Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review: STARGAZER by Patrick Carman

Rating: 5/5 stars **some spoilers ahead**

I was a little weary before starting this book since it isn't part of the original series and is an add-on book, but it was so, so good! It only expanded further the already expansive and rich world created by Patrick Carman. (Stargazer is book four in the Land of Elyon series; you will not want to read this book or this review until you have finished the original trilogy.)

Alexa and her crew travel across the Lonely Sea to a mysterious and hidden land called the Five Stone Pillars, which is a unique world within itself. It turns out Abaddon got loose and followed them there, and now Alexa has to save the Five Stone Pillars before he completely destroys them.

There are many new and loveable characters introduced in this installment, and I wish I had more books with them. It would be wonderful to see this world and set of characters continue in more follow-up books. Just like Alexa says, Thomas Warvold was the land adventurer, Roland Warvold was the sea adventurer, and she is meant to be sky adventurer. We also read at the end that Elyon tells Alexa, "I have many things that need doing, and so it will be awhile for you [before you return to the Tenth City]." There is a lot of room for expansion in this world, and I would love to read about Alexa's other adventures as she explores other corners of this world.

Although this book was probably my favourite in the series, there are a few inconsistencies I was confused about unless I am mistaken and heard wrong while listening:
Matilda said she had been to the fourth pillar when she was very young, but later Alistair said he is the only person to have come to the fourth pillar.
Alexa said she could hear the voice of Abaddon only when she looked at him but then she starts hearing his voice without looking at him.

By the way, I highly recommend reading book 0.5, Into the Mist, right before this book. The series is very fluid when read that way, as book 0.5 ends at the exact point that Stargazer begins.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: THE END WE START FROM by Megan Hunter

Rating: 2/5 stars

This is an interesting little book, more of a novella, about a woman just after she gives birth. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style, almost like a diary, this story follows the nameless mother and her husband as they try to survive after all of London has become uninhabitable due to a massive flood. The couple moves around, looking for shelter, meeting others in the same circumstance. There is a minor dystopian feel to this book, although it is different from a typical dystopian novel.

All of the characters are named only with a single letter (e.g. R, Z), though I am not sure why the author chose to name them this way. It makes the story impersonal, and I had a hard time connecting with any characters. I think I would connect more with the main character if I were a mom like her because this story focuses heavily on her birth and her son and his impact on her life.

In fact, I think this book would appeal mostly to mothers, especially those who have lost their husbands or whose husbands are away for an extended time (e.g. at war).

I both liked and disliked the writing style. I didn't really understand what the author was trying to communicate at times, but the writing does have a beautiful quality.

The End We Start From doesn't feel much like a book to me, more like an outline for a book that never got written. There is no direct dialogue, although conversations do take place. There is lots of room to make the story deeper if it were expanded into a full-length book, lots of places to add emotion and suspense. Overall though, this is a story about finding hope in troubling times, and I appreciate the way the author communicated that message.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: THE DARK HILLS DIVIDE by Patrick Carman

Rating: 5/5 stars

The Dark Hills Divide was one of my very favourite books when I was little. I remember reading it and being enthralled by the magical story of Alexa as she finds a magical glowing stone that allows her to communicate with animals and uses her newfound ability to help stop a war on the city of Bridewell.

I am so glad that I decided to reread this book. I was worried the story would have lost its magic with age, but it was just as good as I remember. I had forgotten many of the details, so it was as if I was reading the story for the first time, following the journey and solving the clues right along with Alexa.

As an older reader now, I can see some problems with the story, like the fact that Alexa seems to be the only child in the whole city, and that no women are present or have speaking roles in the book (aside from a letter from Alexa's mom), but that didn't deter me from loving the story.

If you love middle-grade fantasy and haven't yet discovered this series, I highly recommend you give it a chance. This is a story of hope and renewal that will stick with you for quite some time.

Review: MILK AND HONEY by Rupi Kaur

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I saw this book on display at the grocery store one day and casually picked it up and started reading it. The next thing I knew, my husband had already checked out and was waiting for me to leave. I put the book down but immediately reserved it from the library and got it the following week. In the store, it was this poem that made me realize I had to finish the entire book:

every time you / tell your daughter / you yell at her / out of love / you teach her to confuse / anger with kindness / which seems like a good idea / till she grows up to / trust men who hurt her / cause they look so much / like you

That particular poem just spoke to me. When I got the book from the library, I read it all in one sitting (rereading all the parts I had previously read at the store) and it was beautiful. These poems are for women, mostly. Women who have experienced pain and love and loss. I believe everyone will be able to relate to at least one poem in here; I know many resonated with me.

Rupi Kaur takes us on a journey through the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing in life, illustrating every other poem with a line drawing that is so connected with the poem that it becomes part of the poem. This is the kind of poetry collection I could see myself rereading when I am sad or broken. It has that kind of healing effect.

Here is another of my favourite quotations, one that shows the self-worth of a woman is not dependent on what a man thinks. I just love the meaning behind this:

the next time he / points out the / hair on your legs is / growing back remind / that boy your body / is not his home / he is a guest / warn him to / never outstep / his welcome / again

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: ALL THINGS NEW by Lauren Miller

Rating: 5/5 stars

All Things New begins in the middle of one of Jessa's panic attacks: chaos abounds through short sentences and fragmented thoughts. I was overwhelmed and confused, but this is exactly how an anxiety attack feels. Lauren Miller wasted no time getting to the point with her strong opening scene.

Jessa is a relatable high school girl, especially to someone like me who also suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. Her internal thoughts have often been my exact thoughts before. I understand why she gets anxiety about certain situations, even when it may seem illogical and irrational to others. I've been in her shoes.

After she gets into a car accident that leaves her scarred in more ways than one, Jessa begins seeing scars, burns, bruises, and cuts on others' faces. After realizing she is the only person who can see these marks, Jessa begins to wonder if there's a purpose behind their existence and if she's getting better or worse in the months post-accident.

This novel does a really good job at communicating the idea that everyone experiences pain, whether physical or emotional or mental, and that everyone has a "dragon" to fight. Just because one cannot see the hurt does not mean that it doesn't exist. Most pain we bury away anyway, putting on a facade of being happy and okay, but what if others could see what we are actually struggling with on the inside?

All Things New's diversity in mental health conditions brings awareness to the many diseases that exist. This book features characters with an array of afflictions: autism, Aspergers, panic attacks, OCD, anxiety, addiction, and anorexia, among others. Although some conditions may have been portrayed stereotypically at times, none of it was in a negative light.

This is a beautiful story of acceptance, both of yourself and of others, and the differences and trials that make us human. It is witty and heartfelt, emotional and encouraging. But most of all it is about the hope of overcoming your "dragons" and how that can revive your soul.

I've been letting fear win. . . . Generalized anxiety disorder is no small dragon. But I'm the one who gave that dragon the throne. Not because I didn't know how to fight it, even though that's what I would've said. But because I was afraid of what fighting it would cost me.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with this ebook in exchange for an honest review.