Sunday, January 31, 2016

Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

23848031Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

2.75 stars

Nicole’s father has lost his marbles. Nicole and her sister Isabel find themselves forced to move to a cabin in the remote woods that once belonged to her grandfather. Her father is a firm believer in the end of the world and this move is preparation for it, but their mother isn’t happy and leaves. Nicole and Isabel suddenly find themselves alone in the woods with no parental supervision in a quickly deteriorating house. On the other sides of the woods lies a religious/spiritual commune where Wolf has lived all his life. Wolf wants to be one with nature and now that his drug addict mother is back he prefers the solitude of the woods. Laurel is Wolf’s best friend and she claims that she doesn’t like Wolf, but she can’t help being jealous of the outsider, Nicole, who has become close to Wolf. This is the premise of this book and don’t go into this book thinking for some harrowing tale about family, redemption, the end of the world, and saving yourself because that’s not what this book is about. In fact, this book isn’t about much more than 224 pages of exposition and buildup that doesn’t really buildup to anything climatic. There’s a point when shit hits the fan, but none of it was necessary or fleshing out for the potential of this story. This story doesn’t have any concrete message that I can get behind because it doesn’t feel concrete. There doesn’t seem to be any end goal in this novel, which sometimes works, but in this novel’s case it doesn’t help.

“I am often hovering in between, unclear about my destination.”
(Which pertains to the story surrounding this book; there is no clear destination of what it wants to say.)

This novel is set in the year prior to 9/11, which is really fascinating. I feel like it’s a good place to start concerning novels where families don’t feel safe and the prospect of protecting their family from destruction, whether it’s natural or man-made, was very rampant at this time. It makes since that Nicole and Isabel’s father feels this way, but it wasn’t expanded on for this being his reasoning. Nicole just followed him around and nodded her head while Isabel called him crazy, but not once did they ask why their father was moving them into the middle of the woods. If they would’ve asked this question I wouldn’t have to have read endless pages of nothing for this “BIG REVEAL” as to why their father has uprooted their family.

"The older I get, the more I feel as if I am some lone explorer in a strange new world, where I understand few of the rules and am not sure I have the right equipment to survive.”

There are some discrepancies with the writing and while I was reading from an ARC copy, I don’t see how an author can forget which POV they are writing from at the present time. If you are writing from a character’s POV, KNOW your character because otherwise you’ve convinced me and along with other readers that your POVs all sound the same even to yourself. While there are some great lines in here, I don’t read literature just to quote it. I want those great lines to have a profound meaning and connection to the story, not for the sake of being a great line. It takes away from the overall picture and doesn’t feel like there is much of a story if you have to throw in lines for the sake of it.

Whimsical Writing Scale: 2.75

As I’ve briefly mentioned there are multiple POVs-Nicole, Isabel, Wolf, and Laurel. Out of these four Nicole and Wolf’s are the most prominent in the story.

Nicole is the most interesting character of the story because she is relatable. Her story isn’t farfetched for the sake of entertainment or drama. She’s a realistic character who takes control of the situation. As the big sister she realizes that she has to protect Isabel, hunt for food, and keep the shitty cabin afloat while they are abandoned by their parents. She’s level-headed, a quick thinker, rational, and a realist. While these are not traits that usually make an outstanding character, they are a trait that are human and that’s what makes Nicole stand out in her POV. She’s HUMAN and that’s a good thing when it comes to contemporary novels because that’s what sales the character to me.

Isabel is Nicole’s baby sister and she definitely puts baby in that title. Isabel reminds me a lot of my sister in the ways that she wants to be older than she actually is and is forced to face consequences in rocky situations where she needs Nicole to save or comfort her in. Isabel’s voice is judgmental and bratty- she sounds like an airhead to me. There’s no nicer way of putting it, but as the story progressed Isabel’s character became more fleshed out, but not for the right reasons. My biggest problem with Isabel is that she is used a plot device for, what I’m considering to be, rape. It’s important to know that Isabel is only fourteen-years-old and in my opinion, nowhere near old enough to make the decision of having sex. During this scene she specifically says, “I know there’s something I should say about condoms or slowing down or birth control or I don’t want to do this, but no words come out, because part of me does want to do this.” I’m sure it can be argued that Isabel’s mind is developed enough to know the choice she has made, but this scene just proves right there to me that she doesn’t understand what sex, especially unprotected underage sex, entails in its secret guidelines. I feel like the author uses Isabel in a way to say, “LOOK SOMETHING CONTROVERSIAL HAPPENED! NOW LET THE DRAMA BETWEEN WOLF AND NICOLE ENSUE!” Which is totally horrible that this girl barely old enough to understand the meaning of consensual sex is used a plot device for romantic relationship drama.

Laurel is Wolf’s friend and considered sister from the commune. She’s the epitome of a pointless POV. Her character serves NO purpose for this story. She doesn’t add depth or enhance the reading experience. In fact, you could probably skip reading her POV and not miss anything pertaining to the story. She is also unlikable. I didn’t connect to her outside or inside of her head and I felt nothing when it came to her.

Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: Nicole- 3.5 Isabel- 2.5 Laurel- 1

Wolf has this weird Thoreau inspired POV and it is heavily influenced with nature ideas and spiritual musings. My problem with Wolf is that is far too philosophical for a teenage boy. His thought process is far too profound and above what any sixteen/seventeen year old thinks about when musing upon life. It’s pretty unbelievable. I’m not sure if I like Wolf as a character or not because he’s hard to connect to and he doesn’t feel completely real. Here’s an example:
“I don’t begin to understand why life, so excruciatingly fragile, so breathtaking in its delicate beauty, can be destroyed with such ease.”
Which is a beautiful quote, but I can’t see any of the boys in my high school thinking about life like this.

Swoon Worthy Scale: 2.5

Nicole and Isabel’s mom and dad are present in this story without being present. In YAs when the parent is absent it’s far from being on the forefront of the character’s minds, but in this novel it is like a constant heavy ball weighing on the minds of both girls.
“He has a way of being silent that is louder than any voice.”
When it comes to girls’ father, he is extremely unlikable and he has no redeeming qualities which I find extremely unrealistic. He’s a jerk and he made a lot of bad choices, but that doesn’t make him completely horrible. Likewise, their mom isn’t a great person, she left her children with no intention of coming back with a man who is off kilter in sanity, and she isn’t painted out for being wrong or horrible in this aspect. I think that’s a very unfair portrayal on both accounts of the parents.
“I don’t know how we are supposed to recover from crazy.”

Character Scale: 3

The romance between Wolf and Nicole is obviously a big part of this novel because 1) it is contemporary and 2) if there is a boy and a girl then that must mean love story. I’m not a big fan of their relationship, but I’m not against. I have a lukewarm feeling to it and their sparks aren’t enough to light a small kindling for me.
“I want to know her in ways I cannot fathom, and it’s an urge so powerful, I feel the energy of all humanity past and present is pushing me toward it.”
If Jamie Fraser said this it would be more eloquent and I would eat that shit up, but Wolf tries to hard even when musing about a muse. It’s gag inducing.

I’m not a huge fan of this novel, but I do think it’s a decent novel that if you are interested in already then I urge you to read it. But if you’re like me with a billion books on your TBR pass this one up. I’ll be looking into Kain’s debut novel because it sounds right up my alley, but this book isn’t bad and I imagine a lot of younger readers would absolutely devour this in one sitting.

Plotastic Scale: 2.75

Also side note because this irked me: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING ATTRACTED TO OLDER MEN! I mean have you seen Sam Heughan and Norman Reedus?

You're welcome!

Cover Thoughts: I like the cover, but like the rest of my thoughts on this book, I only feel lukewarm about it.

I won a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press (subdivision Griffin) in an exchange for an honest review.

Have you read Instructions for the End of the World? Do you want to? What's your favorite contemporary (let me know because I don't read enough and want to!)? Let me know down below in the comments!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Review Takedown #1

I know I haven't personally been keeping up with written reviews, but one my personal goals for my YouTube channel is to review more books. I do plan to write reviews and will always write reviews because I feel a strong passion for what I write, but I put so much effort and love into my reviews it can sometimes take up to two hours to write because I want to make sure what I'm saying is true and matches my feelings completely. This new series I'm starting is just a brief way to review books with my verbal ramblings instead of my written ones! I do plan on posting reviews for this books at some point in the future it just may take a while for them to get written!


In my Review Takedowns I hope to review three books, but I will review four if I have read a novella or short story that I have thoughts on and think is worth mentioning or discussing. In my first Review Takedown video I review three books and a novella. My first books of January!

Books Mentioned:
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The Benson by Karina Halle  
I really enjoyed this novella and it's free for download here. I'm just a big fan of Halle's books and love the Experiment in Terror series, but you don't have to have read the first two books to read The Benson!

Thug Notes by Sparky Sweets 
I'm a huge fan of the Thug Notes series on YouTube and I was so excited to get approved by Netgalley. I highly recommend it if you are in college and struggle with reading classics. It's a lot of fun!

Violet Dawn by Lynn Rush
This is the second book in the Violet Night trilogy and I'm not the biggest fan of this trilogy so far, but I will say this book has a very strong and enjoyable middle. It was the selling factor for a three star rating.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
I have been a long time Outlander fan since discovery the books in November my junior year and I have been slowly going through the books (or quickly since this books are huge). I absolutely adore the fourth installment in this series and I'm not sure whether I love it more or less than Voyager because the Voyager is amazing, but the ending of the matches up to the feels at felt for the beginning. I just really need to start reviewing these books on my blog, but I have so many feels and I just... articulation of feels may make me seem like the madwoman featured in this video. 

Favorite Book:
Drums of Autumn
Most Readable:
The Benson
Best Writing:
Drums of Autumn
Strongest Characters:
Drums of Autumn
OTP Couples and Great Characters:
Drums of Autumn

What do you think of this new feature? Do you think it's a good idea? I hope you will keep watching my review videos because I actually had a lot of fun filming this! Let me know down below in the comments if you have any thoughts on these novels.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

New Goal: Read More of the Books I Acquire Each Year

I was looking at my bookshelves one night when I was struck by the idea that I want to read more of the books that I acquire in the same year in 2016. Upon this realization I decided to go through the books I bought/received in 2015 and see how many I read. I have the tendency to let books accumulate on my shelves for years before I finally pick them up. I was surprised to see that I read 27 out of the 64 books I received in total in 2015.


Hopefully in 2016 I'm able to read a lot more of the books I buy in that same year. I'm tired of seeing books go untouched for so long, but because this year is super busy I understand if I don't make this goal.  At the same time I've already acquired almost 20 books so far this year and I'm currently reading two of those. I think I'm off to a pretty good start!

Let me know down below what books from this video I NEED to read in 2016; as well as if you have the same book build-up problem! :D

Monday, January 18, 2016

Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter & Emma

23332877Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne & SunNeko Lee

3.25 stars

The Scarlet Letter is a popular classic that can be considered the basis of American literature. Most schools study this book in great detail, so it’s a pretty big staple in classics. Naturally the fabulous creators behind Manga Classics are going to adapt it. I have read The Scarlet Letter, so out of all the manga adaptations it’s the only one I can fully agree with or disagree with interpretation wise. I personally am not the biggest fan of The Scarlet Letter and have been putting off reviewing for quite some time because my thoughts on it aren’t concrete. I always find classics are to review, but in the manga format I find it easier to express my feelings towards style, imagery, and themes.

Instead of the manga starting with the iconic scene of Hester walking out of jail with a bold letter A sewn into her clothes, this story starts with Hawthorne finding a manuscript of The Scarlet Letter. I don’t think that this takes away from the story, but it felt weird and forced. I’m not a hundred percent behind this introduction and I think for a first time reader interested in The Scarlet Letter it takes away the severity of what the letter A stands for- a start to story that ends with no solid representation of a letter because the A becomes ambiguous in meaning.

I do really like the art style of black and white with a stark red A. It really makes the meaning behind the letter stand out and I thought it was a brilliant idea. I do have a problem with how obvious the artwork makes all the symbolism out to be. The point behind Chillingworth is his representation of the devil, but it’s a very underhanded message throughout the novel. In this adaptation, it plainly depicts him as evil with one image having snakes behind him. Another thing that kept The Scarlet Letter interesting was the suspense of who the baby daddy was, but it’s so painstakingly obvious that there is nothing to keep the reader turning the page.

This is a good adaptation for readers who couldn’t finish The Scarlet Letter or are interested, but unsure. I personally am not keen on the lack of metaphors that were so central in Hawthorne’s tale being ignored, but that’s the price of physical adaptations. Sometimes pictures miss the mark.

Art Scale: 4.5

Themes Presented: 2

Plotastic Scale: 3.25

Cover Thoughts: I really like the illustration used and feel that it would catch readers’ attention.

Thank you, Netgalley and Udon Entertainment for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Manga Classics: Emma by Jane Austen & Po Tse

3.75 stars

Emma is a novel that I have yet to read. Sadly I have yet to read any Jane Austen and the manga classic adaptations of P&P and Emma are the only exposure I’ve yet to have. I have to say, I do enjoy them and can’t wait to pick up Austen’s novels. I think that in the Manga Classic division the Austen adaptations are the strongest- the best being P&P. I didn’t know much about Emma going in, but I know all about her now. Emma is a young girl who has just made a love-match and she is convinced she’s a matchmaker. This leads to a lot of confusion and Emma being a frustrating character, but young women are easily mislead so Austen definitely hit the nail on the head with her portrayal of Emma.

I’m not sure if Emma is a revered classic, but I think it definitely should be. It has all the same workings of P&P, but it feels more fleshed out. I personally enjoyed P&P more, but I won’t decide on actually love for Austen until I’ve experienced her novels. I like the premise of a matchmaker because I think that this is one of the first introduced in literature and it’s easy to see Emma’s heavy influence in culture today, but I agree with Mr. Knightley- Emma should mind her own business instead meddling. It just leads to A LOT of drama. More so than P&P which had more drama than I was expecting, but this was tenfold.

My biggest problem with Emma lies with the character Emma. She is infuriating. She feels the need to control situations and hates men who judge and base people by social status and class, but she won’t allow her friend to marry a farmer. When I think about Emma represents society and the need to place people into classes as well as being hypocrites. So, she becomes a lot better character if I view her as that.

The art style is quite lovely. I just really enjoyed looking at the art and Mr. Knightley wasn’t bad to look at either. This is one I definitely recommend checking out!

Art Scale: 5

Character Scale: 4

Themes: 2

Plotastic Scale: 4

Cover Thoughts: I’m quite fond of this cover. It’s just very striking and beautiful.

Thank you, Netgalley and Udon Entertainment for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Have you read any Manga Classics? Which ones are your favorites? Any classics you want to see adapted into manga format? Let me know down below in the comments! 

Short Stories That I Enjoyed in the Last Two Weeks

Hey, everyone! I've been away for a while. I moved into my apartment, started my intern teaching tenth graders at a local high school, d...