Small Spaces, DCeased, & Quiet Girl in a Noisy World – Review Quickies #2

Review Quickies

Between working massive amounts of overtime and dealing with the normal ups and downs of life, I haven’t had a lot of time to write reviews. In order to catch up, here are a few quick reviews of books I’ve read lately.



Small Spaces Katherine Arden

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden
Middle Grade | Horror | Fantasy
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Released September 25th, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

I don’t often read middle-grade books, but I wanted an audiobook that would be easy to listen to and found Small Spaces on Scribd.

The story follows eleven-year-old Ollie who joins her class on a trip to a local farm. There’s quite a bit more going on, though, as Ollie discovers a bizarre scene with a crazed woman attempting to dispose of a mysterious book. Ollie starts reading the book and notices strange parallels between the story in the book and what’s happening on the farm. Ollie, along with two of her classmates, has to work together to save the rest of their class as the night takes a supernatural turn.

Small Spaces was super adorable and fun. I know this is the type of book I would have loved had I read it in middle school. The story touches on difficult topics such as grief, yet it is also a rich tale of friendship. It’s a short novel but packs a lot of punch. I’ll definitely be reading the sequel, Dead Voices.


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DCeased by Tom Taylor
Art by Trevor Hairsine & Stefano Gaudiano
Horror | Graphic Novels/Comics | DC Universe
Published by DC Comics
Released November 26th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

Tom Taylor is my favorite comic book writer. He has a unique ability to combine humor with darkness, and I absolutely love it. Even though I’m not a huge fan of the DC Universe (I much prefer Marvel), I’ll read anything that he writes.

DCeased is an apocalyptic story involving a disease spreading across Earth, turning victims into zombies (essentially), and even superheroes aren’t spared.

What really struck me about DCeased is how dark it is. One of the reasons that I don’t read many DC comics is that the stories and characters often seem a little cartoony for me, but DCeased is dark and serious. I’m not going to spoil the story and say how it ends, but let’s just say that I wasn’t expecting it to end like it did, and I thought that it was great.

The only downside to this collection is that, for many of the characters, I had no real idea of who they were. Obviously, the big names like Batman and Wonder Woman are obvious, but to someone unfamiliar with the DC Universe, there were a lot of less well-known characters who I didn’t care about. If you’re a DC fan though, you won’t have that problem.


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Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story by Debbie Tung
Graphic Novel | Memoir
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Released November 7th, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Last year I had the pleasure of reading Debbie Tung’s newer graphic novel release,  Book Love. Quiet Girl in a Noisy World is a collection of black-and-white comics about life as an introvert. I felt as though I was reading about my own life. All of Debbie Tung’s work is adorable and perfectly captures introversion. This would make a perfect gift for your bookworm friends.



Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!




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Emotional Detox for Anxiety by Sherianna Boyle – A Review

Emotional Detox

Emotional Detox for Anxiety: 7 Steps to Release Anxiety and Energize Joy by Sherianna Boyle
Nonfiction | Mental Health | Self-Help
Published by Adams Media
Expected Publication: December 24th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_and_a_half_stars

Note: I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

I read a lot of self-help and mental health books because it helps me stay on track in my own life. Managing bipolar disorder and anxiety is difficult, and I’ll take all the help I can get. Which is why I jumped on the opportunity to read and review Sherianna Boyle’s Emotional Detox for Anxiety.

This book is the follow-up to Boyle’s Emotional Detox, but specifically targeting people with anxiety. She proposes that by using the C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method people can treat the underlying causes of “painful emotions in general and anxiety in particular.” C.L.E.A.N.S.E. stands for:

  • Clear Reactivity
  • Look Inward
  • Emit
  • Activate Joy
  • Nourish
  • Surrender
  • Ease

I can’t say that this is the book that has helped me the most, but there’s a lot of great advice for people suffering from anxiety.

Sherianna Boyle is very thorough in breaking down anxiety, starting with describing what anxiety is and what the underlying causes often are, and ending with step-by-step instructions for following the C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method. I appreciated that she delved a bit into the science of anxiety, such as when she discusses the connection between inflammation in the body and anxiety in the mind.

Some of Boyle’s advice is expected, such as meditations and creating a healthier environment for yourself. However, some people might find the advice in the book a little hippy-ish or “woo-woo,” so keep in mind that if you try to avoid that sort of thing, this book might not be the best option for you. Think humming, visualization practices and manifesting, and opening your third eye.

None of the information in this book is necessarily revolutionary, and most of the components of Boyle’s C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method is also incorporated in other forms of anxiety treatment, but if you’re someone who hasn’t found a way to handle your anxiety and you want to try something new, it won’t hurt to read this book and give Boyle’s method a shot. It didn’t help me personally, as I’ve found that sound therapy/meditation and manifesting do nothing for me, but everybody is different.

One slightly-weird aspect of this book that I feel the need to mention is that the author seems to bring some of her own baggage into it. I have no idea how often Boyle brings up the fact that her husband had an affair and it caused her pain, but it’s a lot. It was enough that I started to get annoyed with it. There’s nothing wrong with writing about your own experiences; in fact, it’s good to do so! She just overdid it and left me wondering if she shouldn’t practice her C.L.E.A.N.S.E. method a bit more herself.

While I did discover a lot of information in this book, it’s not going to be one that I find myself coming back to in the future. I made the effort to internalize the new-to-me information, and I feel that I have nothing more to get out of this book. As I mentioned before, however, everyone is different and copes in their own way. If Emotional Detox for Anxiety sounds like a book that might help you, grab a copy and give it a shot!




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Review Quickies #1

Sometimes I read small books or graphic novels that might not warrant a full review. I’ll post about these books periodically in Review Quickies, starting with a few graphic novels I read while moving this past week.


Super Chill Adam Ellis

Super Chill: A Year of Living Anxiously by Adam Ellis
Graphic Novel | Humor
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Released October 23rd, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_and_a_half_stars

I won this short graphic novel in a contest hosted by Andrews McMeel Publishing along with several others. I’ve been following Adam Ellis, a former Buzzfeed contributor, for a while on Instagram, so I assumed that I would enjoy this. Unfortunately, though, I was mainly just bored while reading this. There were one or two short comics in here that I could identify with, but as for the majority of them, I’ve actually already forgotten what the comics were about. I do love his art style, however, so an extra star for that. Overall though, it really missed the mark for me.


Total Jazz Blutch.jpg

Total Jazz by Blutch
Non-Fiction | Graphic Novel | Jazz
Published by Fantagraphics
Released February 14th, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_0_and_half_star

I can’t remember the last time I rated something less than one star, but this short graphic novel 100% deserves it. When I came across this title on Hoopla I got excited because I adore jazz and was fascinated by a graphic novel about famous jazz musicians. What I got, however, was a racist, nonsensical jumble of bad art and few words.

What do I mean by racist? The book starts off with some Native American caricatures, drawn by a Frenchman:

butch total jazz native americans

These caricatures serve no purpose and I was confused about why the author/artist would even include this. Once he started talking about jazz, things didn’t get much better. I was almost angry to have wasted my time on this book.

Even if you’re a jazz fan, do yourself a favor and skip this.


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Waves by Ingrid Chabbert
Illustrated by Carole Maurel
Nonfiction | Memoir | Graphic Novel | LGBT
Published by Archaia
Released May 14th, 2019
Originally published in France, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

We’re finally getting to the good stuff! This graphic novel was poetic, heartbreaking, and beautiful. The story is based on author Ingrid Chabbert’s own experience and follows a young woman and her wife as they try to conceive. It’s a difficult pregnancy, however, and they have to face a loss neither of them could prepare for. While the story is simple, it’s immensely powerful. Carole Maurel’s beautiful artwork adds a lot to the story as well:

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I can’t recommend this graphic novel enough. I was able to find it for free on Hoopla, but regardless of how you have to get your hands on it, be sure to read it!


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A Fire Story by Brian Fies
Nonfiction | Memoir | Graphic Novel
Published by Harry N. Abrams
Released March 5th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

To end this post, we have another five-star read. As you can probably tell, I was on a bit of a non-fiction graphic novel kick the week before I moved (keep an eye out for my last non-fiction graphic novel review – They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, which is getting its own post).

A Fire Story caught my eye because it was something that I could relate to, as my family’s house burned down in February 2006. It was a surreal experience to lose everything you and your family had ever owned, but thankfully everyone was okay.

Brian Fies’ own experience with losing his house involved the massive California wildfires of last year when his whole neighborhood was quickly consumed by flames. The emotions he experienced felt so real to me and reminded me of everything my family went through when our own house burned down. With wildfires becoming the new normal in California (as well as in other parts of the world), now’s a good time to give this graphic novel a read.



I really enjoyed reading all of these non-fiction graphic novels, although I do wish I could take back the fifteen minutes I spent on Total Jazz. If you have any recommendations for other great non-fiction graphic novels, please let me know in the comments!!




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Who Says You’re Dead by Jacob M. Appel, MD – A Review

Who Says You're Dead Jacob M Appel

Who Says You’re Dead?: Medical & Ethical Dilemmas for the Curious & Concerned by Jacob M. Appel, M.D.
Nonfiction | Medical | Ethics | Science
Published by Algonquin Books
Released October 8, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

I’m fascinated by morbid science, questionable ethics, and interesting medical cases. This is why I reached out to Algonquin Books to ask for an ARC of this book and was thrilled when I received it in the mail. Who Says You’re Dead is a collection of medicine’s ethical dilemmas and insights into the difficult choices that medical professionals are forced to make.

The scenarios in the book cover a wide range of situations. Here are just a few:

  • Would it be ethical for a doctor to be present during the torture of prisoners to ensure that the prisoner doesn’t die?
  • Should lithium be added to the water in areas with a lot of suicides?
  • If a patient creates a lot of havoc at a doctor’s office and starts harassing other patients, should the doctor’s office be able to ban her? What if they’re the only place for miles around that can offer the particular treatment she needs in order to live?
  • Should employers be able to conduct DNA testing on potential new hires?
  • If a child is suffering from a terminal illness and near-constant pain, should the parents have the right to decide to end their child’s life?

This book was very engaging, and it was fun discussing the scenarios with others in order to see where we stood on certain issues. After reading Who Says You’re Dead, I’m very glad I’m not one of the people responsible for making these sorts of decisions. I can’t imagine having to face extremely hard ethical dilemmas like these every day.

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Jacob M. Appel, MD

Writer Jacob M. Appel pulled these scenarios from real events, which makes this book even more captivating. Appel is a bioethicist and is able to offer a lot of insight into these hard situations.

The chapters are incredibly short, at most being four pages. I do wish there had been more information given for a lot of the questions, as I was left wanting to know so much more about many of them.

One aspect of the book I did like, however, is that Appel doesn’t provide definite answers to what should be done in any of these scenarios. Just like in real life, there isn’t always one correct answer. Decisions often take place on a case-by-case basis where a lot of different factors have to be considered. The author presents all the options a doctor or medical professional can make and leaves it at that.

If you’re the type of person who binge-watches television shows like House or finds yourself fascinated by medical dilemmas and ethics, you’ll love this book. I’m glad to have read it as it gave me a great deal of insight into situations I had never considered before.


Will you be adding Who Says You’re Dead to your TBR? What are your favorite medical-related non-fiction books? Let me know in the comments!




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Again, but Better by Christine Riccio – A Review

Again but Better Christine Riccio

Again, but Better by Christine Riccio
Contemporary | New Adult | Romance
Published by Wednesday Books
Released May 7th, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_and_a_half_stars

“So—why didn’t something happen?”

Because of me. Because I let fear make decisions for me. Because I’ve chosen to let the world push me around instead of pushing my way through the world.”

You may recognize Christine Riccio’s name, especially if you’re in the book community. Christine is one of the most popular booktubers on YouTube, where her channel, PolandBananasBooks has over 400,000 subscribers. Again, but Better is Riccio’s debut novel.

Christine Riccio.jpg
Christine Riccio

While I don’t usually read a great deal of young adult or new adult contemporary fiction, I was intrigued by the concept of this book. The story follows a university student named Shane Primaveri who is traveling to London for a semester of study-abroad classes. Her goal is to essentially have a college do-over; at her American school, she’s quiet and doesn’t have a lot of friends, so in London, she decides to be outgoing and social.

Once in London, she makes friends with her roommates Babe and Sahra, and her male neighbors, Pilot and Atticus. A romantic relationship starts to spark between herself and Pilot, and the story moves on from there.

The main reason I was intrigued by this novel was its unexpected time travel element. I can’t say too much about this part of the book because there would be major spoilers involved, but essentially, Shane has the chance to live a hypothetical question that many of us think about: If you could go back in time with all of the knowledge that you have now, would you do it? I love thinking about that question (and if you’re curious about my answer, I would absolutely go back in time for a do-over), and I haven’t found many books that discuss that question.

Another aspect of the novel that drew me in is that I wanted to live vicariously through a character that did something that I really wanted to do in college. Before I dropped out of my political science program (because it was making me angry and cynical), I really wanted to study abroad in the U.K. Aside from my obsession with British history (which started in high school out of the blue), like Shane, I also wanted a social do-over. I’ve always been the quiet, meek girl, and have always had an irrational desire to move to a new place to become a different person. It’s never worked, of course. As Neil Gaiman wrote in The Graveyard Book, “Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.”

That’s all that I feel comfortable saying about the plot of the novel, so let’s move on to my review.

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While I was entertained by this novel in a guilty-pleasure sort of way, objectively, it wasn’t good. For the first several chapters, I seriously considered DNF-ing it, but I talked myself out of it and read on. It was a fun, light story, but one that I probably wouldn’t read again.

The book itself and its characters were incredibly cringy and overwhelmingly silly. First, we have the characters’ names – Pilot Penn, Babe Lozenge, etc. Second, nearly everything that Shane does made me cringe, from the way she talks to her crush, Pilot, the never-ending Lost, Dan Brown, and Taylor Swift references, to just Shane’s behavior in general. Her character is awkward as hell and, again, super cringy. Shane has a tendency to act much more immature than a college student should have. One out of the many, many examples: On their first day in the dorms, Shane and Pilot walk to a grocery store and the whole time Shane is trying to decide if it’s a date and if he’s going to kiss her. Seriously? She literally just met him and knows nothing about him. It was an annoying part of the book.

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The relationship between Shane and Pilot was mediocre. For one thing, Shane becomes obsessed with a guy she barely knows. It’s very insta-lovey, which is a trope that drives me insane. For the majority of the book, she obsesses over everything he does, in a manner that is borderline stalkerish. Also, Pilot has a girlfriend back in America. Once Shane discovers this information, it doesn’t stop her from swooning over him and pretending that he’ll still choose her. I can never get behind cheating in a relationship, even in a fictional story, so that alone was one of the reasons I gave this novel a lower rating. Shane is way too okay with continuing to flirt with Pilot without ever talking to him about his girlfriend; at least until his girlfriend comes to visit and she is forced to confront the issue. It’s one of Shane’s characteristics that make her an untrustworthy character, along with the fact that she lies to her parents about why she’s in London.

While I knew about the magical aspects of the novel ahead of time, it still caught me a little bit off-guard. The time travel was done pretty well, but it was incredibly predictable. I doubt many people would be able to read this book and not predict its outcome.

One of the positive things about this novel was that it was a pretty decent portrayal of social anxiety. Shane obsesses over how she appears to her new friends and has to force herself to become more social. That’s something that a lot of us can relate to.

The last thing I want to say in this review (which is turning out to be quite a bit longer than I was expecting) is that it’s very clear that Shane is Christine. I feel like she didn’t even try to disguise the similarities. First, Shane is a blogger that writes under the name FrenchWatermelons19. Second, the description of Shane’s character could also describe Christine. Third, there are tons of references to books that Christine talks about frequently on her channel, such as Twilight, Harry Potter, and the Shadowhunter books.

In the end, while I did enjoy reading this book, it wasn’t good. There were so many issues with the writing and characters that I found myself unable to overlook. If you’re a fan of Christine Riccio and want to read this novel, go ahead. However, if you’re looking for great literature, this is most definitely not it.


Have you read Again, but Better? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!


Looking for some more contemporary fiction?

With the Fire on High | The Unhoneymooners | A Very Large Expanse of Sea | The Hate U Give | The Simple Wild




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Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – a Review

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safron Foer
Contemporary and/or Historical Fiction
Published by Mariner Books
Released April 4, 2006
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Note: This review was originally published on September 11, 2018. While I have made a few updates to formating and everything you see above this statement, everything that follows is the content in its original form from one year ago.

We were determined to ignore whatever needed to be ignored, to build a new world from nothing if nothing in our world could be salvaged.


What It Is

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is am an ambitious child, spending his time inventing, learning, acting, making jewelry, and more. After his father dies in one of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, Oskar feels a lot of different emotions: anger at his mother for seemingly moving on; fear of many things, from elevators to public transportation to bridges; empathy for the many people around him, like a homeless man he passes frequently on the street. He appears to be suffering from PTSD and insomnia after the tragic events that took his father, and he looks for ways to be close to his father once more.

One day while exploring through his father’s closet, he comes across a blue vase he’d never seen before. While reaching for it, his hand slips, and the vase falls to the floor, shattering. Among the broken glass, he discovers an envelope with the word “Black” written across the front of it. Opening the envelope, he finds a mysterious key.

The novel is the tale of Oskar searching for the lock, meeting new people along the way, and trying to find evidence of his father along the way. It’s a truly heartbreaking story and one that will stick with you long after you finish it.


What I Loved

The novel is written from three points-of-view, Oskar being one of them. I’m hesitant to say who the other narrators are because I feel it’s best to just let the story unfold for yourself. Foer does a wonderful job of making Oskar’s narration seem believable coming from a nine-year-old character. The book is also great for taking a terrible, tragic event, and dealing with it in a relatively light-hearted way, while still maintaining elements of tragedy and heartbreak.

This was also the first book I’ve read by Jonathan Safran Foer, and I was a huge fan of his writing style in this book. I’ll be reading Everything is Illuminated soon, I’m sure.


What I Disliked

When I first began the novel, I had a hard time relating to the main character, Oskar, because he seemed so annoying and unlikable to me. After the first hundred pages, however, he grew on me. I sort of believe my initial aversion to Oskar is simply based on the fact that I’m not a fan of child narrators.


Verdict (Buy/Borrow/Skip)

Buy. It’s important to remind ourselves of the tragedies that occurred in New York City, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. For many people, it’s easier to remember through fiction. This is definitely a book I’ll be reading again.

Click here to discover more books about September 11th, 2001




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City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab – A Review

Note: This is a repost of a review published last year. The sequel to City of Ghosts, Tunnel of Bones, is now available.


“Every time I get nervous or scared, I remind myself that every good story needs twists and turns. Every heroine needs an adventure.”

The Book

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
Amazon | Goodreads
Author Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr
Publisher: Scholastic, 2018


What It Is

Cassidy Blake is a young girl who can see ghosts, and Jacob is her best friend, who happens to be a ghost.

Due to an accident in which Cassidy almost drowned, she gained the ability to cross “The Veil,” allowing her to see ghosts and observe them reliving their deaths. While she doesn’t exactly have a normal life, things start to get a little crazier when her parents begin working on their new television show, discussing the most haunted places in the world.

See, although Cass can interact with real ghosts, her parents, world-renowned ghost experts, don’t know this. They’ve written loads of books about ghosts and hauntings, without having actually ever seen a ghost. If only they knew about their daughter’s secret…

The family (and Jacob) travels to Edinburgh, Scotland, an ancient city of castles, cobblestone streets, and lots and lots (and lots) of ghosts. Not all of these ghosts are harmless – the Raven in Red, a spirit that snatches children away on cold nights, sets her sights on Cassidy.

Cassidy and Jacob, with the help of their new friends Lara and Findley, go on a daunting adventure to stop the Raven from stealing Cassidy’s very life force. This novel has some truly spooky moments and haunting scenery.

This is an exciting middle-grade novel from the author of Vicious, Vengeful, A Darker Shade of Magic, and more.


My Thoughts

This was such a delightful book to read. It gave me strong vibes of one of my all-time favorite books, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which I definitely recommend if you enjoy City of Ghosts.

It’s a lovely book that focuses on friendship and facing your fears. Cass puts herself at risk to save her best friend, and Jacob does the same for her. Their unusual friendship is so sweet and endearing.

I wish we had seen more of Lara’s character, who starts off pretty cold, but who you quickly warm up to. I found myself wanting to know more about her history, and that of her ghost-obsessed grandfather. I can only hope that the sequel that Victoria Schwab is currently writing includes some more of their story.

Please don’t be put off by the fact that this is a middle-grade book – it truly reads like something that people of all ages can enjoy, much like Cassidy’s beloved Harry Potter. I already know that this is a book I’m going to go back to over and over again. I had quite the book hangover when I finished it, but then this happened:

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I can’t wait to read the next book. I’m aching to know more about Cass’s story, and I still want to know how Jacob died!

The only (slight) problems I had with this novel is that I wish it was a little bit longer and that there was a bit more character development. While many of the characters did have personalities and backstory, more would have been nice.


Verdict (Buy, Borrow, Read)

Buy. This is such a wonderful book, especially to read in October as we near Halloween. Plus, you’re going to want to reread it when the sequel comes out!

Have you read City of Ghosts? What were your thoughts?




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Roar by Cora Carmack – A Review

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Roar (Stormheart #1) by Cora Carmack
Fantasy
Published by Tor Teen
Released June 13, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Cora Carmack’s Roar is a book that has been on my radar for a while because the weather-based magic system sounded really cool. I finally made time for it this month, as it’s the chosen book for Chelsea Palmer‘s Page Turners book club. It’s perfect timing, as the sequel, Rageis being released on August 27th (and yes, I’ve already pre-ordered it!).

Roar takes place in a fantasy world dominated by storms. These powerful storms are controlled by Stormling families, who use stormhearts (stones gathered by besting various types of storms) to do so.

Aurora Pavan is a princess and the heir to the Pavan empire, and as such is meant to have storm magic. However, Aurora has kept her lack of magic secret from the world. When we meet her in the story, she’s about to be wed to Cassius, one of the princes from the Locke kingdom, and Aurora is nervous about his finding out that she does not have storm magic. Aurora decides to flee her castle prior to the wedding and join a roaming band of storm hunters after learning that even people born without innate magical abilities are able to learn magic.

I loved this book and was disappointed that I would have to wait a month to read book two. This is the second fantasy book I’ve read that involved weather and storms in a major way (the first being Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series), and that’s something that has excited me so much. Why? Because I’ve been obsessed with the weather since I was in second grade.

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When I say I was obsessed, I mean it. I once wrote a fan letter to a local news meteorologist. I’ve always wanted to be a meteorologist and, if I can ever figure out how to pay for it, will go back to school to do so. When I was a child I was somewhat afraid of storms (especially severe thunderstorms), but that fear eventually grew into an intense fascination. In third grade, my classroom had a computer game where you could make your own forecast maps, and I dominated that computer. My teacher would have to make me get up in order to give my peers a chance to play something. Also, I’m still just as obsessed. I have a really expensive hobby of buying and reading atmospheric science textbooks for fun.

Anyway, I really like weather. The storm magic in this book was really well-done and interesting and made this young adult fantasy novel really stand out in what has become a very saturated market. In the novel, we start to learn that Aurora reacts strangely to storms, and the mystery of why kept me consuming the novel as fast as I could to discover the answers.

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The characters in the book are a lot of fun, especially the band of storm hunters that Aurora joins up with. They’re all very distinct characters, and I hope we learn more of each of their backstories in Rage. The only character that I took some issue with was Locke, Aurora’s love interest and the person tasked with training her to become a hunter. He was rough in his handling of Aurora and was often cruel to her for no reason except some baggage that he was carrying from his past, and that rubbed me the wrong way.

Throughout the novel, Aurora keeps her real identity a secret from the group of storm hunters that she’s joined up with. Going by Roar instead of Aurora, all they know about her is that she has really bad trust issues and reacts strangely to storms. This aspect of her character did annoy me after a while, as she learns so much about the other people that she’s traveling with, but she refuses to tell them anything about herself. After a while, her trust issues and secrecy got a bit annoying, especially since it seems to all be based on the one week or so that she knew her husband-to-be Cassius, and she found out that he wasn’t marrying her for love (which, no shit. You’ve never met one another, so of course, it’s a political marriage).

One last note, I feel like Cora Carmack may have pulled a little too much from Marvel’s storm goddess, Storm. Why? The similarities are pretty obvious. Aurora Pavan vs Ororo Munroe, both have stark white hair, both of them control the weather. The character just made me think so much of Storm, but perhaps that’s just because I’m a huge Marvel fan and Storm is one of my top five favorite X-Men characters.

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If you want to read an original, exciting young adult fantasy novel, look no further. Roar will satisfy you immensely, and hopefully, leave you wondering how in the hell you’re going to wait until the end of August to find out what happens next.


Have you read Roar? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!




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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – A Review

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Grishaverse Trilogy #1
Fantasy
Published by Square Fish/Macmillan
Released June 5, 2012
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

I read the Six of Crows duology and adored everything about it last year (read my reviews here). At the time, I didn’t know that the GrishaVerse trilogy existed, but looking back, I wish I had read the two series in the correct order. Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed Shadow and Bone, and am looking forward to reading the next two books in this trilogy.

Shadow and Bone follows Alina Starkov, an orphan that grew up to be a soldier and mapmaker. Her childhood best friend, Mal, has followed the same path.

The story begins as the army is nearing a terrifying place known as The Fold, or the Unsea. It’s essentially a part of the land that has been erased, overcome by an inky blackness and which is inhabited by the volcra, terrifying flying monsters.

The army is joined by many high-ranking Grisha (people who have magic abilities) as well as the Darkling, second in power only to the king.

The apprehension of the army is warranted, as they are attacked quickly after venturing into the fold. Everything seems lost, until, suddenly, a burst of pure white light saves them.

Alina is captured by the ranking military officials and brought before the Darkling afterward, but she has no idea why, or how she is connected to that brilliant flash of light. From there, the journey follows Alina’s journey as she discovers a magic hidden deep within her.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I really loved this book. It’s in no way perfect, but I flew through it because I had to know what happened next.

There are some really enjoyable characters in this book. Alina and the Darkling are both fascinating, particular the Darkling, who is mysterious and whose motives are we are unsure of. My favorite character in the story, however, is Genya, who is such a fun, colorful character, and I hope we see more of her in the books to come.

At the same time, one of the other main characters in the novel, Alina’s childhood friend Mal, seemed very under-developed in comparison. He just didn’t seem to have much personality, although he did get better towards the very end of the novel.

The reason I couldn’t give this book five stars is that there were a couple of issues that I believe could have been handled better by Bardugo.

First, Alina changes her mind and her loyalties far too quickly, and with nearly no evidence to make the things she does a good decision. I can’t expound on this point too much without giving away spoilers, but there’s a very distinct point in the story where her loyalties change, and it’s too sudden and rash.

Second, the romantic relationship between Alina and the Darkling felt so forced that it caused me to roll my eyes a few times. I guess I understand their relationship, particularly as Alina may be drawn to the power he represents, but I still did not enjoy those parts of the book.

Otherwise, this is a great first book in a trilogy, and I am very much looking forward to reading Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising.


Have you read Shadow and Bone? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!




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Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy – A Review

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Once & Future (Once & Future #1) by Amy Rose CapettaCori McCarthy
Fantasy | Retelling | Science Fiction | Young Adult
Published by Little, Brown and Company
Released March 26, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars

Those of us in the book community who follow countless book-centric blogs, YouTube channels, Instagram accounts, etc., need to be careful when it comes to hype and consensus. I imagine that every single one of us can name at least a handful of over-hyped books that fell flat for us. Likewise, sometimes we hear about various people not liking a particular story, which occasionally leads us to not read it.

This almost happened to me with Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy’s gender-bent, queer retelling of the King Arthur legend, Once & Future. I first heard about this book when some of the most popular Booktubers started hauling their ARCs of it, and I was immediately intrigued.

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Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy

For one thing, I’m slightly obsessed with Arthurian legend and magic swords. Second, I think that modern retellings of classic stories are a lot of fun. Third, I love gender-bent stories. I added Once & Future to my TBR and waited (not-so) patiently for its release date.

Once the book was released, however, I started seeing negative reviews of the novel. I was disappointed, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from trying to enjoy it. In the weeks I waited for it while on hold at my library, I kept hearing that it was “just alright,” nothing special. At one point, I even considered canceling my hold on it.

I am so thrilled that I stayed on that hold list and eventually got the opportunity to read it.

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I loved Once & Future. It’s a fun remix of a classic legend, with loveable characters and exciting quests.

In Once & Future, we meet Ari, who is the forty-second reincarnation of King Arthur. She’s from a planet called Ketch which has essentially been quarantined from the rest of the universe by the Mercer Corporation – a tyrannical, monopolistic company that runs literally everything. Ari was adopted by her parents at a young age and has an adopted brother named Kay, who is now the only family she has, as the Mercer Corporation has imprisoned their parents.

During a resupply mission on a space station near Earth, things go horribly wrong and Kay and Ari end up on the run from the Mercer Corporation. In a last chance effort to outrun them in their seriously under-powered spaceship, Ari takes the ship down onto the surface of Earth.

On Earth, Ari stumbles upon a sword stuck in a large tree and pulls it out. You guessed it – the sword is none other than the famed Excalibur. The sword’s removal awakens Merlin, the magical wizard we all know of – except in this world, he’s aging backward due to a curse, and is currently an awkward teenager.

Ari, Merlin, and several other characters based on the classic legend, such as Gwen, Lam, and Val, work together to try to discover the truth about what happened on Ketch while also trying to take down the Mercer corporation.

This is such a fun novel. I love that Gwen is the Queen of a planet obsessed with medieval times, complete with robotic horses and jousting. I also appreciated the humor in the novel. I’ve always been a huge fan of comedic sci-fi or fantasy, and that’s exactly what this is. At the same time, however, the novel deals with very serious topics, such as genocide, pollution, and betrayal. I feel as though the authors did a great job of balancing both the serious and the comical aspects.

The book is wonderfully diverse, with a wide range of characters and sexuality. I love stories with plenty of representation, and this one doesn’t disappoint. In this world, no one cares what your sexual preferences are or what pronoun you choose to use – it’s all completely normal to these characters. However, one of the few gripes I have with the story is that all of this diversity is used as the defining characteristics of these characters. In a world where diversity is really fully embraced, wouldn’t those characteristics be in the background? I wish some of the characters had been given more personality than just to say that they’re ace or pan.

There were definitely bits of the book that I cringed at, such as Merlin singing a Katy Perry song, but those moments were few. I feel like people are way too harsh on this novel. I really it and I’m looking forward to its sequel, to be released in 2020.


Have you read Once & Future? What did you think?




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The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick – A Review

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The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Contemporary Fiction | Romance
Published by Sarah Crichton Books
Released September 2, 2008
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_1_and_a_half_stars

When I was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, I wanted to understand more about it. Since I’m obsessed with books, that resulted in trying to find books with bipolar characters. I typed “books with bipolar characters” into Google, and one of the books that kept popping up over and over again was Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook.

I’d heard of this book but didn’t know too much about it, aside from that it had been made into a film. I figured since it was rated fairly well, I’d give it a shot.

I wish I hadn’t.

Before I get into why I wish I hadn’t read it, a little synopsis in case you’re not familiar with the story. We follow Pat, who is recently out of a psychiatric hospital and is staying with his parents after suffering a mental break. We’re not sure at first what caused him to end up in this situation, although we start to piece it together little by little. Pat has issues with anger and is pining over his estranged wife.

We also meet Tiffany, who is depressed after the sudden death of her husband. Tiffany is incredibly socially awkward and starts to follow Pat on his daily runs. Slowly, the two of them start to spend more time together, especially after Pat agrees to help her win a dance competition in exchange for Tiffany acting as a liaison between himself and his wife. This is a romance book, so you can probably guess what happens next.

So, why didn’t I like The Silver Linings Playbook?

First of all, there are no bipolar characters in this book. I’m not sure why The Silver Linings Playbook is on so many lists of novels with bipolar characters. Pat seems to have a brain injury, and Tiffany is a depressed nymphomaniac. Perhaps in the film adaptation, they call what Pat has bipolar disorder? I’ve never seen the film, so I’m not sure, but it’s the only explanation I can think of.

Second, both Pat and Tiffany act and talk like they’re children. Pat constantly refers to “the bad place” and “apart time” in such a childish way that it made me cringe every time he said it.

Third, we learn that Pat’s wife is an English teacher, so in an attempt to feel closer to her, Pat reads several classic novels. If you haven’t read the following novels, you might want to skip reading The Silver Linings Playbook, because author Matthew Quick spoils the ending for all of these:

Fourth, I found the book to be mildly offensive to people with mental illness, particularly in regards to depression. I’ve dealt with moderate to severe depression for most of my adult life, and the way Tiffany was written was so off-putting to me. Yes, some people might deal with the loss of a partner with promiscuity, but her entire character was over-simplified in such a way that it was more of a quirk than a serious illness. I really feel as though Matthew Quick just wanted to make his characters quirky rather than really portraying what living with a mental illness is like.

Fifth, and finally, Quick’s writing was sloppy and simple. I had to push my way through this short book. I constantly wanted to DNF it, but I also really wanted to review it and share my thoughts, so I forced myself to finish it. I know this review is going to come across as harsh, but I felt that it was necessary to be truthful with this review. I did not like the mental illness representation in The Silver Linings Playbook, the characters were weak at best, and the book left a bad taste in my mouth.


Have you read The Silver Linings Playbook? What did you think of it? Let’s have a discussion in the comments.




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Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau – A Review

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Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau
Non-Fiction | Self-Help | Personal Finance
Published by Crown Business
Released September 19, 2017
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars

My number one goal in life is to work for myself. I’ve never been a fan of corporate 9-5 desk jobs or customer service jobs. It stifles my creativity and heightens by anxiety and stress. My current job is so stressful that it prompted me to start taking anti-anxiety medications, eventually leading to the drugs not working and finding out that I’m bipolar.

Chris Guillebeau is the writer behind the blog The Art of Non-Conformity. He writes about how to work for yourself and live a freer life, both things that I can fully get behind.

Side Hustle‘s goal is to set up a profitable side hustle in just 27 days, specifically “designed for the busy and impatient.” I did appreciate that the book was geared toward people who already have a full-time job and a lack of free time, which is probably most of us.

Get rich quick schemes are nothing new, especially in America. It’s safe to say that most of us would like to have more money and more free time.

The book is full of useful information. The reason I couldn’t rate it higher than three stars, however, is that none of the information in this book is new or innovative. It’s the same information that you can find for free online.

Also, the whole “getting rich in 27 days” aspect of the book seemed gimmicky and lessened the quality of the advice.

I can’t bring myself to recommend this book because you can literally get all of this information for free online. There’s no need to buy and read this book.


Have you read Side Hustle? What did you think?




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Becoming by Michelle Obama – A Review

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Becoming by Michelle Obama
Non-Fiction | Memoir
Published by Crown
Released November 13, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

I feel the need to preface this review by admitting a bit of bias.

I have a massive crush on Michelle Obama.

When Barack Obama ran for the presidency in 2008, I was in college studying political science. I was surrounded by politics and I staunchly supported Obama. His presidency wasn’t perfect, but there was a great deal of good that happened during his eight years in office.

Michelle stole the spotlight from Barack, at least from where I was standing. I’ve always been immersed in food movements that promote local, healthy, farm-to-table ways of eating. Michelle was such a wonderful supporter of healthy eating as well as helping children to create healthier habits. She is also known for encouraging women and people of color to believe in themselves. For these things, I became a bit of a fangirl.

I tried to put those feelings aside when reading Becoming, although, if anything, learning about her life and her story made me appreciate Michelle Obama even more.

Michelle Obama was born into a normal family in a less-than-perfect part of Chicago. She wasn’t born into wealth. The main aspect of her story that impacted me was how the things that happened to her could happen to anyone. All of her success came from hard work.

However, she regularly recognized all of the people that helped her get to where she is now:

“I’d been lucky to have parents, teachers, and mentors who’d fed me with a consistent, simple message: You matter. As an adult, I wanted to pass those words to a new generation. It was the message I gave my own daughters, who were fortunate to have it reinforced daily by their school and their privileged circumstances, and I was determined to express some version of it to every young person I encountered. I wanted to be the opposite of the guidance counselor I’d had in high school, who’d blithely told me I wasn’t Princeton material.”

Especially when discussing her extended family, she speaks about how policies of discrimination can have lasting effects on people of color and the areas in which they live. When the opportunities of one generation are hampered, the next couple of generations will suffer disadvantages as well. This is a point that is easily forgotten in this day and age, but there are still plenty of communities facing such latent effects of discrimination.

“This particular form of discrimination altered the destinies of generations of African Americans, including many of the men in my family, limiting their income, their opportunity, and, eventually, their aspirations. … These were highly intelligent, able-bodied men who were denied access to stable high-paying jobs, which in turn kept them from being able to buy homes, send their kids to college, or save for retirement.”

Obviously, much of her memoir involves Barack Obama, and the story of how they met and fell in love was heart-warming and eye-opening. I enjoyed the mention of the car Barack owned when they first started dating, which had a hole in the passenger side floor through which Michelle could see pavement. It’s just one more thing that makes the Obamas relatable to the average person.

This entire memoir is an inspiration for people that believe or feel as though they don’t belong. From her childhood on the south side of Chicago to her days as First Lady of the United States of America, she offers candid insights into her life, the life of her family, and how anybody can have the kind of success that she did.

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer – A Review

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Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer
Young Adult | Fantasy | Fairy Tales
Published by Page Street Publishing
Released January 15, 2019
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars

_If you love something you will not give it up, not for anything. It belongs to you, it is part of you. If you grab hold of it and never let it go - no one can take it from you._

The only two things I knew about this book when I added it to my Goodreads TBR list were that it has an absolutely amazing cover and that it’s a fairy tale retelling. I can’t stress enough how much I love this cover. It’s one of my favorites from the new releases of this year.

Echo North is a fairy tale retelling based on the Norwegian East of the Sun, West of the Moon, with other influences including Scotland’s Tam Lin and 19th Century Siberian Russia. It’s very easy to see all of these elements in Joanna Ruth Meyer’s novel, and I love that, at the end of the book, she included an author’s note that discusses her influences.

The novel follows Echo, a young girl whose face was badly scarred by a white wolf as a child. As a result of her scars, the villagers treat her badly and believe she has the devil in her. One day her father goes to the city to sell some of his manuscripts to fix the family’s financial woes, and he doesn’t come back. Echo stumbles upon his barely-alive form in the snow in the woods, where she also encounters the same white wolf that scarred her all those years ago.

The wolf makes a deal with her:  He’ll save her father if she agrees to go with the wolf and live with him for one year. Terrified of losing her father, Echo agrees and is whisked away to a magical, living house.

The wolf teaches her how to care for the living house and tells her that he is dying. Over time, the Wolf and Echo become friends. Echo also discovers a library full of book mirrors – mirrors you can step in to in order to experience an entire story. She meets two new friends in these stories; Hal, a handsome young man that immediately intrigues Echo, and Mokosh, a princess with her own library full of book mirrors.

Working alongside the wolf, Echo tries desperately to save the house which is become unsafe and unbound, while also trying to save Hal, who is trapped in the book mirrors.

I wanted to like this book so badly, and I did get some enjoyment out of reading it, but the entire plot is based around an incredibly problematic romantic relationship, and I couldn’t overlook the implications of that relationship.

**This Section Contains Spoilers**

Essentially, the wolf tricks Echo into staying with him. As soon as Echo made her promise to the wolf, a villager from her village drives his cart along the path where her father is, and it’s the villager who takes her father to safety. The wolf even admits to Echo further into the story that this would have happened anyway.

The wolf is dishonest with her as soon as she’s in his house, even attacking her when she steps into the wrong room. She forgives him for all of this, but there’s a much more serious betrayal. Again, this part contains spoilers, so if you haven’t read the book you might want to skip this section.

 

When Echo discovers that the Wolf is Hal, and that he’s tricked her into taking his place as a possession of the evil Queen of the Wood, she still forgives him. Call it Stockholm syndrome or Echo’s own passivity, but I can’t support a story with such a problematic “love” in it. Echo not only endures a great deal of pain and suffering to free her captor and betrayer, but she does it twice! If I were in her shoes (and I believe this would be true for any self-respecting person), once I learned the truth of Hal’s deception and lies, I would leave him to his fate. After all, he didn’t respect Echo and took her away from her family and her life. Why on earth would he deserve any respect?

**End of Spoilers**

This novel also contains every fairy tale trope you can think of:  An evil stepmother, an evil queen, talking animals, magic mirrors, the main character’s dead mother, and the list goes on and on.

I did really like the idea of the book mirrors, and that’s a fantasy element I can get behind. Just imagining something so wonderful and magical makes me happy. Unfortunately, one interesting element couldn’t save the entire book for me.

Due to the problematic love interest, I can’t give this book any more than two stars. While there were some elements that I didn’t hate in the first half of the book, once the truth of the Wolf came to light, all respect I had for this book disappeared.


Have you read Echo North? What were your thoughts?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

On this road there are no godspoke men. They are gone and I am left and they have taken with them the world. Query: How does the never to be differ from what never was?

The Book

The Road - Cormac McCarthy

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Post-Apocalyptic | Adult Fiction
Published by Knopf
Released September 26, 2006
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars


Synopsis

This is Cormac McCarthy’s most recent book to be published. It is a post-apocalyptic tale told in a very minimalist style. By minimalistic I mean that there’s very little we actually know: McCarthy never tells us what happened to cause the mass extinction event, we don’t know the names of our two characters, we have no idea where exactly the story takes place, and we don’t know how long it’s been since the cataclysmic event happened.

What we do know is that a man and his son are trying to survive against the many, many odds that are stacked against them as they travel south in an effort to escape the brutal winters. They’re starving, sleeping on the ground, scavenging what bits and pieces they find along the way. Their world is described as gray and covered in ash. There are earthquakes and the sun is all but absent.

The Road won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, along with several other awards.


Review

The Road is my favorite book. I’ve read it every November since the first time I picked it up almost a decade ago. Despite reading it so many times, the last few pages still make me weep. This book is devasting.

The thing that a reader first picks up on is the writing style. McCarthy is not a fan of punctuation and proper grammar. You will not find any quotation marks in this book. He also leaves everything as vague as he possibly can. As I mentioned in the synopsis above, we don’t know much of anything. Throughout the book, the father is referred to as the man, and his son is the boy. They walk through towns but we are never told what town they’re in. I’ve heard a lot of people say that McCarthy’s style is off-putting, and while I do understand that, I actually really enjoy that aspect of this novel. The anonymity of the story makes me feel like it could happen to anyone. I also just love McCarthy’s overall writing style:

No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes. So, he whispered to the sleeping boy. I have you. 

The vagueness of the setting also serves to bring the focus of the story to the relationship between father and son. They have nothing but each other. The father will do whatever it takes to keep his son alive, while the son wants to help others and is terrified of the world around him.

Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.

The characters frequently mention god and “carrying the fire,” but even the religion is vague in the story. You can read what you want to in it.

The individual scenes in The Road are mostly devasting, terrifying, sickening, and worse. I don’t want to include spoilers, but there are a few scenes that will leave you shaken, such as one that takes place in a pantry beneath a kitchen. However, much less frequent, there are also a few happy scenes that will make your heart swell, such as when they share a scavenged Coca-Cola, which the boy has never tasted before. It’s a sweet scene that breaks up the terror of their lives.

Despite how many times I’ve read this book, I still weep while reading the final few pages. The ending is depressing, and it also makes me cry for a more personal reason.

*THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS*

The man, who spends the latter part of the book coughing violently, reminds me of the couple of years before my mother died. She would also have incredibly long and disturbing coughing fits. When it happens in the book, it brings those memories back to me, and that is definitely one of the reasons this book makes me cry every single time I read it.


Verdict

I recommend this book to literally everyone. I will continue to read it every November as I’ve been doing. It’s the perfect book to read once the leaves have mostly fallen off the trees and the landscape is starting to get a wintry, barren look.


Have you read The Road? What did you think?


 



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