A Very Late July Wrap Up

Sorry for the awful lighting and for this being put up so late.


Benji And Ashley’s Reviews – Clockwork Angel

Normally, I cut and paste my reviews from Goodreads to post here. However, I am not entirely happy with my Goodreads review, so I am going to post a new review for this one.

My other review can be read here

I am going to condense this review a bit, as I have sorted through my feelings regarding the book. The Goodreads review was written the same day I finished it, so I had less time to reflect.

I started reading Clockwork Angel having never read any of Cassandra Clare’s novels prior. I have no experience with The Mortal Instruments despite their popularity, and it was my first time learning about the Shadow World. As such, I didn’t quite know what to expect from this book. I was pleasantly surprised by it. Many of the complaints I have noticed reference how her characters in this trilogy are too similar to the characters in her other work(s). Being that Clockwork Angel is the only book I have read so far, I can neither agree nor disagree with such claims. I do hope that the reviewers are exaggerating, however, because I really enjoyed her characters. I felt like each one had a unique personality, and that each was well rounded. None of them felt like they were too perfect or too imperfect, and they all felt believable. I love how Tessa grew stronger from the beginning to the end, and I love how she made me want to know more about Will’s past. I am hesitant to ever read The Mortal Instruments now, because I don’t want my love for the characters in this book to shatter upon realizing they may be carbon copies.

Tessa was supposed to be the main character – the heroine – but I truly feel as though this was not her story. This is Will and Jem’s story. They are the two who shine the most, the two who kept me wanting to read more. The only involvement I felt in regards to Tessa was curiosity about how she came to be. I eagerly await being able to read the next book as I truly do want to know. More than any of that, though, I want to know what becomes of Jem, and what happened to Will. Each of them have such an intriguing back story that that alone kept me turning the pages. The book has a few slow chapters, but Clare makes up for that in plot twists. She keeps those coming, which made me want more.

Not much bothered me about this book. I can be quite nit-picky, so that truly is an accomplishment. The only things I found that I felt I wanted to complain about where that a) she uses way too many metaphors and similes. Her use of them detracts from the writing, and was quite frankly annoying at times. And b) her action scenes felt lackluster. She made up for the latter with well timed plot twists, and well thought out plotting. I did not see the end coming, and could not have predicted it. My only other complaint is that the epilogue was one giant freaking cliffhanger that felt unnecessary and tacked on to ensure I’d buy the next book. I would have done that anyway.

As always, I sympathised with the characters I wasn’t supposed to. I have a bad habit of siding with the bad guys. I cannot say which characters I sympathised with the most without spoiling the book, so I will push that aside. However, she did have me rooting for many of the characters, and Will was so frustrating that by the end I felt like I wanted to both hug him and smack him across the face.

Overall, I believe I am going to give this one 3.5 out of 5 stars. I would give it 4, but as I said in my Goodreads review the overuse of similes and metaphors really did start to grate my nerves. I will definitely be reading the other two books in this trilogy, and am glad I decided to try it.

Joshua’s Island Review

This month I was given a eBook copy of Joshua’s Island by Patrick Hodges for a honest review. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed this book.

We follow the story of Joshua who for three years is bullied in his school while everyone pretends not to see what is happening, including the principle. On the first day of eighth grade, in science class, Joshua is partnered up with a popular girl named Eve. Eve has heard so awful things about Joshua from her classmates but when she sees how Joshua is being bullied, she starts to wonder how much of the things she heard is true. Eve discovers that rumors are really bad lies and decides that she would rather be a nobody than a somebody.

I did not like the duel points of view in the beginning of the book. The duel points of view felt like they were being repeated between the characters. Toward the middle of the book the duel points of view became much better We started to see more of Eve and who she was. Of course I think most people will associate with Joshua especially if you have been bullied and picked on. I do wish there was a little more about Eve.

I loved the ending of this book and almost cried. This book is a middle grade novel and is a very fast read. It focuses on bullying and bullying awareness. I think everyone of all ages should read this book.

Thank you Patrick for the opportunity to read this awesome book and I can’t wait to read more of you books!

Benji’s Reviews – Almost Perfect

I was not sure what to expect from this one. Having read through some of the reviews, I began to have buyer’s remorse shortly before reading it. I knew this would be a sensitive one for me to read, given the topic material and my own identity, but I also knew how important a topic this was. The synopsis pretty much sums the book up. I feel as though that alone affected my rating. There were not many surprises for the first half of reading, because I already knew that Sage was a transwoman, and I already knew that Logan would find out. I, also, knew that he would not take it well.

Many books that deal with the subject focus on the trans*person themselves. Addressing the issues we have to face such as dysphoria, societal stigma, coming out, and attempting to merge our old lives with our true identity. While Almost Perfect does address all of that (and more), the story is told from Logan’s point of view. This adds a new element to the story, addressing issues that are less spoken of – specifically dating, and the reason many of us who fall on the transgender spectrum are fearful of doing it.

Let me begin by stating, this book was an emotional roller coaster for me. Reading Logan’s initial reaction was hard, as it brought to mind many of my own fears. It reminded me why I refused to date for so long. It addressed the issue so believably, and so realistically, that it opened up old wounds that I didn’t know I had. As such, I cannot say I recommend this to transgender youth or young adults who are still in the grips of dysphoria. It was far from an easy read for me. Many pages triggered my dysphoria, many scenes made me shudder in a combination of both disgust and fear. Yet, I could not put the book down. The thing is that it was handled realistically. Logan’s initial reaction was realistic. His internal dialogue made me hate him at times, it made me feel like he was a jerk, but it was believable. There really are people out there who feel the way Logan did. While the book was hard for me to read, I do believe it could be eye opening for those outside the trans* spectrum.

What I enjoyed most about this book was that both Sage and Logan experienced a lot of growth, and it never once felt forced. I truly felt as though they were growing as characters. I felt as though Logan was learning, and realizing his feelings for Sage did not make him any less of a man, and that Sage’s body did not make her any less of a woman. Likewise, I felt as though Sage was experience a similar growth, but in a different way. Their relationship developed realistically, too. That never felt forced, and never felt fake or phoney. And best of all, Logan did not feel like the stereotypical male trope who got the girl despite doing nothing at all. The two worked really hard to maintain their friendship, and I could see that both of them were struggling. Sage especially.

There are a few problems I had with the book. Sage’s parents seemed underdeveloped, almost one dimensional. The problem with her dad was that I’ve seen that same dad in almost every LGBT book I’ve read that dealt with a gay son or a trans*girl. Why, for once, can’t the mother be the one who denies her child? (It happens) Which brings me to my next point, for a book that handles transgender issues, it sure is loaded to the brim with gender stereotypes. Some are forgivable, as the vast majority were Logan’s internal dialogue (and he seems to be the kind of guy who before Sage made assumptions based on someone’s parts), but every now and then some would slip outside of internal dialogue. When handling gender issues, I think it’s important to let go of such stereotypes. Transgender youth struggle with those enough, without them slipping into a book dealing with the topic. There were a few lines that struck me as a bit racist, too, but I won’t go too deeply into that. They did seem out of place in the book, however.

I enjoyed Sage’s character the most. Sage was not a stereotype of transgender women. She had a personality that was all her own. She was not the cliche that I usually see in books handling the subject. Sage actually felt unique. As Logan began crushing on her, I found myself crushing on her character. Sage was someone I would love to know. I would have been friends with Sage, if given the chance. One of the reviews I’ve read about this book said that while Logan is telling the story, this is truly Sage’s story. I don’t entirely agree, but I do feel this is both of their stories. Sage is just as important to the story as Logan is, and Sage is the more likable of the two. Throughout the entire book, I was rooting for both of them. I wanted so badly for things to work out between them that I could not put it down.

But of course, things did not work out for them. I kind of saw the attack coming, given some of the reviews I saw on the Goodreads description. The attack left me feeling shaken up, and horrified. As stated previously, this is not a good book for a trans* person still experiencing anxiety, depression, or dysphoria. After the attack, I figured things would not work out for Sage and Logan, but a part of me still hoped. Also, after the attack, the book started to go downhill. The end left me angry. I felt like Brian Katcher had punched me in the stomach. I read through the book, waiting for something, and I never got it. The end was anticlimactic, and inconclusive. Holy cliff hanger batman. I was so angry when I read the last page.

This book was a page turner in some spots, but it truly was an emotional experience for me. It brought to my mind many fears I haven’t thought about in a long time, some feelings I’ve tried to suppress, and realizations about my own identity. Still, many parts made me angry. It was hard reading Logan’s internal dialogue after Sage came out to him. It was harder learning to realize that he was a person with feelings, too. The fact that I did have to realize that, though, is what let me know this book needed to be written. It is an important subject, and it had to be written. I don’t know why Brian wrote it, but I am glad he did. Still, there are many imperfections that made me angry. The use of the word “transgendered” made me annoyed, the gender stereotypes seeping their way into secondary characters annoyed me, the ending ticked me off, and the writing was hard to deal with at times. In short, this book could have been so much better. I would even go as far as to say it was “almost perfect”.

Benji’s First Review – Jurassic Park

I should start this review by saying: I love dinosaurs. I love dinosaurs so much that I feel this review may be a little biased as a result. It’s not necessarily factual information that I love, which is perhaps how I was so able to enjoy the book (and the subsequent film), but it is the very idea of dinosaurs that has always excited me. As a child, I loved dinosaurs. This love was never encouraged by anyone. It was never discouraged, either, but lack of encouragement resulted in me forgetting over the years how much I had loved dinosaurs, and that for many years I wanted so badly to be a paleontologist like Grant in the movie. I remember watching the movie as a kid, and I was never afraid of it. Rather, I was fascinated by the dinosaurs. I always loved the films, and so when I saw that the book store had stocked this especially for the 25th anniversary, I was happy. I was excited. I was ready to dive right into Jurassic Park. This was my face.
 photo 01ahappy_zpspjkgyyeu.jpg
I got so much more from the book than just dinosaurs, though. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the dinosaurs are nice, but the book itself. Wow. I do admit, I am probably biased, but having taken a Humanities course on technological change and how it impact society, I realized quickly that there is an underlying message in the book. I could relate a lot of what I read to the Humanities course, and I thoroughly enjoyed that. The book has it all. It has Luddites, it has technology left behinds, it has references to how as a society we rely heavily on technology (as my professor always said “It is because, as a species, we are puny”), and it has an overall message in regards to technological advance. I guess the message may be up to interpretation. At some points in the book, it seems to paint the technology as entirely negative. Other instances, however, provide a more neutral look. It is neither positive or negative, it just is. When it becomes negative, as Malcolm states plainly closer to the end, is when humans get too confident in their abilities. As the scientists in the book do. They believed they could control something that was, in the end, entirely out of their control. I am sure my professor had a field day with this one if he ever read it, and I’m sure he had a field day with the movie when it came out (safe to assume he watched it, you’d have to live under a rock not to!). Technology just is, and just as we found ways to adapt, Malcolm points out in the end that the Earth does. Whether you agree with the overall message or not (I did at some times, did not at others), it still makes the book even more interesting than being “just dinosaurs”.

Apparent underlying message aside, I really did enjoy the book. The science is wrong at times, and the information about paleontology and dinosaurs is a bit outdated (as Grant points out, it is a growing field – that changes every time new information is discovered). Crichton describes all his dinosaurs in detail, but despite his descriptions I could not help but picture the velicoraptors more like this
 photo 73fc42f4-7235-4632-8096-37d685855f89_zpsa8izwzam.jpg
Of course, though, at the time the book was written there was likely still debate about whether they would have had feathers or not. I think even when I was in school I learned that they were probably more reptilian (which is surprising since the book addresses this, describing them as more of a combination of reptilian and avian, but public education does lag behind sometimes). He, also, uses the wrong names, but I think this is intentional as he seems to address this (referring to certain dinosaurs as the “correct” names) and seems mostly to be doing this for the reader.

There are things that bothered me about the paleontology (the way the digging was described, as well as the handling of the fossils, seemed wrong), but I will leave that up to someone with more knowledge there to explain. I tend to gravitate more toward the social sciences these days than the physical ones.

So, moving on with the review, I really did enjoy this book. The only reason I cannot give it more than three stars has a lot to do with the character development. Simply put, many of them felt like the same character. I could see growth as the book progressed in some, particularly Malcolm (I hated him less by the end than I did in the beginning), but for the most part they all felt like they were stagnant. The writing style doesn’t help much, either. I know many writers follow the rule of never using anything between dialogue other than “said” and “asked”, but in practice this doesn’t always work. Sometimes we need the descriptors. I feel in a thriller/horror science-fiction novel they are important. These people are fighting for their lives. They are trying to defend themselves against dinosaurs. Nothing would have been wrong with saying “he screamed” or “she said anxiously” or “he said between crying”. Those would have made the characters seem less flat. As was written, I had trouble – at times – believing they realized they were in true danger.

The exception to this rule were the kids. Tim and Lex seemed to realize how much danger they were in. A lot of people criticize this by saying they behaved stupidly, but they’re kids and they were in danger. Their behavior, at times, made sense to me. There were some instances where this was ruined. Times where the kids seemed either too calm, or too complacent, but when the actual danger was occurring, they were terrified, and I could tell they were. It made me wonder what happened after they left the park. As a psych nerd, I began to realize the real horror would be the scars they’d suffer mentally during their development because they were, you know, almost eaten by a t-rex.

The plot was involving, from beginning to end pretty much. Even though I knew what was going to happen (as I said, you’d had to have lived under a rock not to), I could not stop reading. There was little action, but when there was action it was pretty well written. There is a lot of technical talk, but it’s not too hard to get through it. I admit that I skimmed some of it, as some of it felt pointlessly pedantic and unnecessary. Though what is common sense now, may not have been then, so I tried to keep that in mind while reading. The world created in the book is intriguing, though. The whole idea of an island full of dinosaurs is – to someone who loves dinosaurs, at least – very awesome. Despite the fact that his characters seem to lack any real development (barring a few), I really did enjoy this book. It has its flaws – the characters, the science (at times), the fact that many of the characters seemed unaffected by the park going wrong (I do think that was kind of the point, though), etc – but for all it’s flaws, I loved it. I have to be honest, though, I didn’t read it for the characters. I didn’t read it for the plot. I read it for this
 photo e44e52fb-bbf9-487b-9a4e-95168577b946_zpsomusrwuq.jpg
and I got that, so I was not disappointed.

The Darkest Minds Review

This month I read The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Where to begin. We follow Ruby the main character as she is taken from her parents at the age of 10 and placed into a camp for children with supernatural powers. In this camp Ruby is labeled as a green, or a kid who can solve puzzles and do math in record time. For six years Ruby grows up in this camp until the Childers League tries to break her out.

On the way to the Childers Leagues headquarters Ruby discovers that they are not what they seem and so she takes off. She stumbles upon a car with three other teens like her. I mean ironically they are exactly like her, supernatural and all.

Chubs, Liam, Zu, and Ruby all head onto this road trip to find the Slip Kid. The Slip Kid is rumored to have a paradise for kids with super powers and can even contact your family if you so wish.

This book was a ok book. I enjoyed it a lot. There just wasn’t anything that really jumped out at me. I feel as though I have read this story before. The ending was very good and shocking. I did not see it coming. I am hoping that this was just a introduction into this broken world and that Never Fade is better. I think that this is well worth the read but it was a slow paced book.