archive: 2017

Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 08, Made to Suffer

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The Walking Dead: Vol. 08, Made to Suffer by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn | Rating: ★★★★☆

As always, The Walking Dead kicks things up a notch with the next installment. It asks questions of humanity--who would we, the ordinary, be in such dire circumstances. One thing is certain: we'd be forever changed.

Following the events and cliffhanger of the previous volume, the survivors find themselves with a brand new (and in some cases, old) threat ready to take everything away from them. We've got classic horror abound! Disturbing villains, questionable good guys who only want to survive, and just about every gory trope in the book. But that's what we love about the series, right? The shock, the terror, the idea that what is old (the tropes) can become new again?

In this volume--it's all there. Moreso, it is utterly heartbreaking. We're talking, "Hey. Do you want to just take my heart out right now and shatter it?", levels of madness and pain. We lose quite a few of the characters we'd come to love and two are just so far beyond heavy and disturbing, I cannot begin to describe my graphic novel hangover--which is funny because this is NOT my first read of the series.

Overall, a great read for someone looking for a scare.

archive: 2017

Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 07: The Calm Before

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The Walking Dead, Vol. 07: The Calm Before by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)

Perhaps one of the weakest length in the early run of the series, The Calm Before is basically a filler volume. Each issue had its perks and flaws but for the most part, the title says it all. It's a base. It is the calm before a storm--and the way that it ends on a cliffhanger, as per usual, makes this fact stand out more. The Walking Dead once again captures the horrors of how deeply scarring the world they are living in is. It's dark and gritty.

You know, the two things that stick out to me most in this volume is the mental health issues that plague one of the groups own--the days leading up to her successfully committing suicide. And the idea of starting--or continuing--a family in such dire circumstances. Can you imagine bringing up a child in this world? What Carl says is perfectly put--any new child would not know the world as it was, only as it now is. Something about that is chilling and perhaps one of the most emotionally charged moments in The Calm Before.

archive: 2017

Review: Solo by Kwame Alexander

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 Solo by Kwame Alexander | Rating: ★★★★☆

As a note, an e-galley of this novel was sent to me via Edelweiss by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

This was my first experience with a Kwame Alexander book. Based on the entire prose of Solo I can already tell it won't be my last. Within moments of beginning the story and seeing how it's verse was laid out for readers, I was immediately overcome with the atmosphere of it all. Like with books by Ellen Hopkins there's this sense of intimacy that comes with the format of the story. So much in it generates a sort of warmth and moves you the further you flip through the book and that is the most important thing to note about Solo.

What strikes me most about this is the message behind various moments in the book. Alexander provides readers with a voice that was desperately needed for its younger audience. Readers will relate to somethings in the pages and others won't, but that's okay. Because there's something deeply obtainable about the voice we witness.

More importantly, there's this element of healing and growing and reaching for life. There's a lot of layer to Solo that will keep readers turning pages. Family relationships and the struggle of living in someone else's shadow. Human complexities that arise not only from this but from love, loss and growing up. Frankly, it makes the novel so raw and moving that you scarcely find yourself drifting in and out of the story. I loved it! Overall, it's an excellent read with a velvety tone that is both honest and thought provoking.

archive: 2017

Review: California by Edan Lepucki

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California by Edan Lepucki | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)

“Time moved forward, but the mind was restless and stubborn, and it skipped to wherever it pleased, often to the past: backward, always backward.” 

Edan Lepucki is really on a roll with her novels. Although California was-at times-slow to the point, the prose was incredibly haunting and moving. Unlike most dystopian novels, this one felt... I want to say organic? Like many in the genre, it had its flaws--its bad guys, its struggles, its accusations, but it felt far more real/emotional than many other releases out there. This is entirely due to the velvety smooth and deeply moving way Lepucki has with words--her prose feels like something more than you can explain.

I really enjoyed the concept of it: from the state of the world, to the communities, to the Group*. It is compelling and mysterious, atmospheric and lively. Moments go by and it's almost dreamy in a spooky sort of way. I think that's what strikes me most about California: it is laid back and yet there's still some high stakes going on that you wonder what's really boiling beneath the surface as the plot unfolds.

abigail haas

Review: Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas

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Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas | Rating: ★★★★★

“Wouldn't we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?” 

 Holy--sh*t. Oh my God. Out of curiosity, how the heck am I supposed to get over this book hangover? Because I'm at a loss. I'm completely consumed with thoughts of the aftermath of Dangerous Girls I fear I can barely sit still, let alone write a review of my thoughts. Let's just say... Abigail Haas knows how to not only pen a chilling tale, she knows how to compel her audience and leave them speechless when the curtain falls.

Seemingly ripped from the headlines. It is all about one crime, one vacation, one group of friends, one trip that changes everything . Two cases seem to have inspired the novel but this doesn't define it: Dangerous Girls is a force of nature in literature and a story all its own. In fact, it was one of the most captivating young adult novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading. There's a lot of complications that come with the restrictions one would have in writing a young adult novel--but this one doesn't have a problem with it.

The book got under my skin in the most deliciously dark way imaginable. It's that kind of feeling I got when I read so many others (yet so few when considering how many books I have read in my entire life): Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, The Fever by Megan Abbott, Wanted and The Good Girls by Sara Sheppard, Pretty Baby by Mary Kuba and My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews. You're left feeling chilled to the bone after you close it and it doesn't leave your mind for days and days.

archive: 2017

Review: The Walking Dead, Vol. 06: This Sorrowful Life

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The Walking Dead, Vol. 06: This Sorrowful Life by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn | Rating: ★★★★☆

Proving once again what a staple this is in anyone's horror/graphic novel collection, The Walking Dead continues with its sixth volume, a collection of gory tales of survival in a zombie apocalypse. You see the horrors first hand--the death, the savage nature we're drawn to, the burning passion of love and hate and most of all surviving until tomorrow. During my first reading of this series, I have to admit, I wasn't altogether fond of many of the strips in This Sorrowful Life but this time around I enjoyed it far more than I had. I still have some complaints (more of life back at the prison as the group grapples to survive, not knowing whether Rick, Michonne and Glenn are dead) but for the most part this was one of the most suspenseful installments yet.

The biggest threat isn't always zombies in The Walking Dead: it's humans, too, at their very worst. Enter, The Governor. Sadistic, troubling, chilling--any of these things can describe such a horrid character. He is one of those characters that scares the heck out of you and makes your stomach turn. Worst of all, he is holding some of the survivors captive and torturing them.

archive: 2017

Review: Roxy's Story by V.C. Andrews

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Roxy's Story by V.C. Andrews | Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ (1.5)

Although the second book in The Forbidden series, a prequel leading into the end of Forbidden Sister's central plot-line, is immensely better than its (highly dull) predecessor it is still a deeply flawed and sloppy attempt at a novel. Roxy is far more fascinating to read about than Emmie, this much is true, tripping over itself on multiple occasions. I had a lot of problems about it--the pacing, the lack of actual development, the shortage of anything remotely campy beyond the escort plot.

Needless to say, I wasn't a fan. Another problem I had with this book was its excessive use of 'what-ever' which, I have no actual problem with such a mundane phrase and say it frequently myself. It just felt like it was constantly thrown about in the conversations and not just characters who were younger. I wouldn't think twice if it was merely Roxy consistently tossing it about but it was literally every character, including the professional ones who were apparently meant to be much more eloquent than they were. But, if you were wondering, this was irrelevant to the central points of the story and are neither here nor there at the end of the day.

archive: 2017

Promising Plotline, but Definitely Not V.C. Andrews (Review: The Forbidden Sister by V.C. Andrews)

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The Forbidden Sister by V.C. Andrews | Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

“You can’t love anyone without pain, the pain of jealousy and the pain of loss. It will always be under your skin and in your heart waiting to pounce.”

I just can't seem to learn from the flaws of this era of "V.C. Andrews", you know? Time and time again, I get lured in by promising plotlines (family secrets, a sister who left home at a young age and became an escort; overbearing families and tangled friendships) and a summary that leaves you dangling in suspense. There have been few releases in recent years that I have genuinely enjoyed from Andrews--most recently, it was the startling and disturbingly fun introduction to a new series: The Mirror Sisters and its even better sequel Broken Glass--and there is really no going around and tip toeing that. My longtime followers and friends know why I take issue with the name being used long after the author has passed and I won't get into it.

The Forbidden Sister had something to it beyond that beautiful cover art. I was fascinated by the very premise. There was something between the lines of the summary that called to me and I just couldn't resist. However, where I thought there would be more thrilling intrigue and secrets; the novel was lackluster and the premise gave away the entire plot-line. Further, I just found it to be dull and choppy; boring, boring, boring. No substance. Nothing.

archive: 2017

Review: Great by Sara Benincasa

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Great by Sara Benincasa | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)

“It's like there's this knowledge hanging in the air that one person has more power than the other, and we're supposed to pretend everything is nice and normal and equal, but in reality, luck or chance has showered benefits on one person that the other person couldn't dream of.” 

 The thing about retellings of classic literature is that, despite its source material aging really well and somehow remaining relevant even as the times change, it's always going to be a bumpy path to adapt it to modern-times. The Great Gatsby has something timeless to it that makes it easier to change the story--to modernize it, to bring it to today's world whilst keeping its general heartbeat going. Great proves that it's possible to take a story we know and love, and give it new life.

Sara Benincasa has this lightness to her prose that is fluffy and honest; gritty and cheesy. It's fun. It is reminiscent of Gatsby, but still its own story. What I liked most about it was seeing how she adapts the tale as something new. These characters are new; they are not the exact mirror of their original counterparts. Not only are the names different, their genders and the like are changed too. There are those signs of life from the original source but there's an inclusion to this one that makes it that much more of its own story.

a court of mist and fury

A Court of Mist and Fury is Brilliant, Fiery and Deliciously Dark (Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas)

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A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas | Rating: ★★★★★

“No one was my master— but I might be master of everything, if I wished. If I dared.”

 You know that feeling you get, not long after you close a good book, and you just have to sit there and bask in the aftermath? Hypothetically speaking, you kind of just sit there with your jaw on the floor, on the verge of rolling around? And it takes you a few hours to sort out whatever it is you are feeling, so you can finally--finally--write a review?

This bloody book did that to me and I'm, personally, considering a proposal to Sarah J. Maas. So here I am, after two and a half hours of sitting on my ass thinking, " Holy shit. I like it. I'm putting a ring on it. " and I'm going to be honest, it's kind of a brilliant feeling? Although, I can't seem to put my thoughts into words on how much I enjoyed A Court of Mist and Fury because in all honesty my biggest way of expressing this book, and my love for it, would have to just be me saying 'HOLY SHIT' in every language conceivable and then probably a dozen undiscovered, complete made up and forgotten ones.

(Quickly followed by the most creepiest addition yet: that old Myspace emoji that used to pop up in comments under 'horny'. Only because of its mischievous quality, I swear.)

archive: 2017

Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas | Rating: ★★★★★

I have one thing to get off my chest before gathering my thoughts: HOLY CRAP IN A SACK, WHY DID I PROCRASTINATE READING THIS FOR SO BLOODY LONG?! I'm serious. I know, I know, I know I should have listened to you guys ages ago about Sarah J. Maas but I'm stubborn and lazy and well actually mostly just lazy. All that matters is I got here--right? Just say yes.

Phew.

To say that A Court of Thorns and Roses was a wildly entertaining ride would be an absolute injustice to it. Because it was so much more than just fun and consistently captivating. I haven't had something literature related fuck-me-up so badly in ages (that's a lie but it's mostly not a lie if you close your eyes) but here we are. Sarah J. Maas, will you at least do me a solid and take me to dinner before screwing my emotions like this, mate? No? Fair.

Real talk: the hype surrounding this book, this series, is not unfounded. It's just brilliant in terms of magic and engrossing plots as well as seriously lovable (and hate-able) characters. Swooning over how perfect (I actually purred while typing perfect, if you need to mock something) Feyre is.

archive: 2017

Review: Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

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Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)

The first thing you should know before diving into Woman No. 17 is that Edan Lepucki's prose is velvety smooth; dark, delicious, humorous. What makes the entire novel is the way the story is told. The narration as it unfolds is something spectacular, even if the story is not. Something in the way she writes is a breath of fresh air and rings true to day-to-day life, making the connections and plots (or lack thereof) all the more stunning. Edan Lepucki writes the way all novels should be told; the characters and relationships complex but beautifully crafted.

Needless to say: her prose enchants the reader and the experience of reading. What you can most expect is two narrators, two incredibly different woman, and the friendship* that blossoms one year. Both woman have flaws that tug at your heartstrings and simultaneously make you both sympathetic and skeptical of their reliability. Something about the summary and premise made me think: this is going to be a thriller, but I wouldn't be go so far when typing up a genre. Woman No. 17 is mysterious and fascinating, thoughtful and dark, but it never quite picks up the pace you'd expect.

Does that make it a bad novel? Absolutely not. I enjoyed it and finished it in under a day; it is the type of book that you indulge in and either connect with it or don't. Both Lady and S have a lot of baggage between the two and often don't do the right thing (or, you know, at all) but this is what makes reading them so captivating. As far as leads go, they are highly developed and will continue to push readers into compulsion. You love them, you hate them, it is all part of being a solidly written character. I felt Lady to be the most developed of the two but there's something darkly intriguing about S and her art.

archive: 2017

Review: Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

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Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan | Rating: ★★★☆☆

Well, this was a rather mediocre end to a fantastically fun and dishy series. Crazy Rich Asians has quickly become my latest literature addiction and is one of the best beach reads a girl could find. In fact, I have not felt this much energy and fun in a novel of this genre since Gossip Girl was released all those years ago. I still stand by the fact that this series is the perfect thing for fans to now devour and although there were a lot of things I'd have changed about Rich People Problems, it was still a blast to read--even when it was tripping over itself. Which was, unfortunately, more than a few times.

Kwan still has that deliciously devious tone to his writing that is like indulging in gossip. There's all sorts of drama going on in the luxurious lives of these characters and that's what makes it so fun to dive into. It's the perfect predecessor to Gossip Girl and The A-List and there's some-thing incredibly smart in it. Some of the characters you love and admire, some you find to be the most insufferable people.

Either way, you're engrossed in their lives and wonder what could possible happen next. Stylish and full of life, it takes you away from the ordinary and you can't help but to laugh often. Kevin Kwan has a prose that is hilarious, sweet and sexy--oh it is definitely reminiscent of a gossip column, without the complete airhead tone one might expect.

archive: 2017

Review: The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

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The End of Everything by Megan Abbott | Rating: ★★★★★

...like all that you are is the wanting, and the rest of you just burns away?

If there's only one thing to be said about an author like Megan Abbott, it should be this: she breathes life into her words and the characters only grow from there. She understand the complexities of being a young girl or woman--she just knows how the tone of life is for us. More than this, she is able to speak to parts of us that are often ignored in literature; teasing us with that ounce of fiction mixed in with what connects us to the characters. The End of Everything is just the same, a story of girlhood and the possible loss of innocence.

There's a dreamy quality to it that bridges the characters thoughts (both realistic and not) to our own way of processing things. As usual, the flow of it is vivid and velvety smooth, exactly what literature is meant to be. It is thought provoking and compelling, tying us to the pages of the bigger mysteries we see unraveling. I've always felt that Abbott understands things about what a reader finds captivating better than her peers and even in some of her weaker releases, this much is clear.

archive: 2017

Review: Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren

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Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)

This is my first experience with a Christina Lauren book and I have to say I am very intrigued and impressed. While it had its similarities to The Hating Game and toed the line of being repetitive, it was still sexy and humorous. Beyond the undeniable chemistry of the two leads, and their love/hate relationship that didn't border on unhealthy, there were tones of both glamorous lives (i.e: Hollywood) and a reality the rest of us know. Between the romance and the humor, we were also prone to emotional tugs and tackling the subject of sexism in the workplace.

I think what surprised me about Dating You / Hating You was that it was never cringe worthy (unless you count condom fiasco in a later plot) and remained entertaining in its dramatic aspects. It was fun and fluffy without losing any heart or intelligence. Christina Lauren balanced out the formula of a love story and made it their own; smart, steamy and sweet. More than this, the characters were fleshed out wonderfully. They both had flaws and less than stellar qualities to them that made them obtainable to the audience.

Even the minor characters bring a bit of fun to the plot--despite the fact that one of them is an insufferable prick who you cannot wait to see knocked down a few pegs. Talk about sexist pricks found in the work place, am I right? I thought that they served the plot well but there were still moments (family and friends) that felt underdeveloped and as if they could have been explored better.

!jessica talks

Instagram Roundup: June 2017

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Honestly, I don't know what it is about June but it makes me so nostalgic. I think it's all the summer air that makes me think of middle and high school. Regardless, I get more than a little nostalgic in the month of June. Sometimes, places and settings and seasons and songs and books make you remember the past. As a whole, I must have a lot of good and bad memories associated with the start of summer. Who knows. June was a hit or miss month for me when it came to book photography (or photography in general) but I did start going to the library more (for the first time since high school) and had an old friend of mine drop in for the first time in almost a decade.

(Hey, Paige! Remember when we started book blogging together? She--and my friend Jane--are where it all began for Booked J. Back then, we were BOOKED JJP!) 

*As always, square dimensions only. You can find me here on Instagram.

archive: 2017

Enter, Spine Tingling Villains and Disturbances (Review: The Walking Dead, Vol. 05: The Best Defense (Graphic Novel)

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The Walking Dead, Vol. 05: The Best Defense by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn | Rating: ★★★★☆

AND A WORTHY, SPINE TINGLING VILLAIN FINALLY ARRIVES. You know, the level of emotional distress and disturbance has always been high in this one, what with the introduction of The Governor. In its history, The Walking Dead has always balanced that sort of terrifying and unhinged tone to some of its greatest, most disturbing, villains. The Best Defense is proof of that--suddenly, surviving is much more trying than it had been for the group (in particular: Glenn, Michonne and Rick) and the events of this one are horrifying. What always strikes me about this one is that the biggest horror doesn't necessarily come about by the threat of the zombies we've come to fear.

Instead, the focus is shifted back on the horrors of humanity. We explored this briefly in past issues and volumes (including the last installment) but something about this one hits you right where it hurts. Because seeing some of the strongest characters in the history of the comics in such a dangerous position after going out and searching for fellow survivors to bring back to the prison is heartbreaking.

archive: 2017

Review: Broken Glass by V.C. Andrews

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Broken Glass by V.C. Andrews | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)

While it may not erase every last flaw that was found in its predecessor, Broken Glass is a far superior read when compared to The Mirror Sisters. Kicking off the plot right after the first book's cliffhanger, this is a novel that is quite reminiscent of the real V.C. Andrews. As the story unfolds and the web of lies come closing in on us, we can't help but to notice that the story has taken on that old school campy thrill that can only be found in the original volumes of Andrews. It's one of those rarities in the better part of a decade that Andrew Neiderman has kept up with himself and provided us with a shining light in his era.

That being said, I thought the emotional disturbances with this one were really strong. Your skin is going to crawl. I enjoyed that we saw a rotating point of view of both twins, as opposed to only Kaylee in the previous novel. Haylee is a dangerous, unreliable narrator that feels like classic V.C. Andrews. She gives Vera from My Sweet Audrina a run for her money as one of the wildest bad girls in the archives of Andrews. We saw the resemblance head on in The Mirror Sisters between the relationship of Haylee/Kaylee and Vera/Audrina.

In this one, we see how they almost--ahem--mirror one another. Different but oddly similar in terms of relationships. Which can be a bit frustrating and repetitive but I think in the case of Broken Glass it's one of the biggest saving graces. This is still its own story, but the ties and parallels will keep you on your toes.