he's still having difficulties with his fighting skills and generally feeling a part of the group. He's a bit more human than the rest, so when he meets Kismet during a fight, he's immediately attracted to him in a way, but it's more about helping someone and feeling close to another person.

The big mystery in Ink and Shadows concerns Kismet and why he can see into the Veil, and yet is not crazy. Since this book is told in third person point of view, Ford follows various characters to give a full story. This way the reader knows more than some of the characters and it keeps you turning the pages to witness the outcome.

Ink and Shadows is an imaginative, enjoyable novel. Please come back Thursday for an interview with Rhys Ford!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Six 2015 Books to Check Out

Six of the Best Books of 2015

The year isn't over, but there have already been several standouts in the world of literature. Here are six books you won't want to miss from 2015.

1. In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Judy Blume captivated a generation with her young adult books in the '70s and '80s. Now she's back and writing for her grown-up fans with In the Unlikely Event, a strange, absorbing tale about a group of strangers who find their lives forever altered after an accident.

2. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Two sisters struggle to understand life, love and sacrifice during World War II. It's a simple summary but a breathtaking book, so if you're at all a fan of sweeping historical epics and endings that will leave you talking for days, make sure you buy The Nightingale.

3. We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler

Best known for his children's books, Daniel tries his hand at adult literature with We Are Pirates and knocks it out of the park. Darkly humorous and thoroughly engaging, you'll go on a wild ride with these modern-day pirates in the San Francisco Bay.

4. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

A bored commuter notices the same couple every day during her train ride. They look happy enough, but when one of them goes missing, the commuter realizes that she may know more about their secrets than she thought. Exciting and suspenseful, this is a book for mystery lovers everywhere.

5. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

In a world where the red-blooded serve the silver-blooded, one young woman is forced to grow up quickly when she's thrust in the middle of a royal rebellion. While technically a book for young adults, Red Queen is a gripping story that all ages can enjoy, so don't be put off by the 16-year-old protagonist.

6. A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

Another WWII story, this one follows a veteran who finds post-war peacetime a more challenging battle than the ones he fought for his country. If you like deep, emotional character epics, you won't want to miss A God In Ruins.

Grab your reading glasses and curl up in the window nook; these books only represent half of the best literature of 2015. There are sure to be more delights published as the year goes on, so watch this space!

*This is a sponsored post from LinkVehicle; I have not personally read any of these but I do want to check some out such as The Girl on the Train* 

The Merciless by Danielle Vega

The Merciless by Danielle Vega

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .

Review: This book has been on my radar for a long time, though I don’t remember reading any reviews. I guess I just liked the look of the book (you’ll have to get a physical copy to really know what I mean) and the summary had me hooked. This is not a book for those that get faint thinking about blood and torture. This book deals with both, and in exact, gruesome detail. I tend to find reading about things much easier than watching it, so I didn’t have any problems with The Merciless. Now if the book had been a film, that would be a different story…

The summary does a great job explaining the plot of this book, but to reiterate a bit, Sofia Flores is new to town and ready to put her past behind her. She meets Brooklyn first, and finds her a bit odd but overall, fairly nice. However, when Riley invites her to eat lunch with her friends, Grace and Alexis, Sofia begins to learn more about Brooklyn and how the girls believe her to be in need of “saving.” Yes, religious saving. Think of the movie Saved but with a lot of violence and anger and you sort of have The Merciless. Riley believes Brooklyn is possessed and needs to be exorcised, but when she kidnaps Brooklyn, Sofia soon realizes that Riley doesn’t truly want to save Brooklyn. 

If you are a very religious person, this might not be the best book for you. There is a lot of talk about religious things, especially God, though I still felt it was done well. It’s ultimately up to the individual. This aspect of the book didn’t bother me, though. I thought The Merciless was really well written, and for a horror novel, I still felt like I got to know the characters fairly well. The book did leave me wondering about some things, but that’s mostly a sign of Vega’s good writing. 

Vega's sophomore novel, Survive the Night, is released tomorrow. I can't wait to read it!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Discussion and Music - New Posts

Just a quick post to say Happy Fourth of July weekend (for those in the U.S.) and for everyone else, I hope you are enjoying your weekend or did enjoy your weekend.

I also wanted to share a couple links from over at Let's Get Beyond Tolerance. Remember, follow along there so you can get updates on new posts! And let me know if there is anything you wish to see featured or discussed.

Discuss It: Still Fighting for Equality post

Happy 4th: Feel Proud post 

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Awesome by Eva Darrows

The Awesome by Eva Darrows

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Seventeen-year-old Maggie Cunningham is tough, smart, and sassy. She's also not like other girls her age, but then, who would be when the family business is monster hunting? Combat boots, ratty hooded sweatshirts, and hair worn short so nothing with claws can get a grip, Maggie's concerns in life slant more toward survival than fashion or boys. Which presents a problem when Maggie's mother informs Maggie that she can't get her journeyman's license for hunting until she loses her virginity.

Something about virgin blood turning vampires into pointy rage monsters. Blood and gore and insides being on the outside and all that.

Maggie's battled ghosts and goblins and her fair share of house brownies, but finding herself a boy - fitting in with her peers - proves a much more daunting task than any monster hunt. Did you know normal girls don't stuff their bras with holy water balloons? Nor do they carry wooden stakes in their waistbands. And they care about things like "matching" and "footwear." Of course, they also can't clean a gun blindfolded, shoot a crossbow, or exorcise ghosts from a house. Which means they're lame and Maggie's not. Because Maggie's awesome. The Awesome, in fact. Just ask her. She'd be more than happy to tell you.

After she finds herself a date.

Review: Maggie Cunningham really is awesome. She felt like a realistic girl that a lot of people could relate too, minus the whole "hunting monsters" thing. She doesn't really have any friends her age, besides a girl named Julie. Maggie would much rather track down monsters with her really cool mom than go out on a date, but in order to move up and get her journeyman's license, Maggie can't be a virgin. Vampires are really crazy when they smell virgin blood, and therefore, Maggie is stuck with some of the more easier monsters.

Using Julie to bring her to a party, Maggie tries to get rid of her V-card but it's not that easy. I really appreciated that Darrows, while using a lot of humor, still showed a realistic nature to sex. Maggie was nervous and not completely in love with her body, but it wasn't too overboard though because Maggie is relatively confident with most things. Sex in this book was treated like something normal, and I loved that. Even Maggie's mom was pretty chill about it. Yes, she talked about safe sex and not letting guys get away with things, but besides that, she's all about loving yourself and your sexuality.

While Maggie does find a guy to hopefully have sex with, things soon become complicated. The guy in this book is Ian and he's such a cutie. He's a bit awkward and nervous, but he's also a good person who doesn't run off scared when Maggie's monster-hunting starts to show up in her everyday, "regular" life.

The Awesome is a really quick read, and it's full of humor. Maggie is a very funny and snarky narrator, which I love. I would definitely read more Maggie adventures if Darrows decides to do a sequel!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Unhinged by A.G. Howard

Unhinged by A. G. Howard

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from library; all opinions are my own

Review:  Normally I would post the official summary, but as not everyone has read Splintered (the first book in this trilogy), I don’t want anything to be ruined and the summary does give away some things. In general, this is the continuing story of Alyssa and her adventures with the real Wonderland, a place way creepier than the story Lewis Carroll wrote about. In Splintered, Alyssa was taken on a journey with Jeb and Morpheus by her side. In Unhinged, this is the same, except Wonderland has come to Alyssa’s world instead of vice versa. 

I remember reading a review a long time ago where the reviewer wished Alyssa had actually gone to Wonderland. This aspect didn’t really bother me as we still learn more about Wonderland’s inhabitants, with some even entering this world. As for Alyssa’s companions, Morpheus is still just as infuriating in this book as he is in the first. It’s fascinating to learn more about him and his motivations though. As for Jeb, he’s obviously a good guy but he seems to think Alyssa can’t do things on her own. Honestly, I wish the books were more “girl power” than love triangle, but it does fairly well in that regard.

Unhinged was an enjoyable read and I am very curious to see how things end in Ensnared. I hope to be able to read it soon!