Mini Reviews: The Step-Spinsters, Ghost Slayer

Now normally I’d have posted a Food and Fandom post by now, since I’ve been so busy making random dishes from the books I’ve read. Buuuut, let’s get some of these books out of the way before I spam my blog with goodies.

There’s a heftier review of The Step-Spinsters in the form of a blog post at Fableulous Retellings Podcast, so I won’t go crazy over it here.

And I’m also trying to get through my Netgalley challenges, which is slightly a bit more difficult because I realized some of the books I meant to read over last year got archived and I never downloaded them. Oops!

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

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Mini Reviews: Hidden Figures, Snow Like Ashes

Here’s some fiction and nonfiction for ya. I will admit, this is one of the rare times I actually prefer the movie to the book. I tend to appreciate historical nonfiction provided it’s done right, but this one was only okay.

On the other hand, I really, really, really wanted to love this book. It was about four kingdoms that are named after seasons. It’s about a girl and her chakram. I mean…ONLY XENA HAS A CHAKRAM AND SHE IS BADASS. But ugh. It was really hard to get into this book, and when I got done, I just sat there going “meh.” I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

Hijinks in Virtual Reality || Warcross Review

Initial Thoughts:

*SOBBING UNCONTROLLABLY* I FEEL SO BETRAYED AND YET AND YET. Ugh, this is the Darkling all over again except with video games and virtual reality!

I’m gonna need a moment to gather my thoughts.


WARCROSS

by Marie Lu
GP Putnam’s Sons, September 2017
YA science fiction, cyberpunk
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. To make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

Forgive this digression

Before I get into the review, let me tell you about this video game series called Dragon Age. I promise you I’m going somewhere with this, so bear with me.

The Dragon Age franchise is near and dear to my heart solely because of how fantastic the character stories and overall plot have been revealed through gameplay. Roleplaying games tend to do this, and at a certain point, DA got me invested enough to actually care about the characters.

Even when they rip your heart out into pieces. Like Anders did in Dragon Age 2. Like Fen’Fucking’Harel did in Dragon Age: Inquisition. And I sit there watching cutscenes with the realization that as much as I detested the actions these characters were programmed to do, I still thought to myself: “Dammit, these characters are not EVIL. They’re not entirely wrong. They’re ANTI-HEROES LIKE BATMAN AND I WANT THEM SLAPPED INTO SEEING SENSE. I WANT THEM REDEEMED IN THE SEQUELS.”

Hawke, sometimes even you’re a better character than I am.

So that’s where I stand with characters who seek to change the world and make it worse instead. That’s chaotic good at its finest. Damn the rules when you’re the best to judge, right?

Dread Wolf take you, Solas. AR LATH MA, VHENAN.

WTF does any of this have to do with WARCROSS, you say?

Everything.

It has everything to do with Warcross, because this is exactly the same feeling I went through as I read the book; from squealing at virtual reality immersion to swooning over billionaire Japanese boys to crying from the betrayal of everything–of which I actually SAW coming but the results still hurt all the same.

This book was a gamer geek girl’s playground. I cannot stress that anymore than it already has been. It’s as if Marie Lu read Ready Player One and thought: “Huh, not enough girls partaking in their geekdom. Let’s throw these badasses in and see what happens when we have this many nerds together in the world!” And then she immediately moved the setting to hyper-futuristic Tokyo. And then she threw diverse characters into the mix, including a Chinese-American main character, a formidable boy in a wheelchair, two gay characters, and a Japanese love interest. (Boy, that Hideo Tanaka though. Yowza.) Oh, and she doesn’t just stop there. She pretty much threw us into a world that any Fortnite or Sword Art Online fan would appreciate if not love.

Speaking of…I really should actually watch Sword Art Online at some point.

The world is pretty much Lu’s sandbox, and she made it that way by writing a book with so much hanging on virtual reality. One of the major attributes of Warcross is the game Warcross. People play Warcross internationally, and its popularity is so high that becoming an overnight sensation is a big. effing. deal.

This is where Emika Chen comes in. Down on her luck and about to be evicted from the only life she knows, she pulls a stunt that gets her noticed by millions of people, including the inventor of the virtual NeuroLink and the Warcross game, Hideo Tanaka. Instead of getting arrested, Hideo offers her a job that puts her undercover as a Wild Card–a player drafted into the Warcross tournament–in order to hunt down Zero, an expert hacker of the Dark World. Of course, hijinks happen and Emika goes in way over her head, but what kind of heroine would she be if she just backed down from anything dangerous, amiright?

Also, this is seriously my mental image of Hideo Tanaka. And if you’ve heard Shota Matsuda speak a bit of English, you’ll hear a slight accent there. I just… *turns into a puddle*

Hem. So where was I? Oh, yes, this book. You can definitely tell it’s everything Marie Lu loved thrown in along with the kitchen sink. The book is action-filled, from the beginning to the end, though I will say there was a lull to plot somewhere between Emika’s sojourn in the Dark World and finally meeting Zero. While I did adore the romantic interludes, I was kind of bummed at the lack of character development or growth in anyone. As much as I loved having the insight into Emika and Hideo’s characters, this still didn’t really help my understanding in character motives.

**SPOILER ALERT** Honestly, the whole effing villain arc could have been solved if Zero had revealed himself a long, LONG time ago instead of letting all this shit play out. **END SPOILER**

Also, that cliffhanger ending is going to kill me. Particularly because Marie Lu actually used CLIFFS in one scene and I just. Absolutely. DIED.

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This is the first Marie Lu book I’ve read, believe it or not, so I’m going to have to add everything else she’s written into my TBR to peruse later.

4 out of 5 cookies! Damn those cliffhanger endings and chaotic good characters!

This book counts as part of my Beat the Backlist challenge.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Breakfast Club Murders || One of Us is Lying Review

Initial Thoughts: 

I pretty much ripped through this story like nobody’s business, and while I had some problems along the way concerning the big reveal and how stereotypical and cliche the book was for the most part, honestly I still stayed for the characters. I would definitely recommend the audiobook because the cast was stellar in their portrayal. And that ending effing deserves a Breakfast Club fist pump.


ONE OF US IS LYING

by Karen M. McManus
Delacorte Press, May 2017
YA contemporary, mystery
Rated: 4.5 / 5 cookies

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.


When this book was described as The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars, I didn’t actually think it was going to be so close to the comparisons. Normally I take books being compared to other things with a grain of salt.

But seriously, One of Us is Lying is The Breakfast Club. With murder. So I suppose that’s where Pretty Little Liars comes in as well. I haven’t seen the latter, so I’m going with a Gossip Girl feel here, too, what with Simon Kelleher’s app being so similar to the format of Gossip Girl.

If this were a television show, I’d watch the eff out of this, hands down. There’s just something about high school teen drama that looks so deliciously petty and addicting on screen. That said, this book was just as great on the page–granted I didn’t read this on the page.

I read One of Us is Lying as an audiobook, which I highly recommend as well as reading the book itself. Like the book itself, the audiobook narration is divided up into its four main characters: Bronwyn Rojas (Kim Mai Guest), Nate Maccauley (Robbie Daymond), Addy Prentiss (Shannon McManus), and Cooper Clay (Macleod Andrews). Now, I’ve listened to a good number of audiobooks at this point, and I am normally wary of multiple-cast dramatizations. Sometimes, there’s a voice in the narration that pisses me off that it ruins the entire audiobook. But in this case, I’d have to say the narration worked wonders. You could definitely get a sense of each character and his/her perspective just by listening to how the narrators read their sections. Robbie Daymond’s Nate was particularly awesome, because he also managed to get the southern twang that Cooper reverts to when he’s nervous.

Anyway, now that I’ve tooted the audiobook horn a bit, time to get into the nitty gritty of the book itself with the help of Gossip Girl and The Breakfast Club gifs, of course!

WARNING: This blog post is a little graphics heavy. #sorrynotsorry

The book pretty much opens up straight into the heart of the action itself: detention.

And a roll call of your stereotypical high school students, five of the school’s mismatched kids a representation for a clique within the student body: a homecoming queen (Addy), a popular jock with his own Facebook fanpage (Cooper), the chic geek (Bronwyn), the rebel drug dealer (Nate), and the gossipmonger (Simon).

Cough. FORESHADOWING.

Unlike TBC, though, one of the five don’t make it out, and by the end of detention, Simon chokes on it. Honestly, I’d feel a little bad about this, but he was kind of a douche-canoe with a bloated sense of self. I mean, he has an app that takes investigative journalism to a whole new level of ugly. Like, to a Gossip Girl level ugly.

And that’s the problem, you see. Because with Simon dead in extremely suspicious circumstances, police investigations start shedding light on the motives of the four students who were in the room with Simon. And check this out, all four stand to gain from Simon’s death. In some level, Bronwyn, Nate, Cooper, and Addy have one thing in common: a secret that could ruin each of their reputations.

Naturally, one of them has to be involved with Simon’s death, right?

This makes many things awkward for the four detention survivors, because now their lives have been upturned, from police investigations, reporters, and buried secrets that inevitably come to light in the most heartbreaking manners ever.

That’s really where the character development comes in, because the story is told within the four perspectives of Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, and Cooper. And honestly, as cookie cutter stereotypical as the characters were, there were dimensions to them that added to the flavor of each suspect.

I grew to adore Cooper especially after showing that he’s not altogether just a “jock.”

CC and “K” ftw! *coughtheotherKthat’snotKeelycough*

I absolutely loved Addy’s growth throughout the story. She went from a Princess Blondie to someone who’s gotten a more independent spine. Her makeover was not just skin-deep, though I also appreciated the fact that she went all out and went purple, hair-wise.

Yaaaas AP yaaaaas.

And Bronwyn and Nate? I definitely ship it. But then of course the geek girl falls for the bad boy. Not that I’d blame her. To be honest, Nate’s POV was my favorite to listen to.

I guess BR can be considered princess and geek girl in one. Regardless, she falls for NM all the same.

Now, it wasn’t all fun and games, of course, and unfortunately there was no dancing on tabletops or heart-to-heart camaraderie moments on a regular basis. It is a high school murder mystery, after all, and a killer must be brought to justice!

Only, I totally called the culprit, and it was kind of underwhelming. A lot of the plot and drama could have been highly prevented if SOMEONE had the right mind to report their friend’s behavior going the deep end (honestly, a sociopathic behavior like that really needed to be reported, for everyone’s general safety). With the mounting increase of school-related violence, you’d think the message of “see something, say something” would be more important. I’m kind of bummed that it was mostly glazed over. And unfortunately a lot of the stereotypes here included a large amount of bullies, control freaks, and slut-shamers. Barely anyone outside of the Murder Club had minds of their own, which was a shame.

Also, how the hell are the police so terribly incompetent? I did feel like a lot of the drama depended on the fact that the police had absolutely no regard to privacy during their investigations. Absolutely EVERYTHING was revealed to the whole school within a day of private investigation. It was kind of unnatural at how the “culprit” knew almost everything that happened in each interview.

That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I cannot wait to read McManus’ next standalone; it’s bound to be just as juicy!

4.5 out of 5 cookies! Other than the blips mentioned above, I would read and listen to this again given the chance.


Have you read this book? What did you think?

Mini Reviews: Annihilation, Station Eleven

Another set of reviews! I’ve been back to listening to a lot of audiobooks lately, and I’m so glad that my library has a lot more to offer now, so there it is!

I haven’t watched the movie that was spurred on by the book, but the book was pretty short and weird.

I actually enjoyed Station Eleven, which pleased me, because I didn’t have many expectations going into the book.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?