Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Ghost of Cutler Creek by Cynthia DeFelice

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“Here we go again. It sounds as if Allie Nichols, Ghost Magnet, is back in action.”

The third book in DeFelice’s mystery novels about eleven year old Allie Nichols. As with previous books, another ghost needs some help, and they go to her for help. School is ending for the summer, there’s a new kid in town, and she has a summer job of looking after her teacher’s dog. I don’t want to spoil anything but dogs play an important part of this book. I’ll leave you to make the inference about how they would be involved. I know that can be very upsetting for some people.

The mystery in this book is pretty straight forward in this one, but I still enjoyed it. I like how Allie is getting used to doing this, and how she learns from each case. Also, Michael, her little brother, is becoming a bigger part of the story, and I find that very interesting to watch unfold.

As always I zipped through this book. I gave it five stars. I simply find whenever I’m in a rut with reading or in life, picking up these books will pep me up a little bit.

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Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi

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All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.

The Shatter Me series follows Juliette, a girl whose touch can be lethal. She’s been locked up for almost a year because she murdered someone when the book first starts. While she was locked away, the world went to shit. It’s a proper dystopian society. Throughout this book, and again, the whole series, she has to learn about and choose what to do with this power.

The first thing everyone talks about with these books is the writing style. It’s whimsical, full of metaphors that don’t really make sense, and cut outs like this. I don’t like the strikethroughs, but thankfully as the series continue, they decrease until they are completely gone. I didn’t understand a lot of Juliette’s rambles, but I do understand they are there to show how scattered her mental state is. It made it quicker to read though which I really liked.

One of the main overarching dramas of this series is the love triangle between Juliette, Warner, and Adam. It is incredibly frustrating to read, but it isn’t the typical love triangle. I really think Mafi’s main thought when starting these books was to have something different, and she succeeded in that.  For those more into the romance, they will like this part of the books more. For readers like me, it was simply frustrating.

For this first book it took me maybe two years to finish. I think I had given up on it, but then later, I wanted to cross off some books from my currently reading list. So I finished it. I gave this book two stars.

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Time goes on even when we do not.

So you are probably wondering why I continued this series, right? Well, with the news of the of Restore Me I read the excerpt that was released, and I liked it. I was feeling down at the time, and it made me smile, so I texted Isis, who loves the series, and we decided to read the rest of the series together. So we started off again with Destroy Me, the first novella in the series. 

Destroy Me is set between Shatter Me and Unravel Me. It’s set in Warner’s perspective. I can’t say much. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I enjoyed it a lot better than I did the first books. I gave it three stars at least.

Fracture Me is the second novella. It’s set between Unravel Me and Ignite Me. It’s from Adam’s perspective. I gave it four stars.

I usually find novellas to be useless,  but these add so much to the series. Very important plot and character development happens. If you don’t read these, you’ll be missing out.

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I am no longer afraid of fear, and I will not let it rule me. Fear will learn to fear me.

The novellas do something interesting to the rest of the series. While it makes it more interesting, it also makes part of the books frustrating. Stuff is reveled in it that the readers will know, but Juliette will not. And it takes a while for everything to come out so that gets frustrating. 

Juliette’s character development is great. From the beginning of the first book to the ending of the last book, she grows so much. I didn’t love her, and I still don’t honestly, as much as others do. Which made me feel really guilty for a lot of the series since people always said she was like the ultimate feminist icon. She’s very dramatic, and so very self centered. It lasts pretty much the whole series. It gets called out by other characters, and she always has this revelation about how they are so right and how could she be acting this way. But then she continues to act how she was before. Pretty much every time she opened her mouth I was texting Isis about how annoyed I was with her. It never really ended throughout the books.

The world building in the series is bad. Nothing is explained deeply at all. I had so many questions and the books didn’t even attempt to answer them. It can be explained away with Juliette being so self centered, but that’s what I wanted and never got. Juliette’s powers still has plot holes in them. The world is never explained. 

The side characters were what really got me with this series. My favorite character out of all of them Kenji. He’s the best. It’s sad that Juliette is never interested in branching out more, because in the third book where there’s a small little group all the time, that’s where I loved these books. All of my annoyance would fade, and I really enjoyed myself in those scenes.

I gave Unravel Me three stars and Ignite Me four stars. That gives the entire series an average of 3.2 stars for me. I am going to read Restore Me when it comes out, and I have high hopes for it. I think she’ll fix what was missing from the original series. I did see Mafi mentioning adding more characters which will have more diversity. There might also be a Kenji novella. Both will be much appreciated. Most importantly, I hope for well fleshed out world building.

In the end, I find it hard to end this review. Can I really recommend it to others? I did finish the series, and plan on continuing it, but it’s not at all similar to other books I would recommend. Those didn’t cause me to go on long rants, or frustrate me to no end. Those I appreciated while reading them, not as the fifth book was ending. But I spent weeks reading them so they deserved a review even if it’s taken me three days to finish it. Even as I’m typing I still find my feelings of these books to be very complicated, but I hope I explained things as clearly as I could without going into any spoilers.

 

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia – Book Review

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“There is a small monster in my brain that controls my doubt. The doubt itself is a stupid thing, without sense or feeling, blind and straining at the end of a long chain. The monster though, is smart. It’s always watching, and when I am completely sure of myself, it unchains the doubt and lets it run wild. Even when I know it’s coming, I can’t stop it.”


I loved so much about this book. Eliza and Her Monsters is a story about artists, fandom, friendship, first love, family, and that creative drive that can create amazing things out of an idea. I must mention trigger warnings for suicide, bullying (both in person and online), anxiety and depression.

This book follows Eliza, a teenage girl on her senior year of high school. She’s the creator of a webcomic called “Monstrous Sea,” which has millions of fans. Eliza posts the comic online anonymously to keep her personal life separate from it. But one day, she meets one of the most famous “Monstrous Sea” fanfiction writers at her school, and things start to change.

I really enjoyed the insight into this incredible fandom. It felt so real to what I’ve experienced. I could identify with the excitement of being part of an online community of people who all love the same thing, who know all the little facts about this one thing. And the overwhelming feeling of getting to interact with the community in person as well. I loved having the perspective of the creator of the fandom, especially because Eliza was also a fan herself. Not only of her story, but of another book series as well. Eliza was charming and endearing and I was rooting for her in every page.

I had some hesitations about Wallace, the guy she befriends at school. Yes, he was very sweet at times, and yes, his passion for writing and for the webcomic was great to read about, but he had a lot of bad qualities as well. Near the end, his behavior changed, and he became a bit selfish. I didn’t like that turn. It felt like he was showing his true colors, and he wasn’t the person I thought he was. But I did enjoy the way the book wrapped everything up.

Although I’m no longer a part of the Supernatural fandom, I still enjoy the fanfiction from time to time. I still remember my years in the fandom with nostalgia. I lived amazing things in that fandom, and I have great memories from it. This book was reminiscent of all of that, including the darker parts. It felt very true, and very honest. If you, like me, have ever been a part of a fandom, have ever let the thing you love become a huge part of you, then you will love this book. And if you haven’t, then this is a good look into that world. Eliza and Her Monsters is a thrilling ride that will stay with me.

The Demon Notebook by Erika McGann

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The Demon Notebook by Erika McGann is the first book in a middle grade quartet. It’s about five middle school friends who find a book with spells and try to test them out. They try eleven on them, but all fail. They move onto trying the Ouija board when finally something happens, but it’s more scary than they anticipated. Now one of them is acting weird, and one by one their spells are happening. And not all of them are harmless. 

I wasn’t expecting much from this book, and that’s a good thing. That doesn’t sound nice, but I mean it in the best way possible. I read this basically one sitting. The writing was simple. The plot was simple. It was fun, but it wasn’t the most complex piece of work. If I was expecting something truly complexly developed or something to scare my socks off, I would have been disappointed. Instead, I enjoyed my time with the story.

The strong friendship between the girls was a surprise for me. I’m so used to reading catty and competitive friendships between girls I don’t expect much anymore. But this group of friends wasn’t like that at all. They cared about each other deeply and equally.

I liked the lesson underneath the book as well. The girls made a mistake, and they did their best to right it. Even when it wasn’t easy or in their best interest at the time.

I gave this book an average three stars. The magic was nice. There were nice action scenes to bring up the tension too. I didn’t find this scary at all. For people looking a book with magic and demons without being creepy, I think this would be the book for them.

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee – Book Review

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“We are not broken things, neither of us. We are cracked pottery mended with lacquer and flakes of gold, whole as we are, complete unto each other. Complete and worthy and so very loved.”

Reading this book was a struggle. First, let me say that I adored Mackenzi Lee’s writing style. Her writing was a pleasure to read, and so engaging. I loved the way she described everything, right down to the smallest detail and smell, making me picture everything perfectly. I loved the characters, and the way she carefully developed each one of them. The adventures the characters embarked on were incredible, and kept me on the edge of my seat.

So, why did this book make me suffer so greatly?

Well, let’s just say I read it at the worst time I possibly could. During the length of time I read this book, my health was terrible. I had never feared for my life as much as I did during the last month. I read this book slowly, but every time I picked it up, someone in the book was ill, or unable to breathe, or going through very detailed near-death experiences. I hated every one of those moments because it only gave me anxiety.

This was a great book, and I am very sad I couldn’t enjoy it.

I do want to talk about all the good things because I want other people to enjoy it. The book is set in the 18th century, and takes place over a disastrous tour starring three amazing main characters. Henry Montague, or Monty, is our lead guy. He’s an eighteen year old aristocrat (really wanted to write aristocat) who loves drinking, women and men alike, and engaging in non-gentlemanly behavior. He’s trying to get it all out of his system before he settles into his father’s estate, under his father’s total control. Then there’s Monty’s sister, Felicity, who loves reading, hates her big brother, and definitely does not do the romance thing. I loved her to pieces. My girl was tough to the bone, intelligent, clever, and I would honestly trust her with my life. Then there was Percy, the sweetest boy in the world, and Monty’s best friend (also his great unrequited love). Percy is biracial, and for that he deals with a lot of shit. He lost his parents, but he carries his father’s fiddle around with him as his only memory.

It’s important to mention that Monty suffered from physical abuse by his father from a young age. This is something that completely took me by surprise while reading it, and it’s very present throughout the book. There’s also homophobia, but mostly from Monty’s horrible father. Percy deals with epilepsy, which is a complicated topic during the time period, and it basically drives the plot.

The journey they go on is exciting. They face great danger while on the run, and things only slow down every once in a while. The trio have a lovely dynamic, always rushing to save one another, and never leaving anyone behind. I loved each of them separately and together. The pirates were one of my favorite aspect. I also really enjoyed the alchemy incorporated, though it made me uneasy at times (again, I read it at a bad time). Monty and Percy were really sweet, too. I loved their friendship, and I was rooting for them to get together. I found Monty’s inner monologues over his undying love for Percy to be absolutely endearing. I kept making notes on the margins every time it happened, calling him a “Lovesick fool.”

I have to say, I don’t regret reading this book, despite how difficult it was to get through it. I would recommend it to anyone into big adventures with bisexual protagonists, kickass ladies, and a hint of fantasy.

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

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One elderly ghost peered over her round spectacles and shook her head before returning to her ghostly knitting.

“In my day, young children didn’t come to the cemeteries trying to raise the dead,” she tsked. “What is this world coming to?”

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh is an own voices middle grade ghost story. Harper and her family move into a new house. There are rumors that it is haunted, and then her little brother, Michael, starts to act strange. Harper has her own mysterious past that she has to deal with because she’s recently lost some of her memories. As events begin to unfold, Harper knows that both her memories and Michael’s odd behavior are somehow tied together.

Harper’s family includes her younger brother that I’ve already mentioned, an older sister, her mom and dad, and an estranged grandmother. This story really touches on the dynamics between all of them in a very natural and real way. I enjoyed the siblings relationships, the love and the fighting. Harper’s relationship with her mom is tough, and it mimics her mother’s relationship with her own. It’s a strong element to this book.

The formatting in this book was a very nice touch. In between normal chapters are pages of Harper’s journal she has to keep on orders from her therapist. In it, she lists things she hates, and has small rants about life. These brief pages added a lot to Harper’s character, and always made me smile.

I had a blast with this book. It was funny yet creepy in all of the right places. The Korean influences threaded throughout make this book stand out compared to the other very similar ghost stories out there. I gave this book five stars. I’m not sure if this is going to be a series, but I hope so.

 

The Ghost and Mrs. Hobbs by Cynthia DeFelice

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“It’s so weird, Al. It’s like you attract ghosts. Like you’re some kind of – ghost magnet.

“That’s one way to put it, I guess,” said Allie, not sure if the idea made her feel proud or uncomfortable.

This is the second book in the ghost mysteries series. I reviewed the first one here. It follows eleven year old Allie who can see ghosts. She’s supposed to interview an elder for a school project, and a new ghost is guiding her into helping him. Allie wants to help, but finds things quickly spiraling out of her control.

I had a little bit of frustration with this book, I must admit. The answer seems so obvious to me from the very beginning that I wonder how can you not think things through a little more carefully. But it is a children’s mystery book, and I still end up enjoying it a lot. Maybe that’s a point in the book’s favor. I knew what would happen yet I still really liked it.

This one is a lot more darker than the first one. Allie has to learn not to take everything at face value. Placing trust in someone can end up to be very dangerous. It’s a good lesson to have, and makes the series going forward a little bit more complicated. I hope, at least.

I gave this one a four star rating. I think it is a ton better than the first one. It’s an easy, addictive read. I finished it in one day. Before I wasn’t sure if I would continue the series. I picked this one up on a whim when I saw it on the library shelf. But I know for sure that I will be picking up the third one.