Friday, June 27, 2014

Mental Health Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick


Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Review by Lauren

Source: personal copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Today is Leonard Peacock's birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather's P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart--obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school's class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

Review: I've owned this book for awhile but I finally had a good chance to pull it out and read it when I learned about Mental Health Awareness month. I would say, in all, Leonard suffers from depression. There are things in his past that haunt him and make going through the day difficult. He might have four gifts to give to people before he kills his ex-best friend and then himself, but most of these people are not truly close to Leonard. I suppose his next door neighbor, Walt, understands him the most, until he starts to talk to Herr Silverman more on the day of his life and death. While they may see aspects of Leonard that others do not, it's a sad replacement for a family member or friend that truly knows you and loves you. Without someone to rely on, and a dark secret weighing him down, Leonard believes that this is his only option.

source
I honestly had no idea why Leonard was so desperate to kill his ex-best friend until it was finally revealed in the novel. I don't want to talk about the moment because it's better to be shocked and it's definitely best to feel like you are finally pulling back enough layers of Leonard to grasp where he is coming from. People often say they can't believe that someone would want to kill themselves, but it's not something that really confuses me. I can understand how someone would reach such a dark place that they felt there was no other way. They can't see to the future and to the good that could come. I'm sure it's a horrible feeling and I wish more people could get help before resorting to suicide. Depression, mental illness. It all needs to be discussed more and become less stigmatized.

In this novel, people care about Leonard, but in various ways. It's difficult sometimes to know what someone needs to survive, and you can't be anybody's one savior. However, reading this book definitely made me want to reach into the pages and get Leonard help. I wanted him to talk to someone, open up, and realize that the future is waiting for him. The book is not depressing overall. There is hope, there is love. I wasn't entirely pleased with the very end, but it was essentially realistic. Not every story has a happily ever after, but that doesn't mean it's fully dark either.




I am linking up at Blog of Erised for Mental Health Awareness Month

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Scarlett Dedd by Cathy Brett


Scarlett Dedd by Cathy Brett

Review by Lauren

Source: library, but all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Meet Scarlett Dedd. Scarlett is absolutely mortified (in more ways than one) to discover that she's accidentally killed herself trying to get out a school trip. Even worse, she's taken her entire family with her! Left in limbo, bored to death and fearing her friendless state is terminal, an ominous idea pops into Scarlett's head. Can Scarlett really execute her grim plan? Or will it turn out to be a fatal and very messy mistake?

Review: This is the second book by Brett that I've read (the first being Ember Fury). Both books are a bit weird, but a lot of fun too. I like the set up of the book a lot. It includes many black and white illustrations throughout and even some of the narration is written in a fun way to fit what is currently happening in the book. As for the actual story, I liked it overall since it was different and quick, but there were aspects I wasn't entirely interested in.


The "ominous idea" that the summary talks about above is quite dark and not exactly something I approved of, but it made sense in certain ways. Then again, the end of the book is something I pretty much saw coming, so no surprise there! I just wished Scarlett figured it out earlier.

I did like her family though. When Scarlett accidentally kills herself, she also takes her parents and younger brother with her. They seem fairly okay being dead and stuck in limbo though. They all continue to dabble in the things they love and use their "dead-ness" to create some awesome art.



The main part of the story mostly follows two thugs who are trying to steal from Scarlett's uncle, whose house they live in. Her uncle is alive but not living at his home, so the thugs believe they can easily get the money they are owed. Of course they aren't expecting a group of Scarlett's friends to be using her house as a hang-out, or the fact that a whole family is dead and ready to haunt the premises if needed.

Sorry if the overall summary is a bit confusing, but I did my best without giving too much away. In all, I like Brett's style and I think her books are fun. Ember Fury is my favorite of these two so far, but I'm definitely going to read more by this author.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mental Health Review: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn


Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn 

Review by Lauren

Source: Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.

Review: This is such a fascinating psychological read. Jamie has a lot of issues with his nerves and without his sister in the house, messing up their "ideal" family, things seem to be getting better. Except things aren't as perfect as they seem. Jamie and Cate were adopted by a family who lost their own little boy and girl, and now these two kids are mean to fill in the gaps. Jamie adapted as well as he could, but Cate fought back in a variety of ways.

From the beginning, you know something is up with Cate. You know she is out of juvenile detention and looking to tell Jamie the truth about their past. What that past is? Jamie isn't sure. However, I was fairly certain I knew the answer as the book continued, and I was correct. Now, I may have guessed one of the surprises, but I didn't expect the end of the book. That definitely had me a bit shocked.

Complicit is my first book by Kuehn, but I'd happily read her debut and anything else she releases in the future. She created a nice mystery with an intriguing look at mental illness and how having certain kinds can harm others. I read this book before I learned about Mental Health Awareness Month, but I think it's a great novel to read if you wish to know about some less-known mental illnesses. Sometimes mental illness hurts, but it's something that should be addressed more so people  can get the help they need.

Overall, a really good book that I would definitely recommend. Not all the mysteries were shocking to me, but that didn't lessen my interest in what would happen next.


I am linking up at Blog of Erised for the Mental Health Awareness Month book reviews.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Diary of a Mad Bride by Laura Wolf


Diary of a Mad Bride by Laura Wolf

Review by Lauren

Source: library, but all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Once I was a sane, levelheaded professional woman. Then I said “yes.” Now I am the lunatic bride I always made fun of!

What is it about getting married that turns normal people into total freaks?

A savvy, riotously funny novel, Diary of a Mad Bride is for anyone who has ever been a bride, is about to become a bride, yearned to be a bride, or suffered the sheer indignity of appearing in public in the world’s ugliest bridesmaid dress....

My wedding was starting in less than twenty minutes, and I was stuck in a 7-Eleven parking lot with popcorn kernels wedged in my gums and vanilla ice cream melting on my dress. It was a disaster too large to comprehend. After an agonizing year spent planning my wedding, could it really end like this? The voices chronicling a year of wedding hysteria swirled in my head....

— My grandmother upon viewing my engagement ring:

“What do you mean he gave you an emerald! Diamonds are eternal, emeralds say, maybe five years.”

— My future father-in-law on the night of my engagement party:

“To a happy marriage and, if necessary, a painless divorce!”

— My best friend, Anita:

“Oh, screw congratulations. Of course I’m happy for you. Stephen’s a major piece of ass and he’s got a sense of humor. Just as long as you’re certain this is what you want.”

Would I survive this day after all....?


Review: Amy thinks brides that go nuts planning their weddings are well...a bit crazy. She just doesn't get it, until she's engaged and has to plan her own wedding. She tries her best to keep her expectations in check but when it seems like nothing will go right and you can't always count on those around you, it's easy to lose your head a bit.

While I'm not married, I still thought this was a fairly realistic example of planning a wedding. Sure, a lot more goes wrong for Amy than might happen to the average bride, but you do hear some interesting "horror" stories about weddings. This book, of course, is told in diary format as Amy goes along in her various quests to plan a great wedding. I really love books told this way and I think it really worked for this book. How else would you get Amy's direct, deepest thoughts? She worries about little details of the wedding to big ones like, is Stephen the right husband for her? After all, she never thought she was the marrying kind...and neither did anyone else.

I thought the cast of characters were fun and eclectic. You get a variety of personalities, which both help and hinder wedding plans for Amy and Stephen (though mostly Amy since Stephen is too busy with work). Plus, not only are the events that surround Amy amusing, she is as well. I love her thoughts about married couples in the beginning of the book (she's mostly annoyed by hearing all the details) to her thoughts later in the book when she's fully into wedding planning and ready to just elope.

If you're about to get married, you might want to wait on reading this or you could make yourself more nervous...but if you're like me and not getting married anytime soon (or you're already married), then I'd say check this out. It's quick, fun, and amusing! Perfect read for the summertime.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Movie Roundup: Blended to 22 Jump Street


Today is the first official day of summer. In honor of that, I wanted to share some quick thoughts about the last four movies I saw in case you are interested in checking them out too!

Blended

Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler are both single parents who end up on a blind date together, though the outcome is not great. They wind up in Africa on separate family vacations, that are really together, and have to come to some kind of understanding in order to enjoy themselves. This was a sweet romance, and I liked their kids as well and how they had their own "stories" within the main story. It really is a blended film of families coming together.


The Fault in Our Stars

I saw this one at midnight with a friend and my sister and we all loved it. I think John Green is a fantastic storyteller and he really makes you feel for his characters. Therefore, having the movie stay so close to the book really did it justice. Most of you will cry if you see this, regardless of whether you have read the book beforehand or not. It's just a very emotional film. But it's also about living life, loving those around you, and being a good friend. I would definitely pay to see this again in theaters.


X-MEN: Days of Future Past

To be honest, I haven't seen the original X-MEN trilogy...however, I did see X-MEN: First Class so I was really excited to see the two worlds meet. Now that I've seen that, I really need to go back and watch the original films. Regardless, I think you could see and enjoy this movie if you've only seen First Class, but it will make you want to learn more about the future characters. The basic idea is that the future X-MEN are being killed off easily by a new weapon. They send Wolverine into the past to stop the moment where these weapons truly become the menace that will eliminate them. If he succeeds, the future will drastically change...as well as the past. Again, I really enjoyed this one. It was a longer film, but it keeps your interest. I saw it on father's day with my sister and parents and everyone liked it. It's a big deal if it keeps my mom's attention since she doesn't watch a lot of superhero/action films, so the fact that she really enjoyed it is a good sign!


22 Jump Street

I loved 21 Jump Street, so I was really excited to see the sequel. Now we all know that comedies don't always come out with the best sequels, but I did enjoy this one. 21 Jump Street is still my favorite, but I thought the sequel was funny in a lot of places and Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum just work really well together. I'd see them in anything together, pretty much. The overall storyline is basically the same, except the boys are in college this time. The joke throughout the movie is basically about the "second time being the same but less so." Of course this is a play on sequels in general, and not just the previous case. Anyway, I would recommend if you're really excited to see the movie. Otherwise, it would be a good one to rent. I'm glad to have seen it in theaters though. It was fun!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Christmas In July Book Swap sign-ups


 Most of you should know by now that I'm kind of obsessed with doing blog swaps. It's a great way to shop for someone else (something I love to do), get something fun in return (always cool) and hopefully meet some new bloggers in the progress! Therefore, I decided to sign up for the Christmas In July Book Swap hosted by The Book Monsters.

If you haven't done a swap before, this one might be a good place to start because it's fairly simple. 

Details from the swap site: " Send at least 1 book and something else fun for your partner that they would like.  The package must include a book from their wishlist. If you want to send them a second, that is at your discretion."

If you would like to take part, keep reading!

Important Dates to Remember:
  • Sign-Ups End: Monday, June 30th at 12AM
  • Partners assigned: Wednesday, July 2nd
  • Packages Shipped: Friday, July 18th & Saturday July 19th
  • Show-Off Linky Opens: Wednesday, July 23rd and closes Friday, August 1st

Ottoline Books 1 and 2 by Chris Riddell

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell
Ottoline Goes to School by Chris Riddell

Reviews by Lauren

Source: copies from library, but all opinions are my own

Reviews: I saw the first two books in the Ottoline trilogy at my library and I thought they seemed fun enough to check out. First off, I should note that these are middle grade books and they certainly read for a younger audience. The books contain kind of silly stories, but include a lot of fun illustrations throughout as well.

Ottoline is independent, yet mostly alone. Her parents travel all over the world and leave her at home in their huge apartment. People come in everyday to make her home-cooked meals or to make her bed. The only company Ottoline really has is Mr. Munroe, a creature who used to live in a bog in Norway. These two are best friends, though, and Mr. Munroe even lets Ottoline brush his hair when she needs to think, even though he's not very fond of it.

Ottoline and the Yellow Cat is about someone stealing jewelry and animals going missing. Ottoline and Mr. Munroe decide to play detective and find out what is really going on. In Ottoline Goes to School, Ottoline gets her parents to send her to a boarding school after meeting a girl named Cecily who attends. Once there, the school seems to be haunted, but Ottoline is on the search as to what is really going on.

Both books include little lessons that aren't too over-the-top. They include the power of friendship and not abandoning the old for the new, as well as the need for parents to be there for their children more often.

I read both of these in one day, as they are really short. They were cute, but I wouldn't say they are entirely suitable for an older audience. The younger crowd would probably find them much more fun.

However, I did like the illustrations and how they are all in black and white except random parts. The Yellow Cat shows red parts, and Goes to School highlights the blue parts. Examples below...


Ottoline and the Yellow Cat

Ottoline Goes to School

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Theming Thursday/Book Review: Just-the-Girls Spa Night

 
 I want to thank Ginny from Gin's Book Notes for the lovely new banner!

Welcome back to Theming Thursday; I know I haven't had one in a couple weeks, but hopefully the absence made the heart grow fonder. I'd love to know what "themes" I should feature for the coming weeks, so please leave ideas in the comments!



87 Ways to Throw a Killer Party by Melissa Daly

Review by Lauren

Source: Library, but all opinions are my own


This book is full of great party ideas for teenagers, but I think a lot of the ideas can be used or adapted to fit an older crowd too. I love books that give me fun party ideas because I'm always trying to think of the next event or idea I can use such parties for in the future. All the parties are under various categories from "Halloween Parties" to "Game Nights." The idea I want to share for this week was under the "Crew Bonding Parties" tag and is called "Just-the-Girls Spa Night."

Each party takes up two pages and includes various things such as Prep, Serve, Do, and some parties even have a set playlist! The Spa Night is one such party and a couple of the songs listed are "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls and "You're My Best Friend" by Queen. The book will give you information on where the word "spa" comes from, as well as how to set up your party and what to include in terms of food and activities!

However, since this is Theming Thursday, I wanted to share some ideas I found online too!


Catch My Party and Poofy Cheeks offers up these cute Salon Party Printables for free. These would be fun for a younger crowd! You get an invitation, a thank you note, some cupcake toppers, etc.


Whether you are young or older, you need to have some spa treatments for your at-home spa! I found the above image on Pinterest (I do not own, but I don't have a link to who does). It gives you some simple "recipes" for Spa Treatments like Lip Scrub and Skin Moisturizer.


Torie Jayne gives you a step-by-step guide to making your own Sparkly Strawberry Lip Balm. Her recipe makes six pots. You could make this a fun activity for the spa party or you could make some beforehand and have it be a cute party favor!


The blog Sparkle and Mine links up 10 DIY Spa Recipes so you can learn how to make a Honey Yogurt Face Mask, Bath Fizzies, and more!


And finally, The Flaming Vegan has a whole post on Spa Water. It gives you ideas of what to put in your water and how various fruits, etc. make you more healthy!

***

Now that you have a couple tunes, some refreshment ideas, and even DIY spa recipes, you are ready to go and relax!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mental Health Awareness Review: The Medea Complex


The Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from author; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: 1885. Anne Stanbury. Committed to a lunatic asylum, having been deemed insane and therefore unfit to stand trial for the crime of which she is indicted. But is all as it seems? 

Edgar Stanbury. The grieving husband and father who is torn between helping his confined wife recover her sanity and seeking revenge on the woman who ruined his life.

Dr George Savage. The well-respected psychiatrist and chief medical officer of Bethlem Royal Hospital. Ultimately, he holds Anne’s future wholly in his hands.


Review: For one thing, this book has a cover that you just can't say no too, and with the summary, I was definitely curious to see where the story of Anne led me. I will say that the beginning of the book goes a bit slow. Anne is locked in Bethlem Royal Hospital, an asylum for the mentally ill, but she doesn't seem to have any recent memories. Therefore, she is wholly confused as to why she is in the Hospital (actually believing herself to be kidnapped) in the first place.

The doctor, George Savage, is an interesting character. I found him to be a mix of good and bad. He genuinely seems to care about his patients, but there are aspects of his personality that I did not like, especially his thoughts concerning women and reading (he believes they should not). Of course, this is 1885, so it's not meant to include modern thoughts and beliefs about women and even insanity.

The book changes point of view between Anne, Edgar, and George (for the most part) giving a wide perspective of this world and the tragedy that has led to Anne's asylum stay. Edgar loves his wife, but hates what she did. He wants revenge, and something more...

Roberts leads us through an interesting look at history, using real people as inspiration (the end of the book gives more information on this) and it was definitely a story I was glad to have read. Once the mystery of the book picks up steam, things seem to move faster. Some mysteries are revealed, which leads to even more suspense. This is definitely one of those books that keeps you wondering and it plays a lot on the idea of morality and right and wrong.


I'm linking this one up for the Mental Health Awareness Month at Uncorked Thoughts and Blog of Erised.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston + Make it a Gift


The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: a novel in pictures by Caroline Preston

Review by Lauren

Source: personal copy; opinions are my own

Official Summary: The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt is a visually stunning, totally unique, full-color novel in the form of a scrapbook, set in the burgeoning bohemian culture of the 1920s and featuring an endearing, unforgettable heroine. Caroline Preston, author of the New York Times Notable Book Jackie by Josie, uses a kaleidoscopic array of vintage memorabilia—postcards, letters, magazine ads, ticket stubs, catalog pages, fabric swatches, candy wrappers, fashion spreads, menus and more—to tell the tale of spirited and ambitious Frankie’s remarkable odyssey from Vassar to Greenwich Village to Paris, in a manner that will delight crafters, historical fiction fans, and anyone who loves a good coming-of-age story ingeniously told.

Review: One crafty thing that I love to do is scrapbook, so when I heard about this first-ever scrapbook novel, I knew I had to read it. I actually bought this book awhile ago and finally took it out last month for a read-a-thon. It was obviously a quick read, as each page is set up like a scrapbook, but it still felt complete.

The best way to review this novel is to show you pages from the book, so you understand how things are set up. I will include various "pages" that I found online.


Each chapter takes place somewhere different, starting in Frankie's childhood home of New Hampshire. She then goes to college at Vassar, lives and works in Greenwich Village NYC, goes to Paris to work, and finally, she comes full circle home again. While each page is a part of Frankie's scrapbook, she fills the book with plenty of details about her life and story so that the reader is getting a complete look at a period of her life. You learn about her friends, her love life, and her desire to have a wonderful writing career. Frankie felt familiar in some ways. She wants to find true love, but she won't settle, and she wants to fully experience the world despite it being the 1920's and her a single woman. She travels and she learns. She won't let the time period or her gender change the life she wants to lead and it's definitely commendable.


The various information included on every page was great fun to look at. Preston did a great job including a variety of vintage items to fit the story she was telling. I really loved the vintage photos that she used as pictures of the characters in the book so that the reader gets a more "realistic" look at what these men and women look like. Preston was definitely true to a scrapbook and it made me want to work on my own after reading this book.

I would suggest this book for people who like books set in other centuries, for those that like coming of age novels, for those that like "crafty" or "unique" storytelling in books, and for anyone that simply wants an interesting, quick story.


Be sure to click on all the photos above to get a closer look at the scrapbook pages within this book. It really is full of great detail! This is a book to treasure, and a wonderful choice for a gift.

Make it a Gift

And speaking of making it a gift, you can add a smash book with this to give to a friend and it would make a wonderful present.


KandCompany offers many smash book products such as the book and some of the fun items you can include in them! What's great about a smash book is that it's almost like a slightly pre-built scrapbook. The pages are different colors and designs and you simply add the photos, tickets, and memorabilia you want on each page. You can then use stamps, stickers, and other scrapbook items to further decorate the page, and voila, everything is all in one book for you to enjoy!

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, art by Ellen Forney

Review by Lauren

Source: personal copy; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he thought he was destined to live.

Review: I think books that focus on people in other countries or that are part of different cultures can be really interesting and this was no exception. I've been wanting to read Alexie's YA debut for years now and I was finally given the chance when a book club I go to every now and then chose it as its May pick. I dug out the copy I've had for awhile and started reading! This was a quick read that really makes you think.

Junior is a gawky teenager who was born with water in his brain, which means he has brain damage and sometimes suffers seizures. Throughout the book, art by Ellen Forney (though said to be Junior's own artwork), illustrates Junior's thoughts and stories. When explaining everything "wrong" with him, Junior drew this-


The photo shows that he also has glasses, a stutter and a lisp, and that he had ten more teeth than normal, which had to be removed when he was a bit older. Now we get fourteen year old Junior whose parents and grandma believe he is capable of better things than living on the reservation. It isn't until his teacher pushes him to get out that he decided to transfer from the "rez" school to the all-white school about twenty miles awhile. His family agrees, but the other Native Americans on the reservation, including Junior's best friend Rowdy, are not happy about it and taunt him.

He still decides to go though, as he is told to get a better education and see the rest of the world beyond the reservation, where many Native Americans become stuck, including his own parents. Junior thinks about his parents and how they could have become something great too if they were pushed to do better.


Because of that and because his own sister has seemingly given up on her own dreams, Junior faces the all-white school and tries to make it work so he can move forward in life. Things don't start off great, but they do get better and it's wonderful seeing Junior's growth.

Junior is a regular teenage boy in terms of dealing with school, family, girls, and friends. He likes to play basketball, though he never saw himself as great. He likes girls, but knows people won't like him crushing on a white girl. Beyond this though, there is also the continual thoughts and conversations regarding other Native Americans on the reservation. Junior discusses how people drink a lot (including his own dad), how some parents are abusive (including Rowdy's dad), how these men and women find themselves stuck in one place and their victories are small compared to many of the kids going to the new all-white school. Many of those boys and girls will grow up and experience the world, but the kids on the reservation have very little opportunity beyond marrying another Native Americans and drinking away their dreams.

While aspects of the book might sound a bit sad, the book is definitely not. Junior has a great voice and it's fascinating to see the way he views people who are Native Americans and people who are not. There were many quotes throughout the book that really made me think, and the drawings definitely added a lot to Junior's narrative!

And finally, to end, I thought I'd share one of the quotes I really liked:

It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you're stupid and ugly because you're Indian. And because you're Indian you start believing you're destined to be poor. It's an ugly circle and there's nothing you can do about it.

Poverty doesn't give you strength or teach you lessons about perseverance. No, poverty only teaches you how to be poor.
-pg. 13

Friday, June 13, 2014

Killer Instinct by S.E. Green + Make it a Gift


Killer Instinct by S.E. Green

Review by Lauren

Source: copy for review, but all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Lane is a typical teenager. Loving family. Good grades. After-school job at the local animal hospital. Martial arts enthusiast. But her secret obsession is studying serial killers. She understands them, knows what makes them tick.

Why?

Because she might be one herself.

Lane channels her dark impulses by hunting criminals and delivering justice when the law fails. The vigilantism stops shy of murder, but with each visceral rush, the line of self-control blurs. And when a young preschool teacher goes missing—and returns in pieces—Lane gets a little too excited about tracking down “the Decapitator,” the vicious serial murderer who has come to her hometown.

As she gets dangerously caught up in a web of lies about her own past, Lane realizes she is no longer invisible or safe. Especially after the Decapitator contacts her directly. Now she needs to use her unique talents to find the true killer’s identity before she—or someone she loves—becomes the next victim…


Review:  Happy Friday the 13th! I thought I would share my thoughts for Killer Instinct in honor of today. Basically, I really liked this book. It was a quick read and it had me wondering until the end.

The summary might say Lane is a typical teenager, but she's definitely not. She's not very in tune with her emotions. Yes, there are people she cares about and moments where she is mad or upset, but for the most part, she isn't bothered by the social interactions other teens go through from friends to dating. In that regard, she made me think of Dr. Brennan from the TV show Bones.


Lane is fully aware of the way she views the world around her, though, so she tries to start acting more like a "normal" teenager. She even agrees to go on a date with a boy.

The biggest difference between Lane and well...most people...is her understanding of serial killers. It's not just that she's curious, as I find serial killers to be fascinating in some regards, but that she has similar urges. She's not a bad person, but she has the "need" to hurt people and release pent up aggression. She decides to target bad people who get away with hurting others in order to make herself feel better about her urges, though she never does anything to kill them. It's a warning. A violent, often bloody warning.

I thought the overall story of the Decapitator was interesting. Since Lane finds serial killers so fascinating she keeps the contact between them a secret. This is obviously a dumb move, but on some level, I could see into Lane's logic. I didn't agree, but I think Green did a good job explaining the way Lane works to make you understand why she keeps things a secret and tries to investigate on her own, even though both her mom and step-dad work for the FBI.

I'm sure there are moments in the book that will have readers yelling at Lane, but I was able to keep going. I wanted to know what would happen to her and the Decapitator, as well as who the serial killer truly was in the first place! I have to admit the end was a bit strange. It was surprising, but it was also a little weird...I wouldn't say it was completely off the wall though. I liked the book overall and I would recommend it to those that like a darker read. Just be warned that this is a book for older teens because of sexual and violent references.

Make it a Gift

If you want to buy a copy of this book for someone and wish to truly "make it a gift", you should consider adding the first season of Criminal Minds. Lane's mom is head of the Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) within the FBI in the book and Criminal Minds is about those in the BAU, who profile killers and try to catch them.


You can get the first season on Amazon right now for $17.99!!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Author Guest Post: Favorite YA Couples


Favorite YA Couples from Various Genres
The Thorn Chronicles: Kissed by Kimberly Loth


Thanks for having me here today. I read almost exclusively YA novels, but I read a wide variety of genres within that. Today I’d like to share with you my favorite couples in YA lit.

Historical Fiction: Jacky Faber and Jamie Fletcher From Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer.  I could never write historical fiction and I’m not crazy about it as a genre but this is one of my all time favorite series. Currently there are nine or ten books in the series and I love every single one of them. Jacky is a feisty girl who pretends to be a boy so she can work as a ships boy in the early 19th century. She’s got serious spunk and attitude and poor Jamie can’t seem to hang on to her. In spite of the fact that they often end up on opposite sides of the globe, she still loves Jamie fiercely.

Contemporary: Alex and Brittany from Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkes. Poor sexy boy and rich popular girl, they are doomed from the very beginning. Full of tension and angst, their relationship leaves me on the edge of the seat for the whole book. Simone has written other books in this series using Alex’s brothers and they were very good, but Perfect Chemistry is magical.

Sci-Fi: Bree and Finn from Loop by Karen Akins. Technically this book isn’t released yet, but I managed to get my hands on an ARC. It comes out in October. I’m also not crazy about sci-fi, but this book is so fun to read. Bree is a time traveler from the 23rd century that meets Finn in a botched midterm to the 21st century.   (Yep, she goes to time travel school, how cool is that?). Bree is fun snarky girl who has knack for getting herself into sticky situations and Finn just wants to keep her safe. He’s smokin’ hot and in spite of Bree’s reluctance he manages to win her over. Their first kiss is one of my all time favorites in YA lit.


Fantasy: Harry and Ginny from Harry Potter By JK Rowling.  I don’t think I need to explain that one.

Paranormal YA: Naomi and Kai from Kissed by me (Yep, shameless plug for my own book.) Wait, I meant to say Naomi and Puck. I love myself a love triangle. Naomi finds herself in middle of doozy in Kissed. Both are good guys, both have reasons for her to love them.  Kai is broody and romantic, Puck is fun and crazy. Both are fantastic kissers. How is a girl supposed to pick????  If you want to read more about Naomi, Kai, and Puck, you can find the book here: http://amzn.to/1oeQAPf.


About the Book

Naomi is rescued from her impending nuptials by the mysterious Kai who sends her off to Vegas with a sweet kiss and a promise of only a short time apart. But there Naomi meets Puck, a boy with wine colored hair and kisses that rival Kai’s. Soon Naomi is swept into a glamorous world where kisses hold power and not is all is at it first appears. Soon she must choose, freedom but heartache or love and captivity.




About the Author


Kimberly Loth can’t decide where she wants to settle down. She’s lived in Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Utah, California, Oregon, and South Carolina. She finally decided to make the leap and leave the U.S. behind for a few years. Currently, she lives in Cairo, Egypt with her husband and two kids.

She is a high school math teacher by day (please don’t hold that against her) and YA author by night. She loves romantic movies, chocolate, roses, and crazy adventures. Kissed is her first novel.

Twitter: @kimberlyloth

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse? by Suzy Becker


I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse?- an illustrated memoir by Suzy Becker

Review by Lauren

Source: library, but all opinions are my own

Official Summary: For years Suzy Becker, author of the New York Times bestseller All I Need to Know I Learned from My Cat (1.7 million copies in print), literally lived by her wits. Then brain surgery left her temporarily unable to speak, read, or write. I Had Brain Surgery, What's Your Excuse? is a story that grapples with the question “What makes me me?” By turns philosophical and whimsical, rivetingly dramatic and unexpectedly light, it is illustrated with drawings, charts, pseudoserious graphs, real EEGs. The result is a book filled with insights into creativity, identity, love, relationships, family, and that intangible something that gives each of us our spark.

Review: This book has been sticking out at me for a long time, not only because the author shares my last name (though that was fun!)  I find memoirs of everyday people to be really interesting. I suppose that's why people like reality TV, except reading about someone's life is much more realistic than those shows. For Suzy Becker, she's an artist and a writer and she doesn't really know what to do with herself if those things aren't there. Obviously, having brain surgery changes things and she finds herself unable to express herself as clearly doing the things she loves.

Her memoir details before surgery, during surgery, and the road to recovery afterwards. Her book is testament that she did get better. Part of what makes this type of book easier to read is Suzy's drawings and charts and otherwise "extra bits" added to the story. Her story is inspiring, because it shows that everyone has to learn to rely on others and to not give up on their dreams, in the face of any challenge. Suzy recovers by trying to do the things she used to do like swim, ride bikes, and spend time with friends and family. It isn't easy at first and she feels extremely guilty for people having to help her so much, but it's a progression and she keeps moving ahead.

I wish I had an example to share of Suzy's illustrations throughout the book, but I'm afraid I couldn't find anything online. I will say that they are fun and there is something on almost every page, whether it's small or a bit larger. She includes inner thoughts, comics that draw out conversations, and even a drawing of Augusta (Suzy's imaginary medical super heroine) who shows up throughout the book to "voice" the questions that Suzy should ask while dealing with various doctors. Augusta is the inner voice that many have and wish they could vocalize. It's something I could relate too because I often feel shy or awkward about voicing thoughts and questions to people, especially when at the doctor.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. I checked my copy out from the library but it's something I would really love to own in the future.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mental Health/Graphic Review: Super Ego


Super Ego by Caio Oliveira 

Review by Lauren

Source: Netgalley; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: Who do superheroes go to when they need to unload?

Dr. Ego, psychotherapist for the superhero community!

Welcome to the world of the deeply disturbed, where with great power comes great anxiety, angst, and expectations!


Review: Dr. Goodman is the psychotherapist to the superheroes, except he goes as Dr. Ego to them. He deals with a variety of superheroes, from young Lester who has more power than anyone but is crippled by anxiety. Then there is an Iron Man type of superhero named Javier Hernandez who is incredibly smart but he lets alcohol ruin any chance of him being truly heroic. These are just two of the superheroes introduced in this volume of Super Ego, but I hope that gives you an idea of what Dr. Ego has to deal with.

I thought the premise of this graphic novel was a lot of fun since I find superheroes fascinating. What if superheroes did exist? The ones with actual powers, and the ones who create their own? I think this was a wonderful start to a new series. The volume isn't very long, but it includes enough action and superhero antics to keep one entertained. I'm definitely curious about the ending now...not a total cliffhanger, but an end that keeps you wondering and wanting to read more. Those are always the best, right?


This novel fits for the Graphic Novel Challenge, as well as Mental Health Awareness Month this June. While the clients Dr. Ego works with have various "issues" to deal with, I find myself thinking particularly about Lester for this month's theme because he deals with a lot of anxiety, etc.


Monday, June 9, 2014

The Baker Street Letters (Books 1 and 2) by Michael Robertson


The Baker Street Letters - Books 1 and 2 (The Brothers of Baker Street)

Review by Lauren

Source: copies from the library, but all opinions are my own

 Official Summaries: The Baker Street Letters- In Los Angeles, a geological surveyor maps out a proposed subway route--and then goes missing. His eight-year-old daughter, in her desperation, turns to the one person she thinks might help--she writes a letter to Sherlock Holmes.

That letter creates an uproar at 221b Baker Street, which now houses the law offices of attorney and man about town Reggie Heath and his hapless brother, Nigel. Instead of filing the letter like he’s supposed to, Nigel decides to investigate. Soon he’s flying off to Los Angeles, inconsiderately leaving a very dead body on the floor in his office. Big brother Reggie follows Nigel to California, as does Reggie’s sometime lover, Laura---a quick-witted stage actress who’s captured the hearts of both brothers.

When Nigel is arrested, Reggie must use all his wits to solve a case that Sherlock Holmes would have savored and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fans will adore.

The Brothers of Baker Street-  When brothers Reggie and Nigel Heath choose 221B Baker Street as the location for their law office, they don’t expect that their new office space would come with one huge stipulation, answering the letters sent to Sherlock Holmes, the most famous resident of that address.

Reggie is distressed because the love of his life, actress Laura Rankin (whom Nigel also adores), is gallivanting around with media mogul Lord Buxton. And while Reggie is working on a new case involving one of London’s Black Cab drivers who is accused of murdering two American tourists, the letters to Sherlock Holmes are piling up. There's even one from someone who claims to be the descendent of Professor James Moriarty. 

Review: I remember coming across the first book in this series at the bookstore awhile back, but when I saw that my library had the first two in the series, I knew I had to check them out. I read both of these books in just over two days. They were full of fast-paced mysteries and interesting characters.

As the summaries state, two brothers have their law offices at 221B Baker Street. Therefore, all the letters that people still send to Sherlock Holmes go to them and they are obliged to answer them all with a designated form. However, in the first book, Nigel Heath sees one letter that has piqued his curiosity and he believes that a young woman might be in danger. He sets off to Los Angeles to learn the truth, with his brother Reggie not far behind. Both of them soon find themselves in trouble with the U.S. law.

The Brothers of Baker Street, the second book in this series, finds Reggie alone in trouble with the law. This common theme across both books is mainly because the two brothers are intent on learning the truth, even if people are determined to stop them. It puts them in bad situations, especially when looking from the outside of their investigations, but it serves for some very interesting moments.

While these books mostly focus on Reggie, I find both brothers to be quite fascinating. Reggie is more serious and uptight, though he starts to loosen up a bit in the first book. Nigel is a bit of a romantic; someone who tries his best to do what's right but isn't in it for the glory or the money. He lives his life a little more easily than Reggie. But when it comes down to it, the two brothers are always there for each other. Both of their parents have passed and they know they have to look out for each other, even if it's not always easy.

There are some women characters in the books, such as Laura who is Reggie's on-off girlfriend. She's an actress but fierce and ready to help the brothers when she can. She won't let Reggie put her to the side like a china doll, and I love that. She's certainly capable of helping both Reggie and Nigel solve these mysteries.

The mysteries in both books were very interesting, and quite unique in my opinion. While certain aspects may be easy for some to guess, I was surprised by the overall reveals in both books. Plus, these are such quick and easy reads, I found myself diving into the story without trying to analyze too much as I went along.

I just looked up the series for this review and realized that there are two other books out now. I am definitely going to continue on!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Welcome to Nursing HELLo by Joel Craig


Welcome to Nursing HELLo: a graphic memoir by Joel Craig

Review by Lauren

copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary: What happens when all the jobs for movie star have been filled? The next best thing is to become a nurse and that is exactly what Joel Craig did. Follow this RN's rocky rise into nursing. If you are a nurse, nursing student, want to be a nurse or will be going into the hospital anytime soon, check out this story. Joel writes about the things that nurses think but never dare to say out loud.

Review: Joel Craig's graphic memoir was definitely an interesting look into the mind's of some nurses. While there are certainly many people in the medical field that entered because they genuinely want to help or its a passion, there are still plenty of others that found themselves there in other ways. Craig is one of the latter, as he really wanted to be an actor. However, that wasn't paying the bills and when his husband, Donovan, expressed interest in going to nursing school, Craig decided to follow along a semester behind.

This book seems like a collection of comics for zines placed together in one large format. This works for the most part, though I found a couple moments where the story repeated itself. Since the book is in the form of a graphic novel, it doesn't really slow things down, so it's easily overlooked.

Positives-

Throughout the book there are moments where Craig provides a page of just writing that allows you to get more into his thoughts. I thought this was a nice touch, especially since it's a memoir.

Craig shares some pretty interesting stories about being a nurse. There are the crazy patients, there are the doctors who don't have time for you, and the pharmacy that won't answer your calls. However, there are still plenty of positives like nurses that help each other out, genuine patients that appreciate your help, and seeing nurses grow and become better.

And finally, the artwork- this will go under both categories, but for positive, the drawing is simple and easy to view. It makes the book feel more real. It's as if anyone could share their story with simple drawings.



Not So Positives-

Craig has conversations throughout the book with "Madonna." I put her name in quotes because it's not actually her of course. While I wouldn't say it's a detriment to the story, it didn't add a ton besides allowing you to get into Craig's head even more. You could tell he was a fan of Madonna and their story paralleled this idea of learning to go for your dreams and finding the thing you love. So, again, it's not a bad aspect of the book but it wasn't my favorite part.

The book focuses on a lot of the bad about being a nurse. It's Craig story, so you know he's just being honest, and he does genuinely want to find a place in nursing that he likes best. However, some of the stories were a bit much and I wish I could have seen more positivity in the nursing field. Granted, I know nursing is difficult and it's not something I could ever handle, so kudos to Craig for getting through.

And back to the artwork - while there are positives to it, there are some not so positives. Since the drawing is so simple, it's not as captivating as other graphic novels. Everything is in black and white, and while Craig includes as much detail as he can, it's not entirely enough.

In the End- 

I read this book in one day and I do think it would be fascinating for those in the nursing field, but apart from that demographic, it might not connect to a lot of other readers. I'm glad to have had the chance to check it out though, and I liked getting to read about Craig's overall journey and how he kept art in his life at all costs.


I read this for the Graphic Novel Reading Challenge