The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

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The Knife of Never Letting Go
Patrick Ness
Goodreads

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

 

Review:

This is a book that had been raved about by many of my friends but I’d always overlooked because I’d never been impressed by the summary.  Shows me what I know.  I shouldn’t go judging the book by its blurb because it was so much better than the summary made it sound.  It was an epic adventure.  A lot of books advertise an adventure but this truly was one, traversing an interesting, unique world in a way that I’ve never really seen.

It took me a little bit of time to get into this book because of how it’s written.  Certain words are deliberately misspelled to illustrate the education level and different-ness of the characters, namely the men of Prentisstown.  A couple of times, it threw me out of the book but I was able to climb back in and eventually I got used to the style and grew to enjoy it because it’s so unlike things I’ve read before.

The book also keeps the aura of mystery going for a long time so you’re constantly wondering what about Prentisstown is so bad, why is Todd so wanted, what are the Spackle, and where did the Noise come from?  The questions do get answered but they’re drawn out, speckled here and there to keep you interested and boy, I was kept interested.

I cried a lot when Manchee’s fate was revealed.  I love that dog.  So did Todd.

The ending was a great setup for the future books.  It was desolate, sad and left you hanging with even more questions now that you’d had some answers.  Time to jump into book number two!

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At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

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At the Edge of the Universe
Shaun David Hutchinson
Goodreads

Tommy and Ozzie have been best friends since second grade, and boyfriends since eighth. They spent countless days dreaming of escaping their small town—and then Tommy vanished.

More accurately, he ceased to exist, erased from the minds and memories of everyone who knew him. Everyone except Ozzie.

Ozzie doesn’t know how to navigate life without Tommy, and soon suspects that something else is going on: that the universe is shrinking.

When Ozzie is paired up with new student Calvin on a physics project, he begins to wonder if Calvin could somehow be involved. But the more time they spend together, the harder it is for him to deny the feelings developing between them, even if he still loves Tommy.

But Ozzie knows there isn’t much time left to find Tommy–that once the door closes, it can’t be opened again. And he’s determined to keep it open as long as possible.

Review:

The universe is shrinking and it’s taking all of Oswald Pinkerton’s treasured memories and most important people with it.  That blurb was enough to interest me and, along with being written by one of my favorite authors, Shaun David Hutchinson, made me plow through this book very quickly.  It was exquisite.  After coming off such a terrible book, I was looking for something affecting, poignant, and memorable.  This fit the bill and then some.  It was a beautifully written book, a coming of age tale with a bit of a science fiction vibe and I loved it dearly.

The book centers around one Oswald Pinkerton who had a boyfriend named Tommy that no one remembers.  They all think he’s crazy, that he’s made up Tommy and, at times, the reader thinks that too.  But there are other times where you say to yourself ‘he can’t have possibly made up all this history’ so Tommy has to be real and there has to be some other explanation for it.  I won’t go too far into what the explanation is but let’s say there is some room for forming your own opinions.

This book is filled with colorful characters, main and supporting, and they all get a bit of their own story.  Calvin, the broody, emo boy that Ozzie thinks he might have feelings for even though he thinks he’s betraying Tommy.  Lua, Ozzi’s genderqueer best friend, a rock star in the making who seems comfortable in her own skin but is hiding a lot of emotional issues.  Dustin, the intelligent as hell stoner who appears to have it all together but doesn’t.  Trent, the idiot jock who has a lot more going on beneath his exterior.  They’re all wonderfully written and developed and I cared about everyone.  Even Trent, the prototypical asshole, was given enough depth and backstory that you couldn’t not care for him.

This book takes the well tread question of ‘who are we on our own?’ and turns it on his head.  It throws in something as sinister as the universe shrinking, of history being rewritten around you and no one else remembering your yesterdays but you.  In high school, the majority of people are concerned about popularity, about hooking up and having friends that they lose sight of who they are and what they want to do and that’s the big theme in this story.  Finding yourself and knowing yourself as you.  Without your boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend attached at your hip.

I could see a lot of myself in this story.  No, the universe isn’t shrinking for me but I understand how it feels to be in the middle of divorced parents.  How high school can scar you in so many ways and how it’s hard to know what to do with your life.  This book is realistic in that fact.  It doesn’t make things easy for these kids.  They go through hell and they come out the other side changed.  They don’t heal in just a few chapters.  It was real and it was good.  It was so, so good.

Shooter by Caroline Pignat

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Shooter
Caroline Pignat
Goodreads

A lockdown catches five grade 12 students by surprise and throws them together in the only unlocked room on that empty third floor wing: the boys’ washroom. They sit in silence, judging each other by what they see, by the stories they’ve heard over the years. Stuck here with them–could anything be worse?
There’s Alice: an introverted writer, trapped in the role of big sister to her older autistic brother, Noah.
Isabelle: the popular, high-achieving, student council president, whose greatest performance is her everyday life. 
Hogan: an ex-football player with a troubled past and a hopeless future.
Xander: that socially awkward guy hiding behind the camera, whose candid pictures of school life, especially those of Isabelle, have brought him more trouble than answers.
Told in five unique voices through prose, poetry, text messages, journals, and homework assignments, each student reveals pieces of their true story as they wait for the drill to end. But this modern-day Breakfast Club takes a twist when Isabelle gets a text that changes everything: NOT A DRILL!! Shooter in the school!
Suddenly, the bathroom doesn’t seem so safe anymore. Especially when they learn that one of them knows more about the shooter than they realized…

Review:

I had high hopes for this book because I enjoy books that put characters into one single setting and see how they shake out.  I think it can make for interesting interaction especially if the characters are written strongly and there’s a plot thread that’s keeping them together.  Unfortunately, this book fails on each of those points.  The characters are cliched and the plot, while relevant to today, is presented in a fantastical nature that makes little sense.  While I finished this book in one day, it was spite reading more than anything else.

The first thing that stuck in my craw about this book is how absolutely cliched the characters are: the popular girl, the quiet nerd, the ex-jock with a troubled past, the plain girl.  They were all there and there was absolutely nothing special or memorable about any of them.  I grew to absolutely hate, Isabelle, the popular girl first and the rest soon thereafter.  They were cardboard cutouts of the highest degree.  If the author’s intended effect was to make me not sympathize with the characters, then mission accomplished because I did not.  I didn’t feel fear for them, didn’t want them to pull through, didn’t want anything to happen but the book to end because I knew that everything was going to be tied up with a neat bow (and I was not wrong).

Then, we have the plot.  A lockdown traps them together and, in what could have been a tense, tightly woven plot about kids trying to survive a shooter and each other, turns into a group of kids using something as terrible as a lockdown to reveal deep, dark secrets to each other.  It just didn’t work for me.  I cannot see using a lockdown as a means to grow closer to your fellow students.  And then, to top it all off, the group turns into the Scooby Gang and figures out who the shooter is and what he has planned and manages to stop it all.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to read a book about a school shooting taking place but again, it just seemed implausible and fantastical in nature.  These kids managed to bond and then stop a tragic incident all in sixty minutes.

I think this subject matter was handled much better in Violent Ends.  That book was much more real, much more nuanced and affected me in a much deeper manner than Shooter.

A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

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A House at the Bottom of the a Lake
Josh Malerman
Goodreads

Both seventeen. Both afraid. But both saying yes.

It sounded like the perfect first date: canoeing across a chain of lakes, sandwiches and beer in the cooler. But teenagers Amelia and James discover something below the water’s surface that changes their lives forever.

It’s got two stories.

It’s got a garden.

And the front door is open.

It’s a house at the bottom of a lake.

For the teens, there is only one rule: no questions. And yet, how could a place so spectacular come with no price tag? While the duo plays house beneath the waves, one reality remains:

Just because a house is empty, doesn’t mean nobody’s home.

Review:

Like Bird Box, the other book written by Josh Malerman, this is a very atmospheric book.  It relies a lot on the sights, the sounds, the feel of the world around James and Amelia, the two main protagonists, to set the scene and drive up the tension.  It’s not entirely successful but it doesn’t fail either.  The concept of the book was supremely creepy and I was eager to get into it but it provided to be a little more bark than bite.

The book revolves around two teenagers, James and Amelia, discovering a perfectly pristine house at the bottom of the lake.  An impossible house where nothing is affected by the water surrounding it and no knick knack or item is out of place.  Everything is situated exactly as it should be in a house and thus, this is the atmosphere that we’re thrust into.  The darkness of the house, the impossibility of its existence and that nagging, creeping sense that it’s not right but it’s too fantastical to question.

James and Amelia become obsessed, spending all their time in diving gear, exploring the house.  They lose their virginity there, fall in love there and when the house is taken away, they lose each other.  They can’t exist with each other without the specter of the house.  It should be sad but I was more confused than anything.  Malerman has a penchant for doing this, making his books ambiguous so the reader can come to his own conclusions.  I would have liked to have a little more on the house but alas, it did not come true.

I think the crushing, horrible blackness of the dark was done better in Nick Cutter’s The Deep but this book wasn’t bad.  It was short, moved well, and was creepy in points but it just didn’t cross the line to really freak me out.  Still worth a few hours of time.

This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston

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This Is Our Story
Ashley Elston
Goodreads

Five went in. Four came out.

No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them. 

Kate Marino’s senior year internship at the district attorney’s office isn’t exactly glamorous—more like an excuse to leave school early that looks good on college applications. Then the DA hands her boss, Mr. Stone, the biggest case her small town of Belle Terre has ever seen. The River Point Boys are all anyone can talk about. Despite their damning toxicology reports the morning of the accident, the DA wants the boys’ case swept under the rug. He owes his political office to their powerful families.

Kate won’t let that happen. Digging up secrets without revealing her own is a dangerous line to walk; Kate has her own reasons for seeking justice for Grant. As she investigates with Stone, the aging prosecutor relying on Kate to see and hear what he cannot, she realizes that nothing about the case—or the boys—is what it seems. Grant wasn’t who she thought he was, and neither is Stone’s prime suspect. As Kate gets dangerously close to the truth, it becomes clear that the early morning accident might not have been an accident at all—and if Kate doesn’t uncover the true killer, more than one life could be on the line…including her own. 

Review:

This is one of those books that you can’t really put down while you’re reading it but you probably won’t remember in a week or so.  It’s a good book, well paced, and interesting but nothing really stuck with me and there wasn’t anything hugely unique about it either.  It was a fun, popcorn-y book with some solid cliffhangers, decent twists and a satisfying ending.

This book is a basic whodunit revolving around Kate Marino, a high school senior, and five well to do boys who become four well to do boys when one of their group dies suspiciously.  And therein lies the mystery.  Which of the group show their friend?  What was the motive?  Why did it happen?  And will the boys group crumble or remain strong in the face of possible murder charges?

I’ll admit that the ending and the culprit weren’t who I guessed.  I’d been going down another route and had actually been waiting for some super duper twist because I’ve been burned by a lot of books that pull something nonsensical out of their hats to try and shock the reader.  This book didn’t do that and it has that going in its favor.  It doesn’t try and make the audience gasp.  One of the boys did it and that’s that.  The author sticks with that and makes the reveal at the end.

The love story between Kate and one of those well to do boys was a bit contrived and a little too candy sweet for me but it didn’t offend me.  I was actually waiting for the boy, Shep, to be the actual killer.  Was I right?  I won’t tell.

There were several plot points that were dangled but never resolved which irked a bit.  What was going on with Logan?  What was going on with Lori and Henry and Grant?  Who were the guys that Logan was in trouble with?  Did Stone ever hire Kate back?  So many.  Again, nothing too integral but after setting those things up, I would have liked to see them knocked down.

Overall, this is a good, quick read that kept me interested until the end.

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

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Blood for Blood
Ryan Graudin
Goodreads

There would be blood. Blood for blood. Blood to pay. An entire world of it.

For the resistance in the Third Reich, the war may be over, but the fight has just begun. Death camp survivor Yael, who has the power to skinshift, is on the run: the world has just seen her shoot and kill Hitler. But the truth of what happened is far more complicated, and its consequences are deadly. Yael and her unlikely comrades dive into enemy territory to try to turn the tide against Hitler’s army, and there is no alternative but to see their mission through to the end, whatever the cost.

But in the midst of the chaos, Yael’s past and future collide when she comes face to face with a ghost from her past, and a spark with a fellow rider begins to grow into something more. Dark secrets reveal dark truths and one question hangs over them all—how far can you go for the ones you love?

Review:

In the conclusion of the Wolf to Wolf duology, we’re thrown right into a bloody, brutal, dark war right along with Yael and her Resistance.  We’re dragged through the mud and the gunk, we’re covered in the same blood that stains Yael’s hands and we hide behind the same walls that Yael stays behind to give herself a little more time to come up wit ha plan.

This book is great, plain and simple.  It’s not always the easiest read but it improves on so many things from the first book and doesn’t let up when it comes to pace and action.  Things never feel like they’re in a lull.  There is always something happening, always something going on and always some hook that got me to read more and more and more.

The character of Yael is one of the better ones I’ve been introduced to in a long time.  She’s a girl who doesn’t remember her own face, a girl who wants to right the wrongs that were done to her, a girl that lives by her own code, and is ready to die for her country.  She’s incredibly flawed and scarred but her ability to keep getting up and up and up when she’s knocked down is inspiring.  There were oftentimes that I expected her to die on the next page because Yael herself was ready to die.  She knew that her life would end and when it didn’t, I breathed out a sigh of relief.

This book did make me sad though in that it took one of my favorite characters from the first book, Felix, and twisted him up into a boy who did the wrong thing for what he thought were the right reasons.  He’s a boy who loves his family above all others and it leads him to make some terribly dumb, dangerous decisions.  It’s hard to forgive him when you see the consequences he has wrought but you can also put yourself in his shoes because he’s already lost one brother, he doesn’t want to lose the rest.  He makes mistakes, terrible mistakes, and I hated that he did what he did but I still loved him in the end.

Luka Lowe, oh Luka Lowe.  I didn’t care much for him in the first book but it’s amazing what a small novella and another novel can do.  Luka starts off as the boy who just wants his father to love him, respect him.  He ends the book as a hero who is gone too soon.  I was glad that he and Yael got to confess their love to one another before his end but I found myself wishing for more time for them.  Yael lost so much and I hated that she had to lose Luka too.

This is a really beautiful book.  It’s a quick read because things don’t stop moving and it’s a brutal book because the author is not afraid to do the messy thing.  I don’t want to give too much away but this comes with a high recommendation from me.

Iron to Iron by Ryan Graudin

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Iron to Iron
Ryan Graudin
Goodreads

Once upon a different time, there was a boy who raced through a kingdom of death.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Lowe has one goal in mind: Win the 1955 Axis Tour and become the first Double Cross victor. If he can accomplish that, maybe his father will finally see him as a worthy son. He’s completed the grueling trek from Germania to Tokyo before, but this time is different. Luka never expected to meet Adele Wolfe, another racer posing as her twin brother and with a singular dream–to live life on her own terms.

When Luka and Adele form an alliance, an unlikely bond forms, and even possibly love. But only one person can win the Axis Tour….Can everything Luka and Adele built together survive the race?

Review:

This is a short novella set before Wolf by Wolf that gives up some much appreciated backstory on Luka Lowe, one of supporting characters in the first book.  While Luka was mostly a shadowy, mysterious figure in the first book due to us seeing him through the eyes of someone who knows him only through files, this piece turns him into flesh and blood, a boy shaped by his cold father and the society surrounding him.

Luka starts off the book with one thing on his mind: winning.  He believes that by winning the Double Cross (basically winning the Axis Tour race twice), he will finally show his father that he’s weak.  Along the way, he meets Adele Wolfe and falls in love with her.  He struggles with trying to figure out if this means he is weak or if his father just hadn’t ever felt this before which made him the weak one.

But Luka is betrayed in the worst way, heart crushed, dream crushed, and left hollowed out by the book’s end.  He had everything he’d always wanted within reach and it was snatched away by the very person he was counting on to give him the life he always wanted.

Luka proves to be a very sympathetic, engaging character.  He’s flash and spice on the outside but wounded and sad on the inside.  He wants to be seen as good by his father and great by the Reich but he’s willing to throw it all away for a girl.  This novella, while fleshing out the character, gives light to what motivates Luka in Wolf to Wolf.  He’s a changed man, a harder man but there’s still that softness inside of him that yearns to be free.