Saturday, June 9, 2018

Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman | Who Needs A Heart, Anyways?

The Illuminae Files #1
Date Read: April 21 to 25, 2018
First Published: 2015
Hardcover, Kindle
Young Adult, Sci-fi
This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.
BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
Hey, I actually loved an extremely hyped book! SCORE!

Clearly, I was a tiny bit hesitant to start reading this one. Which is code for EXTREMELY SCARED TO. Like, the hype is daunting af. What if I end up not loving it the same way everyone else does? With this kind of Captial H Hype I tend to go the Schrodinger's cat route. Just don't open the box. With this one, it was so easy to go there because it's also a massive piece of literature. 600 pages are no laughing manner, but my inability to open big books is.

*singing* I'm scared of big books and I cannot lie.

Obviously, I have bested the fear and opened the book. And you know what? THE CAT IS ALIVE!

This book is such a strange amalgamation of formats and styles and voices, and what's even stranger is that it works. And not only does it work, it works gloriously. It might take you a couple of files to get into the rhythm of things like it did me, but once you're in it, you're in it.

I think it's a testament to these two authors' skills that each character managed to shine through and have its own voice, even though very little of it is told through their eyes or in a direct manner. And I'm not talking just about our mains Kady and Ezra, I'm talking about the side characters as well, from friends to co-workers to captains and commanders.

And not only will you get a very firm grasp of the characters, you will also get a heavy case of the Feels. Mostly very painful feels, feels that will make you wonder if you really needed your heart for something because clearly it's gone and hopefully that didn't damage something too vital. FEELS for DAYS.

Okay, wait, let's talk a minute about the details of the story. Because it's one of the most terrifying things I've ever read of. It's a combination of all the things I hate the most because they make me so fucking terrified. But at the same time, I couldn't look away???

Nitzan's "I Hate This!" Checklist:

  • The Big Bad is a giant corporation - ✓
    Really, I prefer supervillain stories or even tyrant stories and things of that nature because you can just kill the man and it ends, and because things are usually more out in the open as opposed to secret schemes. But corporations tend to be sticky, sneaky business that always feels so much harder to truly kill. They're kind of like hydras. Blah

    Oh, goody. My favorite thing. Not. Gosh, it brought literal chills. Bioweapons are such terrible things no matter their iteration, and this one actually turns people into monsters. Like, NO, please.
    (side note- I do hope they explore this topic more in Gemina though because it was very strange that everyone, on the one hand, reacted "differently" to it and had different psychosis and on the other, they all suffered similar specific symptom like the "don't look at me" part. What is the virus attacking to make them all averse to that?)

  • A.I GONE MAD - ✓
    Like, whhhhy? Wasn't it scary enough before the artificial intelligence that controls everything lost his mind and overrode all safety protocols in a crazed attempt to follow his core directive, no matter the consequences? WASN'T IT?!
    (*whispers: I kind of liked AIDAN, though, the psycho*)


Seriously, this is like someone wrote this book just to scare the bejesus out of me.

And you know who're facing these gigantic mega-sized problems?? TEENAGERS! TWO LOVE-SICK TEENAGERS! I'm going to have a heart attack!!! Oh, this book is EXCELLENT in making you see the other people working around it (i.e the grownups and commanders), but unfortunately, those people are not the main characters so for the most part, their fate is unguaranteed. Or guaranteed to be bad. The ones who are going to sort-of-maybe-in-a-way beat it are the teens. And it... works? It does. Fantastically. Amazing.

Although, let's be honest for a minute. Ezra Mason is kind of a secondary main character. THIS IS KADY GRANT'S STORY. The guy is there, and maybe he'll have a bigger part to play in the future (actually, that's almost guaranteed), but Illuminae is 100% Kady's heroic journey. SHE'S the one who does everything, the one who is focused on, the one we get to see the world through her eyes on occasion. She's the one we watch grow into herself, and more importantly, grow to mean something to other people around her. Heck, the final 20% or so of the novel is pretty much Kady on her own. 

And you know what? I get it. I get people falling in love with this girl. I get her being the main character. She is fierce, she is smart, and she is unyielding. She is strong and loyal and near unbreakable. She is willing to sacrifice for the greater good, but she doesn't do it blindly. In fact, she follows nothing blindly, except maybe her own heart. And she's also a pretty teenager with pink hair so QUIRKY. If this was an anime just the pink hair will be a glowing red arrow proclaiming "this is the protagonist". 

In comparison, Ezra Mason is just a cool guy. He's loyal, charming, a good friend, and is very much in love with his ex even six months later. He's an athlete with good reflexes who is comfortable following orders. A rebel he is not. And that's most of what I feel like I know about this guy. 

Which is where the half star went. The least well-developed part of this giant work of art is Kady and Ezra's relationship. We didn't get to see any part of it, which sucked big time because it's the motivation for this entire book. Like, seriously. We meet these two after the breakup, and what's worse... we barely hear about their shared past as a couple. We don't get to experience anything of what made them fall in love or why. We don't even really get to understand the scope of their emotions to one another.

Don't get me wrong, their banter was a winning point, and I was all here for it, but... I still didn't quite get it. Why they loved each other so much to give up so much. I want to be right there with them. To feel like I would sacrifice myself in their stead as well because of how powerful their love is. Instead, all of that was locked behind things that had already happened but weren't shown to me, so I was kind of left to assume that it was justified.

Final note, in relation to the size fear thing. Illuminae is pretty much a 300 pages of a "traditional" story, told in a graphic manner spanning over 600 pages. It's a visual experience that can be read extremely quickly. some pages are made of one sentence or a word in a stylized manner that gives it more force or meaning. So, even though it's 600 pages, it flies very quickly and doesn't feel the length. 

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller | Mythology is Gay AF, My Friends

Date Read: April 16 to 19, 2018
First Published: 2011
Adult, Mythology
Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.
Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks', is everything Patroclus is not — strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess — and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship. As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper — despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.
Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate.
Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.
So, here is the thing about putting expectations on a book. Sometimes, it works out great. But for the most part, it doesn't. Unfortunately, this case is of the latter. Look, I'm not going to say this is a bad book, because it's not. So no need to fight me to the death on this one.

But be that as it may... I felt disappointed. It simply wasn't the life-altering experience I was let to believe I would have, and in some cases, it wasn't what I wanted it to be at all. I wholeheartedly, unabashedly blame Tumblr. I have seen so many Patroclus and Achilles posts, usually in connection to some of my all-time favorite couples (Pynch, Andriel, and Evak, for example), that I have already decided I am going to fall in love with Patroclus and Achilles and their story before I opened the first page.

And I did... but I didn't. You see, the thing I loved most about those other couples was how long we spent watching the two become what they are. We watched them become friends, we watched them react to each other and with each other, and by the time they were together, we didn't need words or confirmations of love because we knew it in our bones. There was no doubt, no questioning, that they were meant for each other--forever and always. We were shown, not told. That's the kind of storytelling that I love.

In THE SONG OF ACHILLES, things were different. I felt like I was told of everything, instead of being shown and drawing my own conclusion. I was told "after that, they were best friends". I was told that they "talked about this, and this, and this". But I didn't actually get to see these interactions happen. I didn't get to see them as best friends, inseparable companions. I felt like I was robbed of many of their conversations and interactions - scenes that would make me feel their friendship and love and fully believe in it. Instead, I was simply told that they happened and was expected to understand that their strong love grew from these mysterious, shared memories that I wasn't privy to.

Now, it's not that I didn't believe their love, or that I didn't cry there at the end, because I DID. Not gonna lie. It's just that I felt like it could have been told in a better way.

But enough about that. Let's talk about things I loved. For example, the way Achilles was fiercely protective of their relationship and adamant that no one will take it from them. It's 2018 and still, for some incomprehensible reason, gay relationships are not accepted everywhere--and this story takes place in Ancient Greece. Got to love a hero who isn't afraid to love, until death and beyond. And while I'm still a bit skeptical that no one seemed to care about this illicit relationship, I was so there for mutual love and support!

I general, I think the lasting and unshakable relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is the strongest part of this novel. No matter what or who comes in their way, these two will be together. Protecting each other and understanding each other.

That being said, there was a lot of things I wanted to see outside of this relationship. Like Patroclus becoming a valuable part of this war, and perhaps understanding his own worth a bit better. There was precious little of this, and I wanted to see (NOT BE TOLD) of people appreciating his medical abilities and his kind nature. I also wanted to see him interacting with more people in general.

Especially since I knew this story will not get a happy ending. Not with Achilles as one of the main characters. So, at the very least, I wanted my heroes to be happier throughout it. Though I have to admit, some of my trepidation about reading a novel that could only end in tragedy was lessened by the characters aware of their own fate. It would have been so much more difficult to know what is to come while they rushed at it blindly.

And finally, the writing. I have seen people praise it to mars and back, totally enamored with Miller's style and composition. I am, unfortunately, not one of those folks. While I did find Miller's style to be beautiful at times, I mostly felt like it was too damn much. Too flowery or trying too much, to the point that I would literally cringe. I'm kind of sad to be alone in this because it seems like everyone loves it so damned much, but I could not get used to sentences like;
"One by one, Achilles caught the remaining fruits, returned them to the table with a performer’s flourish. Except for the last, which he ate, the dark flesh parting to pink seeds under his teeth. The fruit was perfectly ripe, the juice brimming. Without thinking, I brought the one he had thrown me to my lips. Its burst of grainy sweetness filled my mouth; the skin was downy on my tongue."
I kissed his neck, the span of his chest, and tasted the salt. He seemed to swell beneath my touch, to ripen. He smelled like almonds and earth. He pressed against me, crushing my lips to wine.
Like... why? Why take such a long time describing figs in such a cringe-worthy way? And I didn't need to know Achilles "ripened", thank you very much. I'm okay with the good ol' "hardened". This writing literally made the coming together of two characters I loved feel awkward, overly done and weird. And can someone please explain to me what some of this even means? "Crushing my lips to wine"???

I can't even.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Moon Called by Patricia Briggs | I've Missed This World!

Mercy Thompson Universe #1
Date Read: May 19, 2012 & March 12 to 13, 2018
First Published: 2006
Adult, Urban Fantasy
Mercedes Thompson, aka Mercy, is a talented Volkswagen mechanic living in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. She also happens to be a walker, a magical being with the power to shift into a coyote at will. Mercy's next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she's fixing a bus for a vampire. This is the world of Mercy Thompson, one that looks a lot like ours but is populated by those things that go bump in the night. And Mercy's connection to those things is about to get her into some serious hot water...
Re-Reading the Mercy Thompson series feels a little bit like meeting up with your best friend again after years of being apart.

It's an interesting thing, the process you go through with novels reading them a second (or third, because I'm fairly certain I did another re-read before this one) time. In the case of MOON CALLED, I actually ended up enjoying the first installment in the series a lot more than I did the first time around.

Don't get me wrong - I've always considered MOON CALLED to be a good book. It's a fantastic introduction to this world as it immediately tells you this is a dark place (I'm still sad, okay?!), but it's told to you by such a fun storyteller that you almost forget that. It shows you how complex it is, but in a manner that makes everything crystal clear. And despite all this, despite the introduction to everything from werewolves to vampires, witches, and fae, the world-building doesn't actually overpower the plot of the book, and leaves enough room for it to be expended and dived into further in future installments.

And who is that fun storyteller? Meet Mercedes Thompson - a mechanic, a walker, and the main character of the story. But everyone just calls her Mercy. If you like independent, strong-willed, and stubborn ladies who would sooner be the prince than the damsel in distress, then you're are going to love this girl. Because she is all of that and more.

A girl like Mercy needs a good man by her side. Sadly, she has two, and she's not quite sure what to do with that. Let me warn you that this doesn't get resolved in this novel, but neither does Mercy string everyone along in a confusion ping-pong between the two men. So love-triangle, but not quite that bad, you know what I'm saying?

Okay, so who are these guys? Entering stage left is Adam Hauptman, Mercy's backdoor neighbor, alpha of the local pack, and all-around total book boyfriend! If I was Mercy I would jump on this one in a heartbeat. He grabbed hold of my heart from the first time we heard of him, and for me he is the perfect match for Mercy - he loves her wildness, he doesn't try to control her (overly. He is an alpha, after all), he appreciates her abilities and talents and isn't afraid to ask for her help. Oh, and he can banter with her like no one's business. Swoon.

Entering stage right is Samual Cornick. My general reaction? meh. Look, this guy should be total crush material. He's a healer, Mercy's first love, one of the most powerful werewolves in America, and he loves children. What's not to like? Well, this guy is annoying. I just kind of wanted him out of the picture. I never felt like he really loved Mercy, the women. Rather, he loved what she symbolizes. And for all that Sam knows Mercy really well, it doesn't feel like he wants her the way she is. He wants her to change. I don't like that in my couples, at all. So Sam, an okay character on his own, is a total no-no as a romantic interest in my opinion.

Now, Adam is clearly my favorite and obviously, I adore Mercy, but there were several scene stealers in this that are neither. First up is WARREN. Let my swaggering gay sweetheart live his best life with Kyle and leave him alone! Like, Warren is one of my favorite characters, and Kyle is his perfect match in every way. I love them. They are total #relationshipgoals and I wouldn't mind a book or two about them.

Then, we have BEN. I know, I know, what am I doing liking the asshole British guy? Well, even the first time around, not knowing things to come, I found Ben an interesting character with surprising depth. The second time around I simply loved him. Idk man, I just love this jerk.

Some other noteworthy characters are Stefan the vampire, Zee the fae, and Jesse, Adam's daughter. All really fun and colorful characters, but this is not their book to shine. Although, Jesse kind of shines in every book.

Honestly, the thing I was most impressed with in this re-read is how many things Briggs actually set up in this one. More than once I blinked at the novel in confusion because I thought this and that happened later on but nope, they were there from the very beginning and apparently Briggs knew exactly what she wanted to do with them. Kudos to that!

Which is also kind of why I am even more disappointed about the villain than I was the first time around. Like, there are no hints for some of it. You've got this really elaborate plan, at the end of the day, searching for clues bore very little fruit, and that bums me out.

Still, a great novel all in all!

Monday, April 23, 2018

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner | Enemies to Lovers IN SPACE

Starbound #2
Date Read: Feb 27 to March 3, 2018
First Published: 2014
Young Adult, Sci-fi/Fantasy
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.
Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.
Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.
Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.
Wait, is this really happening?? Am I finally continuing with a series I started a few years back and loved but never touched again? YES, I AM! Mom, aren't you proud of me???

Okay, jokes aside, I'm finally doing this. And while I am super happy with myself, I am also super confused about why it has taken me this long to do so in the first place. These books are good. They blend fun with heavy themes and ideas. They don't shy away from death, but neither do they shy away from love and hope.

We've seen all that in the first novel, and we're seeing it now in the second one. THIS SHATTERED WORLD follows Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac, and before I start this review lets just all take a second to admit to ourselves how utterly fabulous the name Jubilee is. Like, it's one of those names that make me just happy to read it and fuck if I know why but I ain't gonna complain either.

Okay, focus, Nitzan! This is serious reviewing time!

So, at first, you're going to wonder just how exactly does the story of Tarver and Lilac connect with that of Flynn and Jubilee. That will last all of, oh, I don't know... three chapters? Yeah. Then it's just going to be kind of terrifying because you'll start to suspect a lot of things that don't bode well for anyone. And, like, it's exactly where I thought the next "logical" step will be when I was reading THESE BROKEN STARS, and yet I was really hoping it won't because man, that's some bad shit.

But enough about that bad (but good bad) parts of the novel. Let's discuss some of the great things! First, Jubilee herself. She's not just a kick-ass name, she's also a kick-ass army captain. Yeah, you've read that right. The heroine is the one who gets to be uncompromisingly badass, and yet, undoubtedly feminine. I love that. A girl doesn't have to be manly to be strong. And Jubilee is that. Strong, and fierce, and compassionate. You'd think the long years in the army and the even longer years before that as a war orphan would have left her empty and cold, but despite what some rookies might think, she's the furthest thing away from that.

And it's Flynn Cormac who helps her believe in that part of herself again. Because Flynn is a pacifist rebel. Sounds a bit like an oxymoron, doesn't it? But Flynn manages to be both entirely loyal to his planet, his people and their survival--and they're his people, by right of birth and by his choice--and yet wholly dedicated to the idea of ending the war without more bloodshed and death. Literally, the only thing he wants (aside for Jubilee) is to bring peace to his people, no matter the cost to himself. Altruistic guy alert!

Seeing these two enemies grow closer and learning to trust and lean on each other as their loyalties and beliefs change and shift to accommodate all the new information and ideas is pretty awesome, and the two make a good team. Flynn as the heart, Jubilee as the muscle, and if you say you don't like the sound of that power balance, you're lying.

Now, amongst all the praise I can say about these novels, there is one thing that really stands out to me as a negative. Mainly, that the books lack an impact of Death, despite the fact there is plenty of that to go around. Like, people die. A lot of people. Some extremely innocent, like children. Things that normally make me cry just to think about them. But here... I felt no grief. The books tell me these death had impacts on the characters. It tells me they grieve for them. But it doesn't make you--or at the very least, me--feel it. 

And I feel like that's a HUGE miss. These people who die mean something to these characters, presumably. But... like, none of them get very established--definitely not enough for me to mourn their deaths on my own--so I just felt nothing when they died, aside for feeling like it's a pointless plot-point because I couldn't feel it. Like, yeah, it's war and there is senseless death but also it's a novel so at least a few of these deaths should have a point beyond "I need a way to move the plot further". Idk. It all boils down to me not feeling anything - I'm sure it would have worked better if I managed to muster some of that.

I'm looking forward to finally finishing this series this year, and seeing how this all pans out! 

Friday, April 6, 2018

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner | This Should Be Adapted into a Movie!

Starbound #1
Date Read: Feb 20 to 25, 2018
First Published: 2013
Young Adult, Fantasy
It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?
Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.
I've originally read THESE BROKEN STARS in 2014 and loved it. But as I did with many of the series I read back then (and now, too, but let's pretend this illness has gotten better, okay?) I just kind of let the series dangle with no conscious intention to do so.

But 2018 is the year for change, or at the very least the year to make myself feel slightly better about the abysmal state of my series reading, and that starts right here, right now, with the Starbound trilogy.

Now, I'm going to do something slightly different with this review. Mostly because, as I was reading it a second time, I couldn't stop this feeling that THESE BROKEN STARS will lend itself beautifully to a cinematic adaptation. Maybe by throwing this fact out there the gods of Hollywood will hear me and make it happen.

Now, as books and movies definitely move in different rhythms, the pace will have to be adjusted. The book illustrates the difficulty to survive, stranded on a deserted planet with no means of communication, by emphasizing the long journey. The inherent tension of the travel as well as the tension between our characters. On how it stretches them thin and threatens to destroy them mentally, more than physically.

The movie, being a movie, will add more mortal peril to the whole experience because while the book has just enough of that to be perfect, the movie will just need more. So I'm certain we will see more of the strange wild-life the planet has to offer, perhaps more danger with the Whispers and certainly more injuries will be sustained (eek!)

I'm okay with that. I'm okay with that because the movie wouldn't need to change much else.

Like, take our main characters Lilac and Tarver for example; who wouldn't watch a movie about the haughty, beautiful society girl who's just too afraid to let anyone too close (for good reason), and the ragged, kind-hearted, handsome young soldier and war hero who get stranded together after a horrid spaceship crash à la the Titanic?

Space is all the rage right now, Titanic has been a smashing box office success for a reason, Survivor is on its 36th season, and we all enjoy watching good looking faces on big screens. A recipe for success!

Then let's talk dialogues. You could keep them almost entirely intact (although let's be real they won't. Studios love changing dialogue. Sigh). They're fun, they're banty, they're occasionally flirty and it's so great when they are. And the delicious and thinly veiled sexual tension throughout the whole thing is definitely something Hollywood would love.

And let's not forget the contained and limited cast that allows you to explore two characters and their growing relationship, as well as the environment and the toll of isolation. Now, sure, Hollywood does love having huge ensemble casts where each audience member can find a character to connect to, so that may deter them a little bit, but it's also cheaper to have a very limited amount of actors for 75% of the movie! lol

Now, the setting is another thing that I think movie execs would love to pounce on. First of all, there is a wonderful duality of beauty and cruelty in the setting, as well as two opposite backdrops that somehow blend seamlessly. And holy hell would they be absolutely stunning on the big screen.

First, we have the Icarus, an advanced spaceship traveling in hyperspace on a luxury cruise. Imagine our heroes traveling the deck, with the windows outside showing the smudged lights of the stars as the ship passes them by. Here and there floating trays will offer food and drinks, screens and holograms will tell of news and sales. And between all that technological advances, there are the upper floors of the rich and famous, where they gallivant in Victorian dresses and corsets, pretending to be something they have only read of in history books. Already extremely compelling, right?

But then it all comes crashing down, in what would be an epic sequence of mayhem and horrifying destruction, and all the slick and manufactured perfection will give space to a land abandoned by men, where nature grows wild and creatures that shouldn't exist walk around. Where the sky breaks open and showers rain and snow. And death. All equally beautiful, yet equally repelling.

Admit it, I'm selling you over here.

And then, on top of all these great things, on top of a story of survival and love, bravery and redemption, of real versus fake, of people having more than one side to them, of right and wrong, there is a mystery.

Because the Icarus should have been indestructible - what was its iceberg? Why is no one coming to save them? Why is the planet abandoned, when it shows clear signs of human interference. And if Lilac And Tarver aren't going mad... what is the source of those visions, of those... whispers?

You're completely sold on the movie?? Wonderful. It doesn't exist. Go read the book instead, it's better than the movie (could be) anyways ;)

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Failing Hours by Sara Ney | I'm... Kind of So-So About It?

How To Date A Douchebag #2
Date Read: Feb 11 to 12, 2018
First Published: 2017
New Adult, Romance
Zeke Daniels isn't just a douchebag; he's an a**hole.

A total and complete jerk, Zeke keeps people at a distance. He has no interest in relationships—most a**holes don’t.

Being part of a couple? Nope. Not for him.
He's never given any thought to what he wants in a girlfriend, because he's never had any intention of having one. Shit, he barely has a relationship with his family, and they're related; his own friends don’t even like him.

So why does he keep thinking about Violet DeLuca?
Sweet, quiet Violet—his opposite in every sense of the word.
The light to his dark, even her damn name sounds like rays of sunshine and happiness and shit.
And that pisses him off, too.
So, I'm kind of torn when it comes to this book.

On the one hand; I really did like Zeke and Violet's relationship. I like Zeke's character development and the way he goes from someone who won't let other people like him to someone who people can love and appreciate. I liked how Violet demanded his respect and overcome her fears throughout the novel.

These two were a fun couple to follow, as I truly felt like they made each other better, different as they may be.

That being said. THAT BEING SAID. There were a lot of things I was iffy about.

First of all, I found myself wanting Ney to explore more of the things she set up in this book, same as I did in the first one.

Like the kids. The kids are such a great addition to the story, yet Ney barely uses them at all. They are something clearly added just to allow Violet and Zeke to interact more, and that sucked. Where are the adorable bonding scenes? Where are the small things that make Zeke love his little guy, and the little guy return in kind? They were so few and far between that I barely felt them, and so when the book told me at the end about Kyle and Zeke's relationship, I mostly scratched my head wondering why, again, all those great things apparently happened off page.

Then, I wanted Zeke's "friends" to recognize what is hidden under the surface the way James, an outsider, was able to perceive. I wanted them to realize their mistake about him, and to stop acting like the dude had no soul.

I wanted to hear more of Zeke's and Violet's backgrounds since that was another interesting topic that was barely touched upon, outside of the generic "that's why he/she has issues" bits.

And I wanted to see the outcomes of Zeke's various good deeds, especially Brandon's case.

As you can tell, there is a lot of "want" attached to this book.

An even bigger issue I had is of Ney's definition of friendship because holly hell I feel like Zeke's friends suck. Which is a shame because the biggest sucky of them all is Oz, and I really liked him in book one. Anyways, they pissed me so bad with their bad friendship and the way they somehow shifted the blame solely on Zeke for all of it.

*Mark the spoilers with the mouse to see them!*
**Profane language included because I feel really, really strongly about this rant**


Like, I literally wanted to choke Oz there at the end. There he is, pressing all of Zeke's buttons. Nettling him and doing it in front of someone Zeke doesn't trust. When he KNOWS Zeke. He knows that his defense mechanism is to become all dismissive and callous since we have seen that happen multiple times throughout the book.

And yet. AND YET. Oz does so anyway, and then Zeke does what Zeke always does and Oz has the gall to act surprised? To reprimand Zeke for it and pretend as if he had absolutely nothing to do with the situation? When he has absolutely no right to act disgusted?

All Oz had to do is fucking leave well enough alone. That's it. Those two would have not only started dating for realzies, but they would have reached the L word all on their own in no time, seeing how close Zeke already was to voice that thought.

Like, seriously, give me a break, motherfucker. Learn to treat yo friends better; real friends help each other succeed, not tear each other down and make them fail!

How is this book praising and hailing Oz as this great friend?? His actions are those of a frienemy at best. It's either that, or he doesn't get Zeke at all, in which case start making a real effort you fucker or take your toxic attitude someplace else.

My god!


Oh, and can I also take a moment to rant about that Coach? Like, why is this person represented as the good role model for these kids? All he says to Zeke is filled with this undercurrent of resenting Zeke's wealth. Well, screw that! The fact someone has money doesn't mean he hasn't experienced hardships, only that his hardships may not have been the same as yours. And Coach knows of Zeke's issues. Knows of them and still acts like that towards him.

His actions themselves are good, as they are forcing Zeke out of his own head, forcing him to help others, and that in turn helps him slowly let go of some of his issues. But the dialogue. MY GOD, THE DIALOGUE. It had my blood boiling in rage and my hands itching to slap him, long before I even gave a damn about Zeke.

Again, it's the whole concept of someone being mean and egging Zeke instead of showing him that he has someone in his corner who cares, and who won't just give up on him.

Am I the only one who felt this way about these things? Did I imagine it? Am I crazy???

I don't really know, and I don't really care. Everyone in this kind of pissed me off is the moral of this segment. 

Friday, March 30, 2018

Fantasy In Death by J.D. Robb | This Case Made Me Sad

In Death #30
Date Read: Feb 4 to 10, 2018
First Published: 2010
Adult, mystery
Bart Minnock, founder of the computer gaming giant U-Play, is found in his locked private playroom, in a pool of blood, his head separated from his body. Despite his violent end, Eve can’t find anyone—girlfriend and business partners included—who seemed to have a problem with the enthusiastic, high-spirited millionaire.
Of course gaming, like any business, has its fierce rivalries and dirty tricks—as Eve’s husband, Roarke, one of U-Play’s competitors, knows well. But Minnock was not naïve, and he knew how to fight back in the real world as well as the virtual one.
Eve and her team are about to enter the next level of police work, in a world where fantasy is the ultimate seduction—and the price of defeat is death...
So, I suppose it's no surprise to anyone that I love this series, considering this is the 30th book in the series. Granted, I haven't read all the previous ones, but I have read... what, twenty? Clearly; I'm a fan.

But some mysteries hit me harder than others, and this is one of those cases.

I know exactly what caused my fierce reaction; the theme of friendship. You see, I am a very loyal friend, and I have friends who I would die for... and I know they would die for me. Dramatic, maybe, but also fundamentally true.

The friendship in this book reminded me of that. The friends reacted so strongly to Bart's death that I prayed none of them did it. I wanted Eve to be wrong, just this once. For the killer to be someone unrelated; not one of these friends that Bart loved, and trusted, and cherished. Not one of these friends that appeared so ravaged by his death.

Their pain broke my heart, but the notion that one of them actually did it crushed the pieces into dust.

So... yeah. FANTASY IN DEATH was such a hard, painful read for me. It made my stomach churn and my anxiety level rise. It took me longer to read because I was honestly scared to read who'd done it.

The only pleasant part of this novel was Eve, Roarke, and the wonderful supporting cast. I have no idea how Robb does it, but these people are still as compelling 30 books later as they were in the first one. And they are "people", not just characters on paper. They are as real as you and me. The only difference is that they are fictional. I know that sounds contrary but just.. just think about it. You know what I mean.

Anyways, how come this series hasn't been adapted for a tv series yet?? Some of the longest running shows are detective shows with romance undertones like Castle, The Mentalist, and Bones--this would be perfect for that.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling | I Forgot How Smart Harry Is??

Harry Potter #1
Date Read: Jan 20 to Feb 3, 2018
First Published: 1997
Hardcover & Paperback
Middle Grade, Fantasy
Harry Potter's life is miserable. His parents are dead and he's stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he's a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.
Though Harry's first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it's his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.
Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.
So, obviously, this is not the first time I have read HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE. It's not the second or third or even eighth. I have probably read this specific book in the series over two dozen times. (That being said, I haven't done a full re-read of the series in years. I will try to do so this year because man do I miss it!)

And yet, somehow, I found myself learning new things about this series, and how I view it, with this re-read. That is the greatness of the Harry Potter world. That is part of what makes it so lasting. What makes my young cousin, who is just ten, love these books as much as I have, twenty years after the first came out.

It's literal magic.

I've got to admit that part of my experience with these books will always be intertwined with that of the movies, which is why I remember some things a bit differently than they really were. It's not an entirely bad thing; I love the movies, and I love the actors, and it definitely allows for some elements of the story to feel fresh every single time.

But with this specific re-read, since it really has been a while, or because I read it more slowly as part of the read-along I attempted to join, I noticed this a lot more strongly than I normally do. Like, I honestly forgot that Harry is smart. Yes, he is never going to be book clever like Hermione is (but let's be real, who is?). He's not the brightest wizard of his generation and so forth. But he is smart and clever, and intelligent. He connects the dots, he draws conclusions (and even when he's wrong, his reasoning is so sound you can never fault him because then you would have to fault yourself because you made the same mistake too). He figures most of the crucial parts of the book without needing anyone's help, and when he does need it he is always smart enough to ask for it. That's so admirable!

Aside from being one smart cookie, Harry is also sassy and funny, which is one thing that the movies kind of missed on a general basis. Sassy Harry memes are some of my absolute favorites (although, Movie Harry's sass is also a lot of fun when it shines through).

And although he is brave and funny, and smart... He does get scared, he does feel shame and embarrassment, and he does have regrets... a lot of them. Harry Potter is not perfect--which, in turn, makes him an absolutely perfect protagonist. Because he chooses to be brave in the face of hardship. He chooses to do the right thing. He is only eleven years old, and already he is actively choosing to stand his grounds and fight. Not just for himself. Actually, very rarely for himself.

Harry Potter is an avenger, and a protector, and an incredibly loyal friend. All from the age of eleven, when he has all the reasons in the world not to be on account of his shitty childhood. Why do I see so many people dissing him so often on the internet? Why?? STOP IT.

So, yeah. Rowling does an amazing job setting up the character of Harry. Which, despite growing and evolving in the following books, keeps true to all his roots and the best things about him which are introduced here.

She does the same with Ron - funny, loyal, easily excited Ron, who has an inferiority complex but for the most part constantly rises above it to be a good friend, a helping hand and the person whom without Harry would probably not have survived emotionally throughout his school year. He's kind of the heart of the group because he's mostly emotion, and I love him.

Then we have Hermione, easily my favorite of the main trio. She's a strong, independent young girl who is viciously smart and clever, talented beyond belief, but also kind of lonely as she comes across as somewhat of a know-it-all (mostly because she often does know it all). She's mostly brain and logic, which is why she serves to center the other characters when they would turn to their base emotions. That doesn't mean she is not heartfelt and loyal and an amazing friend, just that she would first weigh her feelings against what she knows, and when this two coincide she will go all out to protect and follow what she believes.

And, fyi, I have shipped Ron and Hermione since I was seven and read this book for the first time. Brains and Heart ships are some of my favorites, and I was certain these two would one day marry and have children who are viciously smart but also incredibly emotional since Ron made Hermione cry that first time. #myfirstship

Anyway, these three friends create an incredible balance between them that is extremely hard to write and execute, never mind that Rowling makes it looks as easy and effortless as turning on the light. All three have a role to fill and things only they can bring to the story as well as each other's development throughout this book and the series as a whole. You don't get to see these as much in the movies, since Harry is put as the single "hero" of that narrative, in a way that he isn't really in the books.

As much as this is Harry Potter's story, it still has three heroes. Not a main character and two main side characters, but three main characters, whom without the story and world would not be able to exist.

And what a story that is... PHILOSOPHER'S STONE builds up an incredible, magical, enchanting and captivating world, made all the more amazing by the complexity of the characters and the meticulous planning showcased by Rowling. So many things that would pay up in future books, and yet not once do you feel like you are being set up for a sequel because that's not why they are there.

Honestly, my love for HP is as strong today as it was on the first read.

That being said, this is the first time I've noticed some questions and possible plot holes in this first book. I'll be the first one to defend anything I think is not fairly a plothole ((I mean, I do have an entire post dedicated to how time turners is not a real plothole (if you take out Cursed Child out of the canon because that thing threw everything Rowling established in the book series out the window) But I digress)), but there are legitimate questions.

I'll be putting all those in spoiler tags on the off chance someone who hasn't read the books is reading this review, even though I find it hard to believe. But please, please, if you love these books as much as I do come debate with me on whether my concerns are legitimate or could be explained!!

*Mark with the mouse to see the spoilers!*


So, first thing's first... HOW DID THE DURSLEYS GET OFF THAT ISLAND??? In case you missed it, for all intents and porpuses, Hagrid has just stolen their only means of transportation. We see no indication that he has somehow returned their boat or told anyone they may need help. And yet, the next time we see the Dursleys they: a. don't say anything about that or appear upset and b. are safe and whole in their nasty abode.

Admittedly, it's a silly thing to wonder about, but it's out of characters for the Dursleys not to care and for Rowling not to address it lol

Second, HARRY'S SCAR DOESN'T REALLY MAKE SENSE? We have been taught, in this book and yes, the sequels, that Harry's scar reacts to Voldemort's presence. That's why it occasionally hurts, most noticeably when he looks at Snape and Quirrell talking. But why doesn't it hurt more, or more consistently? How come Harry's scar isn't shooting pains in his forehead every Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson, thus allowing him to ascertain Quirrell's guilt long before the finale? We are told Voldy has been stuck on his nape since they met in Diagonally!

Another nagging wonder of mine is WHY DID SNAPE SUSPECT QUIRRELL IN THE FIRST PLACE? Aside from the fact it makes for one hell of a red-herring and an incredible twist, it makes little sense. What would make Snape suspect poor, stuttering little Quirrell? Is there a bad guy sign that Snape can read? And once Snape does suspect him, why doesn't Voldy reveal himself to Snape? As far as he knows, Snape is his loyal servant. Yet, he allows Snape to threaten Quirrell repeatedly uncontested, and that eventually leads to the downfall of his plan.

I would love to know more about the Snape and Quirrell's dynamics in this book!


Lots of interesting questions on this read, few answers to be found.

However, for every detail that didn't work to complete perfection, there are seven that do. Little sentences and moments that wow me again and again and again. Forget the fact I almost know this story by heart at this point. I am still awed and amazed by references that wouldn't connect for another few books, allusions to things that would be relevant 5000 pages later, details that seem irrelevant but aren't.

It makes the entire book and series so beautifully crafted and expertly planned. It feels like Rowling knew exactly where each character was headed before she even wrote the first word and THAT is what makes it such an alleviated reading experience for me, time and time again. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The King's Men by Nora Sakavic | I Don't Want to Say Goodbye!

The King's Men by Nora Sakavic
First Published: 2014
New Adult, Contemporary
Neil Josten is out of time. He knew when he came to PSU he wouldn't survive the year, but with his death right around the corner he's got more reasons than ever to live.

Befriending the Foxes was inadvisable. Kissing one is unthinkable. Neil should know better than to get involved with anyone this close to the end, but Andrew's never been the easiest person to walk away from. If they both say it doesn't mean anything, maybe Neil won't regret losing it, but the one person Neil can't lie to is himself.

He's got promises to keep and a team to get to championships if he can just outrun Riko a little longer, but Riko's not the only monster in Neil's life. The truth might get them all killed—or be Neil's one shot at getting out of this alive.
What? It's... it's over? It can't be over! What am I supposed to do with my life now?? How am I supposed to continue living, and pushing air into my lungs, and just generally existing now that this series is over???

The struggle is a bit too real for comfort, tbh.
There's no room for doubt, no room for second guesses, no room for error. This is your night. This is your game. This is your moment. Seize it with everything you've got. Pull out all the stops and lay it all on the line. Fight because you don't know how to die quietly. Win because you don't know how to lose. This king's ruled long enough—it's time to tear his castle down.
So... before I get into this--and I WILL get into this--there are spoilers for SHIPS and END GAMES in this review. Pfff. By this time you know I ain't gonna be able to properly review this anyways. But... yeah, spoilers. I low key don't even want you to read my review before you read the book because I'm gonna talk freely and I kind of want you to experience everything for yourself.

Neil had been doing one stupid thing after another all year long and this had turned into the best year of his life.
Like, The King's Men doesn't lack for brutality. But unlike the second book where the darkness gets all-consuming, this time there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are people to lean on and trust, there are characters growing and evolving. There is strength and love to carry everything on. Overwhelming love. Most of it familial and friendly, but some of it... some of it entirely romantic. And that final one, especially, makes everything so fucking worth it.

This is literally an otp to top all otps. This otp is standing right now at the top of my otp list. It will probably stay there for a very, very long time. It's not perfect. It's not always healthy. It's a little bit violent and somewhat unexpected, and it swallows you whole with how right it is. With how it makes two broken people... a little less broken. A lot happier. How the simple understanding between them makes everything better; all the pain and the suffering and the hurt.

The first time I read the All for the Game series I started suspecting where this may be going on book two. I held my breath, and let a small "it can't be" because as much as it suddenly hit me that I needed that development to happen, I wasn't sure it would go there. I wanted these two people to find each other. I wanted it with a ferocity that rocked me to my core. And it would have been too heartbreaking if it didn't happen.
He withdrew completely, leaving just the memory of his heartbeat against Neil's mouth, and spun away.
Neil didn't show much interest up to that point, too busy surviving and compartmentalizing. Almost nothing before it suggested it might be possible. That's what I thought, at least, too absorbed by the first reading to see all the signs. By my second read of the series, I realized how inevitable it has always been, from the very very first book, how right, with such sentences as this;
He touched Neil's back on his way by, fingers light enough to give Neil goose bumps
 Cue the incessant squealing and delight.

Andrew Minyard and Neil Josten are absolutely perfect together. They are entirely broken individuals who are fractured beyond repair, but their unique damages somehow make each other's pain more bearable. Their "I love you"s are replaced by "I hate you"s, and for them... it works. They don't talk feelings or emotions because they don't need to. Their actions and looks do all the necessary talking. They aren't gentle, and for the most part, they aren't sweet--although, fuck me, but I think some of their scenes are still some of the sweetest scenes I've ever read. Like, the shower scene?? and the hotel scene?? And the protein bar scene?? And the two of them just talking and existing together, finding solace in each other's presence????
"Can you read lips?" Andrew pointed at his mouth as he spoke. "The next time someone comes for you, stand down and let me deal with it. Do you understand?"
"If it means losing you, then no," Neil said.
It's so much harder to convince a reader of a couple's love without using specific words, but the best relationships depicted in books are often like this, because there is no easy out, no easy phrase to fall back on and shortcut your reader to that point (it's why a lot of romance novels don't quite work for me - they favour the words over the emotions), but Sakavic doesn't go there. Instead, she silently builds Neil and Andrew's relationship BRILLIANTLY.

People, I WILL FIGHT YOU for this couple.

Their relationship is never going to be classified as "normal", same as neither one would ever be. But... they don't need normal. Both are far too scarred and far too ruined for that. They create their own normal. A normal just between the two of them. A normal that holds and protects and opens up. Just between them, just in the small moments. And it's enough. It's more than enough.
Andrew's disinterest in his psychological well-being was what had drawn Neil to him in the first place: the realization that Andrew would never flinch away from whatever poison was eating Neil alive.
Also, I was so happy there was no real "you're gay" / "I'm gay" conversation. There is no need to come out or even discuss the situation. There is no fear in Neil when he tries this thing with Andrew; no second-guessing or questioning, aside from the question of whether he's allowed such luxuries when he's going to die soon. There is no judgment and no fanfare. It's nothing worth talking about, anyway. The most we get is this;
"I've said all year I don't swing and I meant it. Kissing you doesn't make me look at any of them differently. The only one I'm interested in is you."
"Don't say stupid things."
"Stop me," Neil returned. He buried his hands in Andrew's hair and tugged him in for a kiss.

Also also they are hot together. I've got to admit, I wasn't expecting that, but I sure as hell am not complaining.

The whole thing was ENTIRELY BEAUTIFUL and it HURT SO GOOD.
"I hate you."
"Nine percent of the time you don't."
"Nine percent of the time I don't want to kill you. I always hate you."
"Every time you say that I believe you a little less."
It's not the only thing that happens - there is more physical pain in store for our foxes. There are dire discoveries and facing old ghosts. There is broken ground and broken bones. There is CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT in abundance. Andrew and Neil's for obvious reasons, but Kevin is a shining star in this one as well. And Allison. I really really really like what has become of Allison in these three books.

But I like all my foxes. Not equally, because I think I made it very clear Neil and Andrew are my problematic faves and I would die for them, but I never said I was fair.
"This," Neil flicked his finger to indicate the two of them, "isn't worthless."
"There is no 'this'. This is nothing."
"And I am nothing," Neil prompted. When Andrew gestured confirmation, Neil said, "And as you've always said, you want nothing."
The King's Men was an amazing finale to this beautiful series; it didn't solve all their problems, but then it never could. No one is fine by the end of it, but all of them are better. Their love for the game, and their love for each other--all of them--shines in a way to colors everything.

And I'm not gonna lie; I WILL BE READING THIS ONE AGAIN SOON! Life's too short to deny yourself the small things that first completely break you but then make you happy.

((I have so many delicious quotes of these two highlighted. I did warn that I was obsessed. OBSESSED.)) 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Raven King by Nora Sakavic | Well, That Was Soul Crushing

First Published: 2013
New Adult, Contemporary
The Foxes are a fractured mess, but their latest disaster might be the miracle they've always needed to come together as a team. The one person standing in their way is Andrew, and the only one who can break through his personal barriers is Neil.
Except Andrew doesn't give up anything for free and Neil is terrible at trusting anyone but himself. The two don't have much time to come to terms with their situation before outside forces start tearing them apart. Riko is intent on destroying Neil's fragile new life, and the Foxes have just become collateral damage.
Neil's days are numbered, but he's learning the hard way to go down fighting for what he believes in, and Neil believes in Andrew even if Andrew won't believe in himself.
Do you guys hear that? what IS that sound? Oh, it's just my heart breaking into a million pieces and my soul disintegrating? nvm then.

Seriously, this book... THIS BOOK. Like, book one wasn't sunshine and rainbows. But it looks so bright and cheerful compared to this one??? This one is not just stepping up the ante and bringing the series to a new level, it shoots it out of the atmosphere.

Sakavic is done being cuddly sweet with us. Now the real thing begins, and it is fucking brutal.
"Look. Shit happened. Shit's going to keep happening. You don't need me to tell you life isn't fair. You're here because you know it isn't. Life doesn't care what we want out of it; it's up to us to fight for what we want with everything we've got.
Like, I knew the series will get there. I just didn't know how fast it will and how truly awful it would be. And on the one hand, ouch. And on the other... it hurts so good??? idk man, this book ruined me, it really really did. But I subjected myself to it twice. In three days. So... I guess... I'm a masochist?

You learn something new about yourself every day.

So, yeah. This book is all-caps PAIN. Lots and lots of PAIN. PAIN when you least expect it and PAIN when you definitely do. Sing it with me; PAIN PAIN PAIN. Like... what? WHaT? How is any of this okay?? How is this---just no. No no no. STOP HURTING MY BABIES, YOU MONSTERS!

Like, no joke, this book is VICIOUS. But also perfect. BUT ALSO VICIOUS.

Like, plot-wise, these things need to happen and holy hell the BEAUTIFUL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT WE'RE SEEING HERE IS GLORIOUS. But from the unhealthy attached Nitzan point of view, these things should not be happening and FUCKING STOP IT BEFORE I HURT YOU.

I am a GODDAMN MESS. I am using way too much all caps and way too much "like"s for this to be considered any form of coherent thinking/writing. I probably need to chill. No, I most definitely do. BUT I CAN'T AND I DON'T CARE IF YOU JUDGE ME.

Like (again with that word...), I loved Neil in book one. You will too (the "or else" is implied). But Neil in book two? Neil in book two is an entirely new beast. AND I AM LIVING FOR IT. We saw glimpses of it in the first book; of who Neil could be if he let himself care, if he let himself set roots, if he chose to fight instead of flight. And Neil is getting there. He is getting bolder, and stronger. He is learning to lean, and he's starting to want to be leaned on. On court and off court. Out of the nothing, starts to emerge something.

As he listened to them, Neil realized he was happy. It was such an unexpected and unfamiliar feeling he lost track of the conversation for a minute.
As for Andrew, in book one I thought I was a bit cray cray for liking the short psychopath. In book two I'm judging everyone who doesn't like him. Seriously, the guy is so messed up in the head and I love it?? Especially because he is so unflinching and reliable and yeah way too violent and unstable but also absolutely honest and straightforward and loyal in his own messed up way??

And we're getting to see the Neil we deserve because of him???

And of course, there's the big THING there at the climax. If you still hate Andrew after that or whatever I request you swiftly and quietly leave this review. Someone is going to get hurt. And since I've never fought anyone before, it's bound to be me.
"We've all got different experiences, but we're used to needing help. We're just not used to getting it. But you've got us now."
Neil and Andrew are not the only ones growing. Kevin is, too, veeeeery slowly.

And my foxes. MY PRECIOUS FOXES. Their friendship is as heartwarming as it is dysfunctional, especially because it doesn't go without saying. Most of these people had lived rough lives. They are not strangers to the world being a fucked up place. They have not been raised to trust, or believe in, or support. If anything, they have been taught to be cold, and ugly, and solitary. And more often than not, not to believe in family.

And also, some of them have been taught to be absolute bastards, and not everyone can or would care for such assholes (I'm looking at you, twins).

AND YET HERE THEY ARE, CARVING THEIR OWN LITTLE MESSED UP, MISMATCHED FAMILY. They raly and protect each other, even when the other person is being a total dick to them. They respect each other's boundaries and limits, even as they try to find ways to reach them. Even if they don't quite like them. Because family is not really about liking someone or not. When you're family, you just are.
He was their family. They were his. They were worth every cut and bruise and scream.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic | I Can't Get Enough of This Series!

The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic
First Published: 2013
New Adult, Contemporary
Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He's short, he's fast, he's got a ton of potential—and he's the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.
Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn't need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.
But Neil's not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil's new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can't walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he's finally found someone and something worth fighting for.
Look, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started reading THE FOXHOLE COURT. I didn't know it will take over my life with alarming swiftness. I didn't know it will become one of my favorite series ever. I certainly didn't know it will become my next obsession.

Heck, I bought the books on a whim after seeing Cait's excitement on Instagram (I probably would have never looked at that ugly cover twice otherwise), and started reading immediately on impulse.

Best. Impulse. Ever.
If he inhaled slowly enough, he could almost taste the ghost of gasoline and fire.
I don't think I ever had an experience with a book like I did with this series. It's not as much this specific one as the series as a whole, but we're talking about the first book now so I'll leave that for the final review.

So, here's what happened: I read this book in a day. Then I read books two and three the following day. And then... Then I opened book one again the day after and started reading from the very beginning and moved on to books two and three without pausing for a breath. I read the entirety of the All for the Game trilogy twice in six days. That never happens. 

I'm no stranger to re-reads. I do them often, as I find them comforting. But I have never, ever, done so immediately after the first read. That never happens. Except it did, with this series. And you know what? I am so, so, tempted to give them another re-read right now, as I am typing this.

It's safe to say THE FOXHOLE COURT is a one of a kind experience. I'm honestly not entirely sure that it's a healthy one, due to my level of fixation, but I am not complaining.
It sounded like a dream; it tasted like damnation.
It's one of the most addictive books I have ever read. If you told me to point a finger at what, specifically, makes it so unbelievably un-put-down-able, I would fumble with the answer. I would try to put into words the feelings that this book invoked, and I would fail.

It's so incredibly difficult to explain the magic of this book because, on the surface, there shouldn't be any. It's a sports book, and I'm no big fan of sports. It's a little on the far-fetched end of things because it requires you to believe in a few things that feel a little impossible.

Not the biggest of which the fact a team like the Foxes actually exists. In real life, wouldn't a coach that fails to deliver results for five years be fired instead of continually trusted and listened to? Wouldn't the University cut their losses early and reject our band of rejects in favor of good, stable athletes after they see their games? Talent shouldn't be enough.
"God damn it, Minyard. This is why we can't have nice things."
"Oh, Coach," someone said over Neil's head. "If he was nice, he wouldn't be any use to us, would he?"
Normally, that would turn me off, or at least make me skeptic. That's why when I see reviewers who do feel that way, I understand. But... on a personal level, it didn't matter to me. It simply became fact that our Foxes do exist in this world and that I much the better for it.

I am much the better for meeting Neil Josten. Neil is a living lie, a person who doesn't really exist. He can't. Not if he wants to stay alive. Nothing about the boy is real; from his age to his name to his background. Nothing save for his undying love and passion for the sport called Exy, and everything we learn about him throughout the book through his actions and interactions; Brave, broken, beaten Neil. Awkward Neil. Confused Neil. The Neil who doesn't understand friendships and doesn't believe in family because he never truly had either.
Leaving meant living, but Neil's way of living was survival, nothing more.
Neil is one of those characters that will make you want to read on and on. You will want to soothe his pain and panic and wipe his fears away. You will want to cheer and clap when he shows his bravery and hot-headedness instead of hiding them beneath a facade. You will want to scream of excitement every time he chooses to stay. To stay and fight.
Keys meant Neil had explicit permission to be here and do what he liked. They meant he belonged.
Despite all of his deceptions, Neil is extremely honest. He voices his opinions without being afraid. He watches carefully and he notices things about those around him. And for the most part, he is extremely free of judgment. He would not begrudge you your vices, or your background, or your sexual orientation, or anything. For one, he has seen a lot in his short eighteen years. For another, it's none of his business. And it doesn't really matter.
Hope was a dangerous, disquieting thing, but he thought perhaps he liked it.
The mess that is the foxes serve to highlight all of who Neil is without telling us. The weird, dysfunctional balance between them all comes crashing down more than once and yet somehow always manages to be shakingly restored.
People want to pretend people like us don't exist, you know? Everyone hopes we're someone else's problem to solve." He reached out and fingered the material. "They don't understand, so they don't know where to start. They feel overwhelmed and give up before they've taken the first step."
On the flip side, Neil served to highlight their traits, especially Kevin and Andrew. Andrew is kind of my favorite, being a total messed up psycho half the time who needs to chill out asap, as Cait put it in one of her reviews. But there is something so compelling about him. There is a reason everyone puts up with him; a reason Kevin trusts him to protect him; a reason his group listens to what he says. Part of it is fear, and part of it is that something about him underneath it all.
"I'm not a math problem."
"But I'll still solve you."
But even though Andrew is my favorite, I love all my foxes. I love Dan and Matt and their relationship (#relationshipgoals anyone??). I loved Nicky, the big flirt. I loved the way Aaron serves to show us more of Andrew, even if Aaron himself is a little meh. I loved Renee's weird serenity, and Seth's asshole ways, and Allison's Queen Bitch and Queen of the World attitude. I fiercely loved Coach, who would give these kids as many chances as they needed, and Abby, the only one among them that is allowed to worry about their physical well being as their nurse.

No one in this book is perfect. They are all messed up, and they will never really be fine, even if they might get better. They don't always make the right choice, and they definitely don't always make the good choice. Reading of all these people was like some kind of drug. Reading of Neil's love of the sport was addictive. Reading some of the horrifying realities these characters endured was fascinating and revolting.
"It's not the world that's cruel," Neil said. "It's the people in it."
If you had asked me a week before if I thought I could love such an impossibly messed up group of people, I might have said no. I would have been a major, giant idiot.

Moral of the story; don't be an idiot like I might have been. Read this book. It's FREE.