Modern Monsters

Modern MonstersTitle: Modern Monsters
Author: Kelley York
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Published by Entangled Publishing, LLC on 2015-06-02
ISBN: 978-1633750029
ASIN: B00P5TU4QG
Format: eARC
Source: publicist

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Vic Howard never wanted to go to the party. He’s the Invisible Guy at school, a special kind of hell for quiet, nice guys. But because his best friend is as popular as Vic is ignored, he went…

And wished he hadn’t.

Because something happened to a girl that night. Something terrible, unimaginable, and Callie Wheeler’s life will never be the same. Plus, now Callie has told the police that Vic is responsible. Suddenly, Invisible Vic is painfully visible, on trial both literally, with the police, and figuratively, with the angry kids at school. As the whispers and violence escalate, he becomes determined to clear his name, even if it means an uneasy alliance with Callie's best friend, the beautiful but aloof Autumn Dixon.

But as Autumn and Vic slowly peel back the layers of what happened at the party, they realize that while the truth can set Vic free, it can also shatter everything he thought he knew about his life…

My Review

One of the first things that struck me about Modern Montsers was the voice, that of a teenage male and something that there is not enough of in YA literature.  And that voice was convincing and empathetic.

Vic is not the stereotypical YA hero and I LOVED that.  His best friend is one of the more popular guys, but he is not.  He has a stutter and, largely because of that, he is rather socially awkward.  He isn’t portrayed as the shy, socially awkward guy who is secretly a brilliant guy either.  Instead, he barely scrapes by academically.  But what he is is loyal and kind, unable to turn his back on anyone that needs help.  Unfortunately, this can also get him in trouble… and it does.

His heart is in the right place and he has the best of intentions when he sees a classmate at a party, drunk and sick.  He helps her and finds a place for her to sleep it off.  Later, she is attacked and his face is all she remembers.  One thing leads to another, and he is suspected of attacking her.  His own mother believes the worst of him, leading to an interesting subplot.  His best friend’s family takes him in, the father defending him, when his own mother can barely look at him.  Then he finds an ally in the most unlikely of places… Callie’s best friend Autumn.

I love Autumn and her role in the story.  She is intelligent and she thinks for herself.  She is skeptical and thoughtful and loyal and she sees beyond the surface, really looking to discover who people are for themselves, not for what others make them out to be.

The interesting thing is that there are almost two main plots in the book.  The mystery of what happened to Callie and the romance.  Neither one overshadowed the other; both of them equally integral to the story and character progression.  The romance was beautiful, often funny, and always sweet.  And the mystery parts of it were twisting and turning.  The story there was intriguing, and all too realistically probable.

There were moments when I just wanted to jump into my book and alternately hug on Vic and throttle his mom and others for how they treated this genuinely nice guy.  The story line was gritty and real, and extremely well handled.

My Recommendation

In it’s own way, this book was beautiful.  Yes, there were story lines of betrayal and assault and neglect, but the emotions behnd it all were what made it beautiful.  There were themes of emotional neglect, peer pressure and pressure from family, themes of bullying and acceptance, friendship and loss.  And all of these things were woven together to create a wonderful story!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 5

About Kelley York

Once upon a time, Kelley York was born in central California. And it’s there she she still resides with her wife, step-daughter, and way too many pets. Kelley is a sucker for dark fiction. She loves writing twisted characters, tragic happenings, and bittersweet endings that leave you wondering and crying. Character development takes center stage in her books because the bounds of a person’s character and the workings of their mind are limitless.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

Gathering Frost

Gathering FrostTitle: Gathering Frost
Author: Kaitlyn Davis
Series: Once Upon a Curse #1
Genre(s): Fairy Tales, Folklore, Legends & Mythology, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 306
Published by Kaitlyn Davis on 2015-02-17
ISBN: 978-1507687727
ASIN: B00S05C1EK
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Jade was only a little girl when the earthquake struck. Before her eyes, half of New York City disappeared, replaced by a village that seemed torn out of a storybook. Horses and carriages. Cobblestone streets. A towering castle. And, above all, a queen with the magical ability to strip emotions away.

Ten years later and Jade has forgotten what it is to feel, to care...even to love. Working as a member of the queen's guard, she spends most of her time on the city wall staring at the crumbling skyscrapers of old New York. But everything changes when the queen's runaway son, Prince Asher, returns. Jade is tasked with an unusual mission--to let the Prince capture her, to make him trust her, and then to betray his secrets to the crown. In return, she'll earn her freedom. But life outside the queen's realm is more than Jade bargained for. Under Asher's relentless taunts, her blood begins to boil. Under his piercing gaze, her heart begins to flutter. And the more her icy soul begins to thaw, the more Jade comes to question everything she's ever known--and, more importantly, whose side she's really on.

My Review

Gathering Frost is the first novel in Kaitlyn Davis’ new series, Once Upon a Curse.  It tells the story of Jade, once a happy little girl living in New York Ciry until an earthquake shakes her world in unimaginable ways.

It wasn’t just her city that was destroyed, but the way of life all over the world.  The earthquake allowed the magical realm to merge with the Earth’s realm, and that magic changed everything.  In New York, the city was taken over by an ice queen named Deirdre, living under a curse that gave her great magic but took away any hope of true love of any kind for herself.  Her only way to feel was by stealing emotion from those around her, the people of NYC that came under her thrall.  When little Jade first saw her, she was certain that the beautiful woman was a princess sent to save them.  But that was not what happened…

Jade’s life changed and she became a warrior in the service of the queen, the only girl to make that choice.  When out on a mission within the ruins of NYC, she came upon a face she had been trained to recognize… Prince Asher, the queen’s runaway son.  After telling the queen, she finds herself on a mission to capture him, but nothing goes as planned.

Feelings are something that the people of the new kingdom remember nothing about.  The thrall that they are under takes that part of their humanity, reducing relationships to nothing more than practical interactions.  Yet Jade still yearns for freedom, even if she doesn’t know why.  Whenever she is in the ruins, she seeks out the library and the knowledge it holds, dreaming of a world outside the walls and away from the queen’s hold.  She is such an interesting character and watching her as she learns about feelings and emotion is interesting.  She has no idea what the love of a friend is like, much less the romantic feelings of love.

Feelings and magic are at the heart of this story, and it is hard to pick a favorite character beyond Jade and Asher.  Even the evil queen… she has a story of her own that makes her often a sympathetic character.  The idea of a world without any emotion is terrifying and makes you realize just how much emotion is a part of being human.

My Recommendation

This is a bit of a retelling that reimagines the Sleeping Beauty tale in a totally different way.  Sleeping Beauty is not literally asleep, but her humanity is asleep with the lack of emotions.  Such an original take on a classic tale!!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.6

About Kaitlyn Davis

Bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis writes young adult fantasy novels under the name Kaitlyn Davis and contemporary romance novels under the name Kay Marie. To learn more about her contemporary romance novels, visit her Goodreads author page for Kay Marie here: https://www.goodreads.com/Kay_Marie

Always blessed with an overactive imagination, Kaitlyn has been writing ever since she picked up her first crayon and is overjoyed to share her work with the world. When she’s not daydreaming, typing stories, or getting lost in fictional worlds, Kaitlyn can be found indulging in some puppy videos, watching a little too much television, or spending time with her family.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

A Prayer for Owen Meary

A Prayer for Owen MearyTitle: A Prayer for Owen Meany
Author: John Irving
Genre(s): Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 544
Published by Knopf Canada on 2012-05-08
ISBN: 978-0062204097
ASIN: B006VE6TCW
Format: eBook
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother's death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.

In the summer of 1953, two eleven-year-old boys—best friends—are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary.

My Review

I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice—not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.

This is one of the mot powerful opening sentences I have ever read in a novel, and it sets the tone for the rest of the novel.  I read this book at the behest of two high school friends, Laurie and Ginny.  We three live in different parts of the country, have lived very different lives, and likely come at the themes of A Prayer for Owen Meary from very different perspectives.  I mention this only because I feel that this novel is rich with important themes and one’s life experiences and personal beliefs play a significant role in the interpretation of those themes.

The story is narrated by John Wheelwright from the perspective of his middle-aged self, telling the stories of his youth in Gravesend, New Hampshire and interspersing them with commentary on his present.  His stories center on his best friend, the title character Owen Meary.  John comes from an old, well-established family, while Owen comes from a working class family in the granite industry… an industry that John’s aristocratic grandmother deems to be “dirty.”

John, while from a privliged family, has never known his father.  His mother referred to John as the product of a “little fling,” refusing to disclose the identity of his father to him, or to her mother and sister.  Despite the scandal of having a child out of wedlock at that time, she held her head high and was never ashamed.  She loved her child and she loved to sing, and she did them both without shame.  But then a freak accident takes his mother, an accident that changes Owen, too.  It is that accident that causes John to begin to wonder about his father.  Owen encourages his quest, insisting that God will show him the answers he seeks.

Owen is a bit of a misfit, small for his age and brilliant and wise beyond his years.  There is something about him that commands attention, from his peers and adults alike.  He is strong in his faith and feels that he is God’s hand on earth.  His dialogue is present in all caps, further underlining the idea that Owen is somehow more than human, somehow divine.  He constantly reminds John, as he falters in his faith, that faith takes practice and that sometimes he just has to accept that.

The religious themes are prevalent throughout the novel and, at first, this was a bit off-putting for me.  I tend to stay away from strongly religiously-themed novel, generally finding them to be more “preachy” than I enjoy.  I think your own personal experience/relationship with religion really plays into those themes. I was raised Episcopalian, but I pretty much have eschewed orgainized religion, being more spiritual than religious. So I probably had different feelings and ideas about those themes than others who embrace their faith more readily. But the pressure on Owen to live up to his parents’ (and his own) assertations about his destiny is something that I think anyone can have empathy for.

And there is no question that the Army girl still in me had some conflicted feelings about the military/war themes. I had a hard time really feeling for the narrator, outside of his love for Owen.  There was a purposeful lack of clairty for most of the book about the motivations behind some of his adult choices, vague due to the story arc, and it led me to believe that John was something/someone other than who he turned out to be.  My assumptions, which I think were perhaps intended by the author, led me to dislike the adult version of his character due to my own military experiences.  Some of his ideas presented by his adult self, while I understood the reasons behind them, sometimes rubbed me the wrong way. There was also a moment in which Owen decides to dramatically help John try to avoid the draft that also conflicted me.  It was a drastic moment, one that was done out of love, but it was the acceptance of Owen’s dubious gift by John that bothered me, once again because of my own military experiences.  But, then again, the subjects of war and politics are often those of controversy, aren’t they?!

My Recommendation

This is a thinking book, not a light read.  There are strong themes in this novel, themes that make you question your own thoughts, beliefs, and faith.  Yet there are also moments that are suprisingly funny.  The author has a witty way with words that give a tongue-in-cheek humor to a lot of situations and it is something that I truly appreciated.  I think that this is a book that will continue to reveal more of itself with subsequent readings.

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 5

About John Irving

John Irving published his first novel, Setting Free the Bears, in 1968. He has been nominated for a National Book Award three times-winning once, in 1980, for the novel The World According to Garp. He also received an O. Henry Award, in 1981, for the short story “Interior Space.” In 1992, Mr. Irving was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules-a film with seven Academy Award nominations. In 2001, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

A Clash of Kings

A Clash of KingsTitle: A Clash of Kings
Author: George R. R. Martin
Series: A Song of Ice and Fire #2
Also in this series: A Game of Thrones
Genre(s): Fantasy & Magic
Pages: 784
Published by Bantam Books on 1998-11-16
ISBN: 978-0345535412
ASIN: B000FC1HBY
Format: eBook
Source: personal purchase

FTC Disclosure: Regardless of how I received this book, this is an honest review based on my own opinions. Read my full disclosure here.

 
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From the back cover...

Time is out of joint. The summer of peace and plenty, ten years long, is drawing to a close, and the harsh, chill winter approaches like an angry beast. Two great leaders—Lord Eddard Stark and Robert Baratheon;who held sway over an age of enforced peace are dead...victims of royal treachery. Now, from the ancient citadel of Dragonstone to the forbidding shores of Winterfell, chaos reigns, as pretenders to the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms prepare to stake their claims through tempest, turmoil, and war.

As a prophecy of doom cuts across the sky;a comet the color of blood and flame;six factions struggle for control of a divided land. Eddard;s son Robb has declared himself King in the North. In the south, Joffrey, the heir apparent, rules in name only, victim of the scheming courtiers who teem over King's Landing. Robert's two brothers each seek their own dominion, while a disfavored house turns once more to conquest. And a continent away, an exiled queen, the Mother of Dragons, risks everything to lead her precious brood across a hard hot desert to win back the crown that is rightfully hers.

A Clash of Kings transports us into a magnificent, forgotten land of revelry and revenge, wizardry and wartime. It is a tale in which maidens cavort with madmen, brother plots against brother, and the dead rise to walk in the night. Here a princess masquerades as an orphan boy; a knight of the mind prepares a poison for a treacherous sorceress; and wild men descend from the Mountains of the Moon to ravage the countryside.

Against a backdrop of incest and fratricide, alchemy and murder, the price of glory may be measured in blood. And the spoils of victory may just go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel...and the coldest hearts. For when rulers clash, all of the land feels the tremors.

My Review

This second book in the A Song of Fire and Ice series is even more action packed than A Game of Thrones.  Chaos reigns in the seven kingdoms with now five kings fighting for the Iron Throne.  I love the format of these books, chapters that alternate between characters.  The chapters tell the stories of A Clash of Kings from their different perspectives, allowing us to see the war from within the minds of people from all sides.

The military girl in me really enjoyed the battle tactics that were so much a part of this book, especially for Tyrion Lannister.  His character is continually undervalued and dismissed by the others in the series, simply because of his size.  In reality, he is extremely intelligent and an excellent strategist and I loved his chapters the most!  At first, he began to set things in motion that led me to wonder what exactly he was up to, wondering how it would all come together.  But he is brilliant and cunning in his plans, showing those traits that I think are most important in a battle strategist/commander… knowing the abilities/limitations of not just your enemy, but your own men and using those to advantage.

My Recommendation

Such a great novel!  This not a read for the faint of heart.  The battles, the betrayals, the violence, the seediness.  The only thing I truly wanted more of was Jon Snow and the Wall!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Cover
Overall: 4.2

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: