Review: I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly

29430846.jpgTitle: I Hate Everyone, Except You

Author: Clinton Kelly

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

ISBN: 9781476776934

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Clinton Kelly is probably best known for teaching women how to make their butts look smaller. But in I Hate Everyone, Except You, he reveals some heretofore-unknown secrets about himself, like that he’s a finicky connoisseur of 1980s pornography, a disillusioned critic of New Jersey’s premier water parks, and perhaps the world’s least enthused high-school commencement speaker. Whether he’s throwing his baby sister in the air to jumpstart her cheerleading career or heroically rescuing his best friend from death by mud bath, Clinton leaps life’s social hurdles with aplomb. With his signature wit, he shares his unique ability to navigate the stickiest of situations, like deciding whether it’s acceptable to eat chicken wings with a fork on live television (spoiler: it’s not). Clinton delves into all these topics—and many more—in this thoroughly unabashedly frank and uproarious collection.

Bring on the sass!! I Hate Everyone, Except You, read on audiobook by Kelly himself, was a joyous, ultra-sassy account of Clinton Kelly’s life from his childhood to his rise to fame on What Not to Wear. His essays and anecdote, snarky but hilarious, reveal the man behind the show. I watched What Not to Wear religiously and took great amusement in Kelly’s fashion tips and often unflinching honesty. It’s always amazing to me to somewhat get to know the person behind the character on tv. Although Kelly is himself on tv, getting to know his past and how he came to be a successful tv personality is an interesting tale. Kelly doesn’t spare us his blatant thoughts and judgements, but his stories are full of comedic twists. Despite all of this, he’s a truly sweet person underneath, revealing these softer parts of himself throughout the text. I loved learning about how he came to be co-host on the TLC show, and getting an inside look at his friendship with Stacey London really warmed my heart. It made me nostalgic for all those episodes and I think I’m going to have to find some episodes to binge watch soon!


Review: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

26160470Title: Kafka on the Shore

Author: Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Vintage

Publication Date: First published in 2002

ISBN: 9781400079278


Synopsis from Goodreads:
Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.  

What an excellent book from legendary author, Murakami. I am slow to the punch with this one, but the more I read from Murakami, the more I have to read. And I’m never disappointed. Kafka on the Shore reads like a dream, but it touches ones emotions in a very real way. This is a story of coming of age, full of murder, loss, self-discovery, lust, the supernatural, the absurd. The author is a master at creating mind-bending worlds that run parallel to our own, so realistic, yet so in touch with the otherworldly.

The main characters, Kafka Tamura and Mr. Nakata, are opposites in terms of age, intelligence, and life experience, but their lives, unbeknownst to them, are intertwined. They’re realistic and almost alive. While Nakata struggles with even the simplest of tasks, he views the world and the people around him with unflinching honesty, observing life as he sees it, quite literally. Kafka is young and is embarking on a journey to truly find himself. Incredibly smart despite his desire to leave high school life behind, Kafka’s observations and musing are astute and studied. Both characters are on the hunt to discover that which is unknown. Their travels take them on adventures that they could have never predicted.

Murakami’s writing is excellent and his world, despite it’s absurd twists and turns, is accessible and not to difficult to understand. I think that many readers would relate to and connect with this particular novel. The characters are complex and truly lovely and there are so many surprises that it’s impossible to know how this book with turn out. Murakami is a true artist with the pen.

Review: The Bone Queen by Alison Croggon

32284099Title: The Bone Queen

Author: Alison Croggon

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 9780763689742

Synopsis on Goodreads:
Seduced into sorcery by an agent of the Dark, the promising Bard Cadvan of Lirigon recklessly unleashed the terrible Bone Queen, bringing destruction down upon Annar. Cadvan, cast out of the Schools of Barding for his crime, now lives in exile, burdened by memories of his dealings with the Dark. At Cadvan’s former home, his mentor, Nelac, and his rival, Dernhil, begin to suspect that the Bone Queen may yet lurk in Annar, and a young Bard, Selmana, is plagued by an ominous presence and an unsettling new ability to step between worlds. With darkness gathering and Bards giving in to fear and paranoia, a guilt-ridden Cadvan must earn back the Bards’ trust and Selmana must gain control of her newfound powers to bring peace to the living and the dead. 

Alison Croggon’s Pellinor series was one of my absolute favourites throughout my teen years, so naturally, I was thrilled to hear that this prequel was coming out and I pre-ordered it as soon as I heard. It was exciting to return to a beloved series and I wasn’t disappointed. Croggon gives readers a bit more background on her character, Cadvan, giving us some insight into his past and young life. This book hints at things to come in the Pellinor series, tying Cadvan’s history to his future. We get to see younger versions of various characters that are introduced in the main series. This book serves to round out the world even further. Reading this book was like being welcomed back into the familiar. It was comfortable and exciting in the same way the main series is.

If you’re coming into this series for the first time, I would strongly suggest reading the main series first. Although this is a prequel, readers would gain a greater understanding of the characters and this world by reading the original four books first. Reading some of the review on Goodreads, many who did not realize this book was a prequel to another series were quite lost. It doesn’t seem to be a book that can be easily read as a standalone. One will need the background information that the subsequent books provide.

I rated this book 4 stars out of 5 because I didn’t feel that it was as strong as the original series, but it was still excellent. It’s sparked a need in me to re-read all the Pellinor books once again. I’m so excited by Croggon’s writing and I hope that we will get to read more from her in the future.

Review: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

29868610Title: Scrappy Little Nobody

Author: Anna Kendrick

Publisher: Touchstone Books

Publication Date: November 2016

ISBN: 9781501117206

Synopsis from Goodreads:
A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect. Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.” At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations. With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.” Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

After listening to Kendrick’s autobiography on audiobook, I’ve really enjoyed her retelling of her experiences growing up and entering the film business where she’s made a name for herself. The audiobook, read by Kendrick herself, is witty, smart, and had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. Her personal vocalization of the text adds that personal level and really emphasizes her humour. She’s brutally honest at points but takes her own personal awkwardness and the reality of being a “late bloomer” to bring her reader many chuckles. She’s incredibly relatable and I’d think that many readers would really connect with her many anecdotes. She puts a voice to what everyone is thinking in any awkward situation ever. Poor Anna just happens to have faced more awkward situations than most. She is so open and honest in her stories and it’s hysterically funny. So glad I decided to give this one a listen.

Review: Zero Repeat Forever by Gabrielle Prendergast

28945665*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Zero Repeat Forever

Author: Gabrielle Prendergast

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: August 29, 2017

ISBN: 9781481481847

Synopsis from Goodreads:
He has no voice, or name, only a rank, Eighth. He doesn’t know the details of the mission, only the directives that hum in his mind. Dart the humans. Leave them where they fall. His job is to protect his Offside. Let her do the shooting. Until a human kills her…Sixteen year-old Raven is at summer camp when the terrifying armored Nahx invade, annihilating entire cities, taking control of the Earth. Isolated in the wilderness, Raven and her friends have only a fragment of instruction from the human resistance. Shelter in place. Which seems like good advice at first. Stay put. Await rescue. Raven doesn’t like feeling helpless but what choice does she have? Then a Nahx kills her boyfriend. Thrown together in a violent, unfamiliar world, Eighth and Raven should feel only hate and fear. But when Raven is injured, and Eighth deserts his unit, their survival comes to depend on trusting each other… 

Ah! This is actually one of the more exciting YA books that I’ve read in a long while. I’ve been thinking about this book constantly and itching to finish it. Now that I’m done, I’m sad I don’t have a second book in the series to move on to. In this world, humanity is at the mercy of a foreign, heartless invader. The Nahx shoot to kill, not discerning between man, woman, or child. Their darts are left in the victims and the bodies are left behind, completely preserved. The survivors are few and death is imminent at all times, if not by the Nahxs’ hands then by cold, illness, or starvation. Raven is fighting for her life, and faces more than her fair share of life-threatening situations. She is strong and independent. She cares deeply and feels so strongly. She’s a truly strong heroine with a big heart that she keeps closely protected. In opposition to Raven is Eighth, a Nahx who’s left his unit and found freedom filled with a sad, quiet desperation. Fate brings these two together, despite fear and hatred, but in time, they develop trust and perhaps even more.

I have one main criticism of this book, but I can’t say that it took away from my overall feelings of the book. This book starts out so strong and Prendergast is incredibly talented at world building. She paints a vivid picture of the world and the current situation, even though the characters are not right at the heart of the violence off the bat. I found the combat and violent situations to be so visceral. I couldn’t help but tense up and gasp at certain parts, totally drawn into the story. So many emotions all the time! I couldn’t put this book down.

My criticism lies in the last quarter of the book. While the intro, climbing action, and middle of the books are so thorough and descriptive, so well developed, the end in contrast is quick and somewhat unsatisfying in it’s brevity. After spending so much time in character development and world building, the conclusion to this first book in the series was too quick. Rather then spending pages building the intensity, the author spends mere paragraphs, or even mere sentences. It’s almost as if the ending is a passing thought and I don’t think it received the attention it deserved. Characters who’d previously displayed excellent potential act without reason or clear motive and in ways that are opposite to what we’d expect. Antagonistic characters behave in stock ways and are removed from the picture too quickly. It’s clear that this book is not about them, but has a deeper focus that I’m sure will be explored in books to come.

I feel like I’m being hard on this book, but my opinion is driven by the insane potential that this book has. A little extra attention at the end would have taken this book from fantastic to mind-blowing. Like the start to any good series, Prendergast takes the time to introduce us to her world and her characters, letting us explore and learn the concepts of this world at an engaging pace. I love luxuriating in the introduction to a new series and getting to know the world. It’s exciting to read something that truly has me on the edge of my seat and has me antsy to get my hands on the next book. I think that there is so much potential for the remainder of the story to be so intense, moving, heart-breaking, and full of conflict.

For anyone looking for a new YA series to read, THIS IS THE ONE! While I’ve had some tough things so say, I did absolutely LOVE this book and I’m so, so excited by it. I hope you’ll also read it and enjoy it overall as much as I did! I’d give this 4.5 stars out of 5.

Yesterday by Felicia Yap

33140164.jpg* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Yesterday

Author: Felicia Yap

Publisher: Mulholland Books

Publication Date: August 1, 2017

ISBN: 9780316465250

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Imagine a world in which classes are divided not by wealth or religion but by how much each group can remember. Monos, the majority, have only one day’s worth of memory; elite Duos have two. In this stratified society, where Monos are excluded from holding high office and demanding jobs, Claire and Mark are a rare mixed marriage. Clare is a conscientious Mono housewife, Mark a novelist-turned-politician Duo on the rise. They are a shining example of a new vision of tolerance and equality—until…a beautiful woman is found dead, her body dumped in England’s River Cam. The woman is Mark’s mistress, and he is the prime suspect in her murder. The detective investigating the case has secrets of his own. So did the victim. And when both the investigator’s and the suspect’s memories are constantly erased—how can anyone learn the truth?

This is certainly one of the more interesting concepts for a world that I’ve read in a while. This society is a mirror of our own, the difference being that human beings are classified either as monos or duos. Monos can remember one day’ worth of memory and duos can remember two. This creates a stratification in society where those with more memory are perceived as more adept and look down on those with more limited memory. Among all this, a murder has taken place and it is up to the police to solve the case before they run out of time and the memories are lost. In this world where peoples memory exists within the confines of their iDiaries which they write in every day, characters remember things as they wrote it down, making it possible to forget the past so easily.

I really struggled with this book. I think the concept is promising, but I don’t think that it was executed in a believable way, making it very hard to really connect with the story. My main problem with this book is that the concept is that people only have limited memory, but within the story, characters can remember facts and can work to remember facts. They only lose more trivial details and things they don’t commit to memory. This detail really takes away from this world. The story for me was undermined the second these facts were introduced. It complicated the characters, their motives, what they “choose” to remember or forget. It made it unclear as to how characters could really choose to forget a wrongdoing and re-write the course of their pasts.

What I did like was how truly unreliable every character was. This world really creates a lack of trust between the readers and the characters and for me, that’s immensely interesting. No one knows the truth. Even in the end, we can only know for certain by trusting the one character that’s potentially the most untrustworthy of them all. This creates a complexity within this story that one doesn’t always find in a story that’s more like our own.

I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. I did enjoy it as I was fascinated to see how Yap would create this world and drive the plot forward when the characters memories are so short. However, there were some short comings that left me unhappy with the concept as a whole. I think for a debut, Yap’s written an intriguing narrative and I’d be interested to see where her work goes in the future.

Review: Blame by Jeff Abbott

30842435* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.*

Title: Blame

Author: Jeff Abbott

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 9781455558438

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The crash that killed him
Two years ago, Jane Norton crashed her car on a lonely road, killing her friend David and leaving her with amnesia. At first, everyone was sympathetic. Then they found Jane’s note: I wish we were dead together.

A girl to blame
From that day the town turned against her. But even now Jane is filled with questions: Why were they on that road? Why was she with David? Did she really want to die?

The secrets she should forget
Most of all, she must find out who has just written her an anonymous message: I know what really happened. I know what you don’t remember…

Never have I enjoyed a thriller so much as I enjoyed Abbott’s Blame. It has a surprisingly engaging plot and some completely unseen twists. I couldn’t put it down. It’s not often that I get too into the thriller genre, but I’m glad I made an exception for this one. As a result of an accident, the protagonist, Jane, cannot remember the 3 years leading up to the crash that killed her childhood friend David. She is left a pariah, considered a murderer and an addict to nearly everyone in the town. Many in the town assume that because of her amnesia and the terrible accident that Jane is out of control. In this town, everyone has secrets, some far more terrible than others.

Not a single character is trustworthy, not even Jane. Abbott writes with with fingers pointed in all directions. Everyone can be a suspect here. Because our narrator is so profoundly unreliable due to her lack of knowledge–which even she acknowledges!–we cannot trust a thing that anyone tells her. The only things we know to be true are the small written facts we’re given along the way: a hand written note, a photograph, etc. Even Jane notes that anyone could tell her anything and she’d have to accept it as truth, because she knows no different. She is unreliable, but she is also incredibly vulnerable. Both Jane, and the reader, look to each character with mistrust and suspicion. It builds the intensity of the story and creates a frantic desperation to find out the truth…before it’s too late. Many innocent lives are at stake. The question of “why?” hangs over this tragedy, lurking in everyone’s actions and motivations. They all want the same thing, but there are things that someone is trying to keep hidden.

I’m just completely in awe of how much I liked this book. I can’t compare it to other thrillers, because it’s very unfamiliar territory for me. I can say that there were many characters that I did not sympathize with, and felt anger towards. But there are many redeeming characters who are open to forgiveness and willing to drop everything to help find the truth. Abbott has built a very interesting community in this tragedy stricken town.

While this book may not warm me up to this genre as a whole, as a stand alone book, I really appreciated Blame. I’m glad I took a shot to try something new, because it definitely paid off.