ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

“I. Am. In. Pieces.”

Official Summary: (goodreads.com)

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

My thoughts: This book will break your heart. In a good way. But also a broken way. Finch manages to take a seat in your heart and then rip it to pieces, one word at a time. Violet is the broken girl who tries to save him after he saves her on the bell tower, and together they go searching for the perfect day. I honestly don’t even want to write about this book, because the raw emotion just made it one of those books that you want to keep to yourself, let it settle a bit before you discuss it. But Finch and Violet weave through this book with their unique voices, and even though it is predictable (I figured out the ending about halfway through the book) it’s one of those novels that you just keep hoping everything will turn out okay. But the reality of Finch’s mental illness, the elegant way in which his thoughts are given voice on the page, and the heartbreaking spiral of his manic depression catch your breath and maybe a little piece of me died inside. This book as been likened to The Fault in Our Stars or Eleanor and Park, but I see very little resemblance other than the superficial. While John Green’s characters battle physical illnesses, Niven’s Theodore Finch fights his own mind and, ultimately, falls off balance. If you’re going to equate All the Bright Places with The Fault in Our Stars, you may as well equate everyone with any kind of illness, mental or physical, as being the same. Just because a book is well written and uses quotes from literature between the characters does NOT make it the same as another book that does the same, especially when that literature is not the same. Finch is infinitely different from Augustus Waters, and Violet is infinitely different than Hazel. If you say different, I say you haven’t really read either of these books, or haven’t looked past the very top layer of what you see- a boy and girl, difficulty, tragedy. All the Bright Places is a book about choices when you feel like there is only one option, a book of love that can never last, a book about pain and loss and beauty in the middle of it all. Near the end, Finch writes: “The thing I realize is that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.” And Jennifer Niven has left us a painful, breathtakingly real book that gives us a little bit courage to fight like a boy called Finch and a girl named Violet.

What to Watch: (SPOILER ALERT)

As this is a contemporary teen romance, we find, as we usually do nowadays, that those in the romantic relationship end up having sex. There’s nothing graphic, but you know it’s happening, and it happens several times.

As for drugs and alcohol, there is some mention of both, and Finch is a smoker, although not all the time. Only when he’s British Finch or Bada** Finch does he smoke, even though he always has a pack of cigarettes with him.

Language is used frequently in this book, of all kinds, so that is something to watch out for when deciding whether to read (even though, really, it isn’t a constant barrage).

As for violence/disturbing images, (HUGE SPOILER) Finch thinks about killing himself a lot, and writes down what method he would use and why he didn’t. But eventually he does kill himself, and Violet finds the body in one of the places they go to wander. Finch also gets in several fights where he injures others, and his father is abusive, so one their once-weekly visits occasionally we read about that abuse.

I really loved this book, but I’m never going to read it again and put myself through that kind of emotional trauma. My applause to Ms. Niven, though- she’s written a real, emotional, gut-wrenching novel that will stay with readers for a long time. However, due to the nature of the book and events that transpire, as well as the detail about Finch’s descent into depression, I would recommend this for mature readers age 15 and up. This is not a book to be taken lightly, and it should not be read as a go-ahead for suicide even when things are looking up. If you or a friend have considered suicide or think you may have bipolar disorder or manic depression, please get help immediately from a responsible adult.

Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!

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FAIREST: LEVANA’S STORY

“Maybe the princess could save herself.”

My Rating: PG-13 for some sexual themes, violence, disturbing images, and just plain craziness.

Official Summary: (From goodreads.com)
Mirror, mirror on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.

My thoughts: Levana is psycho. I mean, we knew that before, with all her scheming and the insanity that is the Lunar Queen, but this book draws out just how twisted she really is. It was much darker than the previous three books, with little humor and a lot of painful realizations. It’s almost difficult to read, and I’ll admit that I nearly put it down at a few points and didn’t pick it back up because I was so uncomfortable. But that just goes to show how deep Levana’s insanity really goes, and has been so deep since she was just fifteen years of age. Anyway, I never put it down, and while it was horrifying in places, it was also a very eye-opening read, letting you see the reasoning behind Levana’s cruelty and solving the mystery- finally– of what she really is behind the glamour and the veil.

What to Watch: (SPOILER ALERT)

There are a lot of sexual references in this book. Channary loves to flirt and makes many comments about it, Levana is obsessed with an older man and eventually marries him after his wife’s death, and there are many instances where it speaks of them ‘going to the bedroom’ or engaging in sexual activities, even when there are no graphic details. There is kissing, too, which is unsurprising considering the characters go farther than that.

As far as violence/disturbing images goes, there are some, as mentioned. Channary is very cruel, and used the bioelectric manipulation to hold Levana in a fire, scarring her very badly. The ability to know the inner workings of Levana’s mind is in itself a disturbing fact, because her twisted obsession with Evret Hayle goes beyond a childish crush and into a dangerous delusion. And she does not know where the line is, brainwashing Hayle into a mindless drone and forcing him into romantic situations, and finally marriage, all the while believing that he loves her of his own accord.

They do drink some wine (or their equivalent), but there is no drug use and no foul language in this book, which is at least one plus.

Of course, the decision is always yours what to read or leave on the shelf, but I hope this helped in your decision, or at least left you a little more enlightened. I did like this book, but not nearly as much as I enjoy the full novels- Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress. It was a decent filler for the wait for Winter, though, out in the fall of 2015.

Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!

AVALON

“Stealing a spaceship shouldn’t be this easy.”

https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1371481016l/17149396.jpg

My rating: PG-13 for some suggestive wording, a spot of language, and violence throughout.

Official Summary: Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light.

Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they’re damn good at it. Jeth doesn’t care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents’ ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he’ll go to get the freedom he’s wanted for so long.

Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon’s cult hit show Firefly.

My thoughts: While it took a little while for this one to catch my interest, once it did, I was swept away. Holy moly. This book…When it says it’s a match for fans of Firefly, it isn’t kidding. I love that show, and I loved this book. It picked up fast, and no one can trust anyone, leading to all kinds of betrayals and twists just when you think everything is finally going to work out. The writing is gorgeous, descriptive enough to give you a complete picture but not so detailed as to bore you with the never-ending sci-fi talk. While it does take some getting used to, what with the new terms that always come with a science fiction novel, it ultimately is a wild joyride of action and weird happenings in the Bermuda Triangle- of space.

What to watch:

     As far as language goes, there was very little cursing, and that only happened in the most dire of situations.

     As far as romance, one of the ruses they use to sneak by guards is two crew members in ‘passionate embrace’, and there is a touch of romance with the leader and another girl, but it’s nothing too extreme, just kissing, and most of the detail is what they’re thinking (even though it’s slightly cliché- “hearts beating in harmony” and so on). There are some suggestions from the bad guys about putting the girls in a brothel, as a threat to the main character.

     The biggest issue in this book (if the small amount counts as an issue) was some of the violence. The main character works for the cruelest man around, and he is willing to torture anyone to get what he wants. That includes our hero, and there are some mentions of child abuse by someone who is supposed to be good. There’s a lot of fighting, shooting, and some killing, including a few semi-graphic deaths of influential characters in the story.

     Overall, I thought this was a great read, and I recommend it for anyone, not just lovers of science fiction and interstellar pirates. But of course, everyone reads what they want to read, so go for the gold, whatever that gold is to you!

Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!

I WAS HERE

“Sometimes you don’t even need to be in the same room for the damage to be done.”

My Rating: PG-13 for language throughout (and f-bombs are included frequently), some sexual themes, and the fact that it’s about a girl that drank industrial chemicals to kill herself.

Official Summary: Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

My thoughts: I didn’t love this book. It dragged for me, and the characters were too predictable for their angst to really pull me in. The main character, Cody, is suffering through this loss of her best friend, but you don’t feel her pain- all you feel is the ‘head-desk’ sensation because of her disjointed feelings. The main love interest, Ben McAllister, is supposed to be heart-wrenching and ends up annoying, predictable, and utterly boring. The book would have been good if the plot between the two main characters had been a little more unique, but it wasn’t, so this one fell flat for me. The cover’s gorgeous, though.

What to Watch: (SPOILER ALERT)

Language is used throughout, and it’s mostly the f-bomb. It seems to be Ben’s favorite word to describe life, his actions, and everything else under the sun, and he’s not the only one.

There are prevalent sexual themes: Ben had sex with Meg before, and then later he and Cody have sex, and there are innuendos and not-so-subtle hints about it peppered into the writing.

Drugs are present, and although the two main characters do not partake, they have a friend called ‘Stoner’ Richard who constantly is smoking some illegal substance and asking them if they want to join.

As far as violence goes, there’s not much except for the emotional trauma and the frequent references to death/suicide/Meg’s specific suicide.

I didn’t love this book, and there were a lot of cautions, even though they weren’t these big huge red flags. So again, it’s up to you. I hope this helped!

Questions? Comments? Have a book you’d like me to review? Post a comment below and tell me what you think!