Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











{September 30, 2014}   {ARC Review} Schizo by Nic Sheff

SchizoFrom Goodreads: Miles is the ultimate unreliable narrator—a teen recovering from a schizophrenic breakdown who believes he is getting better . . . when in reality he is growing worse.

Driven to the point of obsession to find his missing younger brother, Teddy, and wrapped up in a romance that may or may not be the real thing, Miles is forever chasing shadows. As Miles feels his world closing around him, he struggles to keep it open, but what you think you know about his world is actually a blur of gray, and the sharp focus of reality proves startling.

Written by the New York Times bestselling author of Tweak, Schizo is the fascinating, and ultimately quite hopeful, story of one teen’s downward spiral into mental illness as he chases the clues to a missing brother.

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I’m sorry to say this novel didn’t really speak to me. It’s a fairly quick read, but Miles and I never really connected. Going in, I knew that this is a book about a schizophrenic young man, I knew he probably wasn’t going to be a reliable character, but truthfully, I found the story sad more than anything else. Watching him go through his episodes, listening to him and his thought process, knowing that others were afraid of him–was just so sad. And knowing that he knew he wasn’t reliable was difficult to watch. He worries, he’s upset, he wants to fix everything, but his illness won’t allow him peace, and watching him go through everything, only to realize that some of his most prominent wants in the world would never be realized, were never real, well, that was rather difficult for me as a reader. I can’t imagine living with this illness, and Miles really wore me down. His last ditch efforts at the end had me in tears, and all to find out the truth, well. It was difficult. I just wanted him to get better.

The writing is good, but the reality of the story was too heavy for me, so while I liked it overall, I can’t say I really enjoyed it.

3 stars

I received this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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InsurgentFrom Goodreads: Fighting for survival in a shattered world… the truth is her only hope.

The thrillingly dark sequel to No. 1 New York Times bestseller, DIVERGENT.

I have done bad things. I can’t take them back, and they are part of who I am.

Tris has survived a brutal attack on her former home and family. But she has paid a terrible price. Wracked by grief and guilt, she becomes ever more reckless as she struggles to accept her new future.

Yet if Tris wants to uncover the truth about her world, she must be stronger than ever… because more shocking choices and sacrifices lie ahead.

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I really wanted to like this novel, I really did, but sometimes sequels just don’t do anything for me, and that is the case with Insurgent.  This entire idea of factions is really intriguing, but I lost interest fairly quickly in this second novel, and I’m thinking I probably won’t read the third (I already know what happens thanks to my students). It’s just a too long for me, with too many characters, and the plot itself gives me a bit of whiplash. It’s extremely well written, and the story and characters definitely carry a presence, but whereas in Divergent,I was highly interested in the Divergent faction and their “dangerous antics,” I was not interested in Erudite, Candor, or any of the other factions that Roth focuses on in this novel. I also didn’t enjoy the lovers quarrel that seemed to be never ending in this second novel—I really like Four and Tris, but the whole “I don’t trust you” fight was just too… long. Truthfully, the novel was just too long in a number of ways, and I’m really just not that interested, even after the shocking conclusion and truth about the factions come out.  Two and a half stars.

2.5 stars

I borrowed this novel from the library.

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TornFrom Goodreads: Chloe hasn’t had the best life. With a mother who is gone more often than not, she has had to raise herself. After graduating high school, she leaves to start a new life away at West Virginia University with her best friends Amber and Logan, determined to leave her demons in the past.

On her first day, she meets a stranger who takes her breath away at first sight. Until she met Drake, no one had ever sparked her interest. Now this tattooed and pierced bad boy is all she can think about, no matter how hard she fights it.

Falling for Drake was never part of her plans, but when it happens, things seem to do anything but fall into place.

Dealing with a tragic past, Drake has never cared about anyone else but himself and his band. But when Chloe takes the empty seat next to him in class, things start to change. Instantly drawn to her, he begins to wonder if one girl can take a cold hearted womanizer and change every part of him?

Long hidden feelings are revealed and friendships tested to the brink.

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I am so sorry to say that I didn’t care for this novel.  I had high hopes going in, but my own life experiences, values, and beliefs just didn’t mesh with some of the events in this story, and because of that, I personally didn’t fall in love with it, which is okay, but always makes me feel bad.

Unfortunately, I really didn’t care for the characters.  Logan, though his heart is in the right place, is a controlling young man.  His anger gets the better of him on a few occasions, and he’s much too pushy for my liking.  I get that he’s fallen in love with his best friends of four years–that’s the best kind of relationship stepping stone, but

When a person is obviously, obviously drunk, I truly believe you need to take the high road, ignore their pleas, and NOT sleep with them.  I feel like that is taking advantage of a person who isn’t in their right mind, and it rubs me the wrong way–I lost some respect for Logan and Chloe due to their antics, but especially for what they do when one or the other is under the influence of alcohol.

Drake was enticing to me as a reader at first.  I like the bad boy image, but any man who pushes a woman away, tells her to date someone else, and then openly pines for her loses my respect quite quickly.  Let alone that he then sleeps with Chloe on multiple occasions while she’s dating Logan, well–again, I need my characters to take the higher road.  I can understand a one time mistake–passion getting the better of a person, it happens… but after all the guilt, to go ahead and do it again a few months later, well, there is no excuse for that. Not for any of the characters.

Chloe ticked me off more than anything in this novel, and it started when she was nearly raped and refused to report it.  I’m sorry, but this is close to my heart and you have to get over yourself and go to the police.  Ladies, if anyone ever attacks you, you can’t just think about your own embarrassment–you have to think about the potential other victims this man will set his sights on AFTER you.  Do the right thing and report it.  Sure, it’s going to be an awful experience, but so was almost being raped.  Think about the other woman you can save by being the bigger person.  In this instance, Chloe’s decision, and Drake’s for just going along with her decision, turned me off immediately.

From there, I just felt Chloe strung the men in her life along, trying to keep both, eaten up by guilt, refusing to come clean about it all… and as reader, I had no sympathy for her. And I couldn’t believe that there wasn’t really much fall out when everything finally came out into the open.  Chloe is definitely at fault, but in the end the other characters are even more sorry than she, and that just didn’t work for me.

The novel also doesn’t have closure.  I’m used to cliffhangers, but I wouldn’t say this is a cliffhanger, at least, it’s not for me. Instead, it just felt like the novel ended with the appearance of another character we’ve heard little about, and so there truly isn’t an ending, which left me a bit unsatisfied.

I’m sorry to say that this novel just wasn’t for me–it had potential, but the characters and events just weren’t for me. Two stars.

2 stars

In exchange for an honest review, Atria Books has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read this novel via Netgalley.

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Hollow CityFrom Goodreads: The extraordinary journey that began in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children continues as Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London the peculiar capital of the world. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner. Like its predecessor, this second novel in the Peculiar Children series blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reacting experience.

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I was a little bit disappointed in Riggs’ latest novel, Hollow City. Not only did it take three years to write, much too long to keep my vigil going without a new gem to devour, but it also was a bit bland. While there are events happening, there wasn’t enough to really keep me preoccupied or glued to the pages, and I found myself repeatedly having to stop and look up characters to remember who they all were. As the novel picks up right where the first ended, this would be a great read for someone who hasn’t yet read the first book if they were planning to read them back to back. I really enjoyed Miss Peregrines…, but for me, this middle novel fell short. I am really hoping it doesn’t take another three years for Riggs with write book three, because Hollow City ends on a cliffhanger, just like it’s predecessor, and I would like to know what happens next, but I think another huge long wait will sink the novel for me before it’s even out, which is a shame. I liked this second novel enough to finish it, but it just didn’t have the flare or novelty effect that the first one did, and I can’t figure out why. If you’re like me and a huge wait time for cliffhanger novels just isn’t in the cards, then I suggest picking up this entire series when it’s complete, because book one is great and definitely worth the read, and I’m hoping book three is just as good—perhaps Hollow City met with that dreaded middle book syndrome that happens sometimes. Three stars.

3 stars

I purchased this novel from Amazon.

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Death SwornFrom Goodreads: When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

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Unfortunately, I found this novel to be rather anticlimactic on a number of levels.  First, I did not connect with any of the characters. Not stubborn Sorin, resigned Ileni, nor any other assassin in the novel.  While I usually adore novels about assassins, there just wasn’t much in terms of assassinations to keep my interest in this novel. Now, the entire novel takes place inside a cave, so assassinations would be hard to carry out amongst the assassin clan, but even so, I excepted there to be more battles, more angst (Ileni is the only female in the compound, afterall), and more of a plot itself.

Instead, I found Ileni to be too much of a needy young woman to do any worth while, and as the plot revolves around her, not much happens.  She has been sent to the caves to find out the truth behind the murders of the sorcery teachers that came before her, but even that mystery is only lightly probed.  Little magis is spun, and though Ileni is losing her magi, resigned to her death, and overall quite depressing, I expected a lot more action and magic to take place as I read.

As the story stands, I still don’t know much about the Empire aside from their repressive state, and the assassins are chosen to try and stop them.  And that’s about all I know from this segment.  I realize that it’s the first in the series, and that book two will definitely probe more into the life of the Empire, but knowing very little at this time has made it difficult for me to really care about an upcoming sequel a year or so away.

Likewise, for knowing very little about the Empire and the assassins, I found that some of the events in the plot were a little too far-fetched; too easily overcome.  For one, Ileni is a lost little girl scared of everything, though she tried to put on a good front, and yet near the end too many events she struggled with throughout the entire novel happened much too easily. I can’t say much in terms of these events without spoilers, so I’ll leave you with this: Ileni does two things that should have been near impossible, and she meets no resistance in either, and yet they are hugely impactful to the story.  Instead of a reprimand, she easily saunters away from each, which I personally found unbelievable and anticlimactic as a reader.

2 stars

In exchange for an honest review, I received this novel from the publisher during NCTE 2013.

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The LivingFrom Goodreads: Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all.

But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy’s only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.

The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it’s a fight to survive for those left living.

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This was an interesting premise, but its execution wasn’t my favorite. It follows Shy as he works on a boat, hungers after a co-worker who is engaged to be married in a few months, and tries to deal with the death of his grandmother to a deadly new strain of virus while also coping with the suicide of a guest aboard the ship. Truth be told, I never did get to the point where I connected with Shy (or any of the self absorbed characters, for that matter); his antics didn’t impress me, and his near obsession with his co-worker rubbed me the wrong way. Add in the extreme foreshadowing that begins almost from the very first page, and I ended up knowing the ending before I was even a quarter of the way through, which is unfortunate.

I really liked the idea behind the novel, but it was just too obvious for me, and there wasn’t much that actually surprised me as I read. It was also a bit too long–as if everything was dragged out and I think it could have definitely been shortened, or at least had a conclusion. de la Pena only goes part of the way through the story, ending on a big finale that solidified what I already knew, and didn’t have any closure whatsoever. I felt that the beginning and middle dragged on for much too long, and then the end was a quick succession of unbelievable stunts and antics that honestly didn’t do anything for me as a reader.  Two stars.

2 stars

I received a free copy of this novel at a signing during NCTE 2013.

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19183736From Goodreads: Comedy superstar Ben Stiller (Zoolander, Tropic Thunder), who directs and stars in the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, here narrates the classic James Thurber short story on which his film adaptation is based.

The mild-mannered Mitty escapes his extremely humdrum and ineffectual existence by leaping into a myriad of fantasies – imaginative daydreams that range from piloting a Navy plane to performing as a brilliant surgeon to coolly leaning against the wall of a firing squad, all while escorting his wife on their regular shopping trip to Danbury, Connecticut.

This well-known and beloved tale has launched its famous protagonist into the cultural lexicon, warranting his inclusion in English-language dictionaries and countless anthologies. Stiller’s imaginative performance as Mitty is the perfect re-introduction to the classic character and is a great preface to the upcoming film, for old fans and new listeners alike.

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The audible version of this 30 page short story was a free download, so I picked it up and listened to Ben Stiller read it.  Stiller actually has the perfect voice for this story, and I loved hearing him change his voice as he read, giving readers queues that sometimes don’t transcend in the plain written word.  The story follows Walter Mitty as his wife constantly nags him about errands he needs to run while she gets her hair done.  As a reader, I wanted to strangle her because she came across as an extremely annoying character, but in her defense, her husband, Walter, is always daydreaming, and it becomes obvious that he has a tendency to get so wrapped up in his own world that he disregards, forgets, or otherwise doesn’t hear those around him.  It’s kind of a sad story—Walter’s only means of escape from his mundane world is through the thoughts in his head, where he becomes the hero of every story and does something noteworthy with his life.

While I think this is a very well done audible, and I liked Ben Stiller’s voice, the story didn’t leave me with much in terms of thought.  I neither liked it nor disliked it; it just was.  That being said, I have no desire to actually see the movie, and I’m not really interested in reading any of Thurber’s other works.  Two stars.

2 stars



18459932From Goodreads: Eighteen year old Myla Lewis is a girl who loves two things: kicking ass and kicking ass. She’s not your every day quasi-demon, half-demon and half-human, girl. For the past five years, Myla has lived for the days she gets to fight in Purgatory’s arena. When souls want a trial by combat for their right to enter heaven or hell, they go up against her, and she hasn’t lost a battle yet.

But as she starts her senior year at Purgatory High, the arena fights aren’t enough to keep her spirits up anymore. When the demons start to act weird, even for demons, and the King of the Demons, Armageddon, shows up at Myla’s school, she knows that things are changing and it’s not looking good for the quasi-demons. Myla starts to question everything, and doesn’t like the answers she finds. What happened seventeen years ago that turned the quasi-demons into slave labor? Why was her mom always so sad? And why won’t anyone tell her who her father is? Things heat up when Myla meets Lincoln, the High Prince of the Thrax, a super sexy half-human and half-angel demon hunter. But what’s a quasi-demon girl to do when she falls for a demon hunter? It’s a good thing that Myla’s not afraid of breaking a few rules. With a love worth fighting for, Myla’s going to shake up Purgatory.

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I am so sorry to say that, while this novel started off interesting enough, it soon lost its luster, and at 535 pages, my lack of interest made this difficult to finish.  In my opinion, it was just too long, and not enough happened to hold my attention.  Instead, much of the text was repetitive, with Myla either fighting, lamenting about her life, or trying to find the truth.  Due to the repetitive nature of the text, in my opinion it could actually be paired down quite a bit, making the novel a much more manageable size at about 250-300 pages, and including only the most important, fast paced action.  I lost count the number of times Myla’s sickness during warp or the way the sand fell away to actual images during dreamscapes was referenced in the text, but I do know it was a lot, and this repetition of play-by-play, along with repetition of certain scenarios, took its toll after a while. As the novel stands now, there is just too much down time, in my opinion, and its choppy nature left me with many more questions than answers.  And at 535 page, I feel like I should have all the answers.

Myla is a great fighter with a huge chip on her shoulder, and to be honest, she didn’t impress me.  I got the feeling that the author really wanted to create a kick butt heroine who didn’t need anyone, someone who could take care of herself, but in truth, Myla just rubbed me the wrong way.  She’s rude to those around her, is obsessed with fighting, doesn’t listen to anyone, and was a bit comical in her relations to those around her, especially with her incessant fist pumps every time something made her happy.  Her best friend, one full of envy thanks to her demon half, was a complete jerk, and yet Myla repeatedly took the blame for their fights, which in my opinion, undermines her kick butt status because it’s plain to see her BFF is rude and using her, and I didn’t like either of the characters by the end.

Likewise, the insta-love relationship between Myla and Lincoln didn’t pan out in my mind.  To go from hating each other so passionately to being undoubtedly in love, well… that just didn’t work for me.  I think it had potential, but the execution of it all didn’t fit, which is unfortunate.

Myla’s mother’s story also had the potential to be enthralling, but it took so long to come out, chopped up in bits and pieces, that I lost interest before all was said and done. The dreamscape was a great idea, but as it was extremely repetitive in nature and went unexplained much of the time, I found it fell a bit flat.

Overall, I found that I wanted a faster pace, less repetition, a better scene flow with less plot holes, realistic characterization, and a shorter text.  So, while this novel had much potential and I really wanted to like it, it fell a bit flat for me.  Two and a half stars.

2.5 stars

INscribe Digital and Ink Monster LLC have been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on December 17, 2013.

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17883713From Goodreads: From a brilliant new voice in horror comes a riveting nightmare of ancient evil unleashed—and the bravery and sacrifice of those called to combat it.

In 1948, when he was just a boy, Jimmy Kalmaku trained with his uncle to be the shaman of his Tlingit village in Alaska. There he learned the old legends, the old myths, the old secrets. Chief among them was that of a mask locked in a prison of ice, and of the faceless god imprisoned within: a cruel and vengeful god called T’Nathluk, dedicated to the infliction of pain and suffering.
 
Now all but forgotten in a Seattle retirement home, Jimmy finds his life turned upside down. For when an unwitting archaeologist pries the mask free of its icy tomb, he frees T’Nathluk as well. Stuck in spirit form, the Faceless One seeks a human to serve as a portal through which he can enter our reality. The Faceless One can control—and mercilessly torture—anyone who touches the mask, which means there is no shortage of slaves to ferry it across the country to its chosen host.
 
Yet the Faceless One has foes as well: Stan Roberts, a tough New York cop whose pursuit of justice will lead him into a dark abyss of the soul; Steven, Liz, and Bobby, the family of the doomed archaeologist; and Jimmy Kalmaku, who must at last become the shaman of his boyhood dreams.

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I’m sorry to say that this novel didn’t captivate me as I had hoped it would.  A new release just in time for Halloween, hailed as a “riveting nightmare of ancient evil,” I was sad to find that The Faceless One fell a bit short in this category, for me personally.

The story itself jumped around from character to characters too much for my tastes, making it difficult for me to follow along with much clarity.  While I felt the synopsis pointed to a story about Jimmy Kalmaku and his knowledge and attempt to defeat the Faceless One, the novel itself spends much time focusing on the lives of seemingly unimportant and random characters.  The story introduces a huge cast of characters, some of which play a rather small part in aiding the mask in its search, and I, personally, could have done with them.  There is only so much back and forth that I can stomach in a novel, and jumping from one side character to the next, then to Jimmy and off to another character without much connection between them all made for a hard read, especially in the very beginning when I was trying to make headway with the novel.

The novel itself is a bit long and, by a quarter of the way through, I found that, for me, it still hadn’t taken off.  Jimmy was still an inconsequential background character, as were many of those I’d met and watched die or otherwise aide the mask, and the pieces just seemed to be taking too long to put together without throwing me anything to really keep my interest.  The novel did get better as it went on, but I personally found this one just a tad too long, lacking the scare factor I really wanted it to have, and confusing me in terms of characters.  Overall, this is a great premise, but it’s just not the book for me.  Two stars.

2 stars

Random House Publishing Group has been extremely gracious in allowing me to read an ARC of this novel, via Netgalley, prior to its release on October 28, 2013.



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