The Opening Bell by J.B. Garner

Leilani Ito has wrestling in her blood. As a rookie she’s not expecting to win all of her fights, but she is willing to work hard and do her time to get to the top. What Leilani doesn’t realize is that there is more than just wrestling in her family history. There is also a curse that could end her wrestling career–maybe even her life–forever.

the-opening-bell-final-cover

First of all, I just want to say that I know NOTHING about wrestling. I think if you have any sort of background or knowledge about wrestling that this book would instantly become more enjoyable. That being said, I thought this book was pretty good though it did have some flaws. I thought the overall plot was interesting. There was a lot of conflict and interesting relationships developed between characters. There are fights in the ring as well as fights out of it and that creates an unusual dynamic that I think really contributed to the overall story.

One thing that was hard for me was that sometimes the wrestling scenes got kind of technical. A wrestling move would be described and I could only guess at what was going on. That just made it a little hard to follow the story in those particular scenes. Another thing that made the story hard to follow was that there were a lot of characters and basically all of the characters went by several different names (first name, last name, wrestling name/nickname, and any combination). I had a hard time remembering who was who at times.¬†Lastly, I think that the narration (especially during fight scenes) shouldn’t have come from one perspective. There are several moments when we’re following Leilani’s perspective but she’s also on the verge of blacking out so we have no idea where her opponent is. I think the fight scenes would have benefited from the reader being able to see the whole picture as if they were watching the fight on TV.

Overall, I think if you’re a fan of wrestling, you might enjoy this book. If not, the book is still enjoyable, but you may feel lost at times.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Heavy. A lot of moderate language.
Violence: Extreme
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Advertisements

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

One night, Conor hears his name being called on the wind: “…Conor…Connor…”. He’s sure that he’s dreaming when a monster appears at his window. Over time the monster will tell him three stories. After that, Conor will be required to tell his story–his truth. While he’s trying to determine whether or not this tree monster is real, Conor must deal with bullies at school, a sick mother, an absent father, and an overbearing grandmother.

a_monster_calls

I was originally going to read this as an eBook, but when I saw the physical copy, I knew that this is one of those times where the eBook isn’t going to be enough. The artwork throughout this book is AMAZING. I love the full-page illustrations as well as the textures added to pages throughout the book. Seriously. Every time I came to a new illustration, I had to show it to my husband. My husband is of the opinion that the illustrators name should appear on the front cover–which it doesn’t. I agree so I’ll let you guys know here, the illustrator is Jim Kay who also happens to be the guy doing the illustrated Harry Potter book (books? Is there going to be more than one?).

Okay, enough of that. This story is so unexpected. You think you know where the monster’s stories are going (so does Conor) and you think you know where this whole book is going but I think you may end up being surprised.

Some of you may know that this book is being turned into a film. Here’s a teaser trailer for you:

I don’t have much else to say. I loved this book. I loved the illustrations. The overall story is heartbreaking and beautiful. This is definitely a book that I would recommend and I’ll also definitely be adding it to my own personal library.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Mild (very mild)
Violence: Moderate
Sexual Content: None
Smoking/Drinking: None

The John Cleaver series by Dan Wells

Hello everyone! Today I have a very special guest review written by my husband. Before we get into it I just want to say that while my husband likes to read, I have never seen him devour books like he did with this series. I think that really says something.

danwellsbiblio
John Wayne Cleaver is a teenage boy with homework, a learner’s permit and a crush on the girl next door. And self-imposed rules to keep himself from slaughtering everyone on his street.

The son of morticians, Dan Wells’ sociopathic protagonist is fascinated by dead bodies and serial killers. He meets with a therapist to discuss what to do when he gets an impulse to kill a classmate or neighbor. But when an apparent serial killer begins to ravage the tiny town of Clayton, only one person can out-think the killer, and give in to his impulses to end the slayings.

In I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, Don’t Make Me Kill You and The Devil’s Only Friend, John Cleaver plays the role of reluctant hero, and tip-toes the line between exacting justice and hunting down killers for the sport of it. In the process, he learns of a secret link between the killers, and becomes involved in a war thousands of years in the making.

23168838My Thoughts

I didn’t imagine myself loving a series with graphic descriptions of embalming, and gruesome scenes of violence, but I did. I enjoyed looking through the window of a character who’s mind works differently than mine. I rooted for John as he felt fleeting feelings of happiness and friendship, and wrestled with who he wanted to be.

I most enjoyed the first two books of the series. The supernatural elements in I Am Not a Serial Killer become gradually more of an emphasis as the series continues, and by The Devil’s Only Friend, John and the FBI are waging war against mythological creatures, and only John remains from the original cast of characters. I was most riveted when John was facing off with a single killer in his own neighborhood in Clayton, while dodging his nagging mother.

Overall, the John Cleaver series had me excited about figuring out what would happen next, and getting my hands on the next book as soon as possible.I don’t usually get as hyped about books as my wife does, but I didn’t know what to do with myself while The Devil’s Only Friend was on hold at my library. John himself is one of my favorite protagonists ever.

Overall Rating: 4.5, 4.5, 4, 4
Language: Mild (all)
Violence: Book 1 – Moderate to heavy
Book 2 –¬†Heavy, with a rather unpleasant villain’s torture lair
Book 3 –¬†Moderate to heavy, with descriptions of suicide
Book 4 –¬†Moderate to heavy
Sexual Content: None (all)
Smoking/Drinking: None (all)

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom

Parker Grant is blind, but she doesn’t want your pity. She can do things for herself perfectly fine thank you very much. If you can’t handle her blunt way of talking, then too bad for you–she’s not about to hold your hand and stroke your ego. Parker wasn’t always like this, but when the person closest to her betrayed her, she turned into someone else. Now, he’s back and Parker has to decide how she feels about him and what he did to her.

22701879After reading both this book and¬†All the Light We Cannot See, I feel that I have a better understanding of people who are blind. They’re not as helpless as one would imagine–they are definitely still capable people. I appreciated being given that perspective. That being said, this book was really just okay for me. First off, Parker isn’t actually that likable as a character. I feel like there’s a difference between being blunt and being rude and Parker was often just downright rude to other people. She jumps to conclusions and makes unfair assumptions about people. Her aunt, uncle, and cousins for example. She assumes that they decided to move in with her after her father dies because the house is nicer than the one they had. It’s not an immediate thought that maybe they moved and uprooted their lives for¬†her. To help¬†her out.

The plot of the book was pretty subtle–this book is definitely more character driven. We really get to examine different types of relationships. Parker has three notable friends: one has been her friend forever, one was really good friends with her when they were little but they’ve grown apart now, and one is a new friend. It’s interesting to see the different dynamics between the girls. At the same time, they’re all able to come together and offer different types of support when Parker needs it. I liked that this book portrayed Parker’s female friends as really positive influences instead of having them be catty and stuff like that.

Overall, the book was okay. I just end up feeling kind of “meh” about it and I think a lot of that has to do with me not really caring for Parker as a character.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: Heavy
Violence: Mild. Nothing explicit.
Sexual Content: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild

Note: I won an early copy of this book from the NOVL Newsletter and also received an ARC copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Everything But the Truth by Mandy Hubbard [ARC]

Charles Buchanan (one of the richest men in the world) has moved into Sunrise House–the ritziest and most glamorous retirement home in Seattle. His grandson Malik visits him regularly. Holly is also often at Sunrise House because she lives there with her mom, the manager. When Malik and Holly meet, they really hit it off. Everything’s going well, except for the small fact that Malik thinks Holly’s there to visit her rich grandmother. And he thinks Holly’s name is Lucy.

23848186

This book was really surprising because I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. It’s not perfect, by any means, but I was expecting the book and overall story line to be much more shallow than it actually was.

Let’s start off with the fact that I LOVE that it’s set in Seattle–my hometown. I loved reading about Alki Beach, Lake Washington, Gas Works Park, and Pike Place Market. Since I’m so familiar with the area, it was really easy to place the characters in the setting. The author is from the Seattle area herself so everything is pretty accurate, but I did have a couple of minor issues–I know I’m splitting hairs here, but I can’t help it! First, WSU. Sorry, but my blood runs purple and gold (both my parents graduated from UW and both of my siblings were also students). So the fact that our main character was going there? Not a fan. Second, (and this is so minor, I know) at the end of the book Holly mentions how she’s been at school for a couple of weeks and her friend Alex (who’s going to UW) is going to call to update her on her classes. Sorry, but the timing doesn’t work out there. WSU has semesters and starts classes at the beginning of September or the end of August. Meanwhile, UW has quarters and doesn’t start classes until the end of September (or beginning of October even). So…Alex wouldn’t be in classes yet. This book was just so close to being accurate! I was just disappointed.

Anyway, I know no one else cares about that kind of thing except for me so let’s get onto the book. As a reader, I experienced the typical agony that comes when two characters just won’t communicate with each other. Half of the book I was screaming at Holly, “JUST TELL HIM!!!” If she did, though, there would be less drama and tension, so I get it. Malik seemed like a good guy, but he was maybe a little too reformed? He had a troubled past and I find it hard to believe that there wasn’t any of that left in him. Lastly, the secondary characters were pretty great. I liked the senior citizens that were in the book (Charles and Henrietta) because I felt like it added a depth to the cast that a lot of books don’t have.

Overall, I was definitely surprised¬†this book! It¬†reminded me of home which was nice and the characters were all pretty believable. Even though I wouldn’t say this book had that¬†much depth to it, I still had fun reading a clean and pleasantly predictable YA romance.

Overall Rating: 3
Language: None
Violence: None
Sexual Content: None
Smoking/Drinking: Mild. Mention of drunk driving.

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin [ARC]

Hitler won World War II. Now Germania and Japan are in¬†control¬†of most of the world. To commemorate their glorious victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito have established a yearly motorcycle race. 20 teens from the ages of 14-18 may enter (10 from Japan and 10 Aryan Germanians), but only one will win and be awarded the iron cross. Yael is definitely not Aryan. In fact, she escaped from a Nazi prison camp when she was a little girl. She had been a victim of scientific experimentation and now she has the ability to “skinshift”. As a part of the resistance, her mission is to impersonate last year’s winner (the only female to have¬†ever¬†won), win the race, and assassinate Hitler at the Victor’s Ball on live TV.
wolf-by-wolf-ryan-graudin-e1442880525579
I REALLY LIKED THIS BOOK. Seriously, it was fantastic. I haven’t read that much historical fiction, but I feel like it’s a genre that I could really get into. Especially World War II. I find that period especially interesting for whatever reason. The thing about this book that’s so great is the speculation. The author mentions in a note at the end that she likes to ask the question, “What if?” In this case, I really think it paid off. Even though there’s one major fantastical element (with Yael’s skinshifting), the rest all seems so plausible. Would something like this have happened if Hitler had won the war? Who knows?

The plot was great. It was straightforward and not too messy with other (irrelevant) subplots. I liked that it was so focused because it kept me interested in the story. There weren’t any distracting elements that way. Every few chapters or so the reader¬†gets a flashback into Yael’s past, but it’s done so seamlessly that you don’t feel pulled out of the main narrative while you’re reading the backstory. The writing was also fantastic. Throughout the book Yael struggles a bit with her sense of identity and those passages are always written with such care. Beautiful, beautiful writing.

The characters were another highlight for me. They all had distinct personalities and I enjoyed getting to know some of the other racers. Yael as a character was a little unrelatable though. She’s very angry as a person. But even though I couldn’t connect as well with her, I was okay with that. I was still able to enjoy who she was as a character even though I couldn’t put myself in her shoes.

So yeah, I loved the book, but it wasn’t perfect. There were a few things that I had some issues with. First, the characters seem older than they’re supposed to be. Felix, Yael, Adele, and Luka are all supposed to be 17…but I couldn’t help but picture them in their 20s. It was just hard for me to imagine them as teenagers. Second, I had a hard time buying Yael’s skill on a motorcycle. Assuming she started training IMMEDIATELY after Adele won her first iron cross, that still only gives Yael one year of training. And then she’s just going to show up and race against guys who have been racing their whole lives and win? I just can’t believe it’s that “easy”.

Overall, the book was great. I had a couple of issues with it, but I still love it and seriously recommend it to ANYONE. It comes out officially 10/20 so make sure you go pre-order yourself a copy!

Overall Rating: 5
Language: None. All cursing is done in German.
Violence: Moderate. Some fighting and violence, but not too much gore. Some talk/description of blood.
Sexual Content:¬†None (Some talk of breeding houses, but I wouldn’t really classify that as sexual content).
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate.¬†Some drinking, quite a few mentions of “underage” smoking.

Note: I received this book free from both the NOVL and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Everyone thought Charlotte would be the time traveler in the family. Turns out everyone was wrong–Gwyneth included. Gwyneth thought seeing ghosts would be her only weird skill, but it looks like she’ll have one more to add to the list. Most of her family is unhappy about it and some of them even have the nerve to blame Gwyneth! Like Gwyneth wanted this to happen to her! Charlotte’s the one who’s had a lifetime of training–Gwyneth would gladly¬†give her the time travelling gene even if she is starting to enjoy all of the time she’s spending with her companion, Gideon.
81aKYW7BYnL
I’ve gotten a little tired of the “my family has a generations old secret, but no one will tell me¬†what it is because I’m not involved/not of age yet” trope. Luckily, this book isn’t exactly like that! Gwyneth had received some training/information about the family secret because she’s supposed to help Charlotte if she starts time travelling at school. So it’s not like this is completely new for Gwyneth even if she doesn’t know everything. I was annoyed that people seemed so resistant to give her additional information though. I mean, she’s obviously the one who can time travel–I feel that it would behoove everyone to get her up to speed as soon as possible.

The characters in general were just alright. Gwyneth seemed a little too…weak, frivolous, immature, etc. Not in an unbearable way, but more in a “come on, is this really how teenage girls act?” way. Aunt Glenda seemed pretty ridiculous to me and Charlotte seemed one-note and flat in comparison. I’m not sure how I feel about Gideon and his family yet, but I do like Gwyneth’s mom and appreciated that Lady Arista seemed to be taking things in stride. I almost expected her to freak out like Glenda did, but she’s actually taking things very calmly. Lastly, I think Lesley is awesome. Basically the best friend a character could ever have.

As far as the plot goes, time travelling is enough for me and I don’t like that there are some other magical elements to it. I’m also not sure what to think about the Gideon/Gwyneth relationship especially since Gideon seemed pretty in to Charlotte at first. Overall, I didn’t feel like much happened in this book. It almost seems like it exists solely to set up the rest of the series. That being said, I thought the book was enjoyable, and I couldn’t even tell that it was originally written in another language.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Sexual Content: None
Smoking/Drinking: None