Nov 18, 2017

Short Story Saturday | Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

This feature was created by Lauren from 365 Days of Reading

Title: Gwendy's Button Box by Richard Chizmar and Stephen King
Anthology: N/A - Novella
Rating: ★★★★

One Line Summary: Gwendy meets a strange man in a black hat who knows too much about her life and gives her a small, but powerful button box.

Thoughts: A little under 200 pages, I was able to finish this in one sitting. Gwendy's Button Box is a collaboration between Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, and it follows our protagonist Gwendy after she meets the man in a black hat, who gives her a button box. The short novella spans over a few years, and we get to see how the box affects Gwendy's life.

I can't deny that the story was entertaining, if not mysterious and a little creepy, too. But when it was over, I felt like I didn't get it. Like I missed the underlying message that was supposed to come across and I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Its possible that I felt the conclusion lacked a bit, but I think I only think I feel that way because I've recently read that Chizmar finished off the story, not King.

Honestly, I don't know what to think of it. It made me feel something, and I was able to start and finish it in a short time so I was intrigued. I didn't think it was the best story out there, but still something about it has kept it in my mind since I finished it.

Nov 17, 2017

Review | The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe

Title: The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe
Series: N/A
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Once Upon A Book Club
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret.

Set against the vibrant backdrop of the Gilded Age, an era when old money traditions collided with modern ideas, Tanabe has written an unputdownable and emotionally compelling story of hope, sacrifice, and betrayal—and a gripping account of how one woman dared to risk everything for the chance at a better life.

Thoughts: I had no idea what this book was about when I signed up for the monthly subscription box of Once Upon a Book Club but I was so excited about the idea. Once Upon a Book Club sends out one book with a few items wrapped up. While reading the book, the reader opens the gifts to the designated page number and has a more interactive reading experience. Even when I decided to finally read this, I didn't read up on the synopsis until later, but was pleasantly surprised with what the book was about.

This book follows Anita Hemmings, a black woman who has passed as white to attend Vassar College. While she deals with a lot of inner conflict about what she's doing and what this means to her family and race, she also has to deal with the fear of being discovered. Instead of being as careful as she should be though, Anita engages in a romantic relationship with young man, and befriends Lottie, an extremely popular and energetic girl who falls for Anita's brother.

Anita is a simple, smart, and likable character and I understood why she did things a certain why. She had to deal with emotional turmoil of her decision, but regardless of how things turned out for her, I don't think she regretted her decisions to pass as a white woman when she felt there was no other option. The story is quite simple and quiet, or so it felt. Not much really happens, but I felt worry the whole time, that Anita's secret would be discovered, so that kept me intrigued with the story.

The ending was predictable, and it is also based off true historical events, so it can easily be looked up. I knew it would turn out that way, but also hoped it didn't. I didn't know of Anita Hemmings before I read this, but I am glad this was the selection for the month and that I finally got myself to read it. It was an informative and interesting read and I recommend it to others who enjoy similar books.

Unboxing Vlog:

Nov 16, 2017

Series Review | The 100 #1, #2, #3 by Kass Morgan

Title: The 100 by Kass Morgan
Series: The 100, #1
Genre: YA - Science Fiction/Dystopia
Publication: September 3, 2013 by Little, Brown and Company
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth's radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents -- considered expendable by society -- are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life...or it could be a suicide mission.

CLARKE was arrested for treason, though she's haunted by the memory of what she really did. WELLS, the chancellor's son, came to Earth for the girl he loves -- but will she ever forgive him? Reckless BELLAMY fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only pair of siblings in the universe. And GLASS managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.

Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind's last hope.

Thoughts: This was a fast-paced wild ride of a book and I really liked it. I listened to this audiobook for no particular reason, but found myself completely immersed in all the characters and their stories. The book is told from several points of view (four I think?) and each one was fascinating and unique and captivating.

From the synopsis we know that 100 delinquents are sent on a ship back to Earth in order to recolonize the planet. The story explodes from the beginning with action and we are thrown into a whirlwind of events that the characters must survive through. Not only that, but we are also told past events in order to understand their pasts a little better, and find out how their lives interweave.

There was no particular character that I liked best, although some of the actions of a few were sometimes frustrating (*cough* Glass *cough*) but it's expected and I guess makes sense because of their situation.

I was really pulled into the story and was fascinated by all that was happening. Of course, there's a bit of a dramatic ending which made me want to read the next book immediately.

Possible Spoilers Ahead

Nov 15, 2017

Review | History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Title: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Series: N/A
Genre: YA - Contemporary
Publication: January 17, 2017 by Soho Teen
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: When Griffin's first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he's been imagining for himself has gone far off course. 

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin's downward spiral continues. He's losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he's been keeping are tearing him apart. 

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

Thoughts: History is All You Left Me was one of those books I'd been looking forward to because I was expecting it to make me feel. I expected to really feel something for this one but was a little disappointed in the lack of connection I felt with the main character, Griffin, despite the pain he was going through from losing his best friend/ex-boyfriend in a drowning accident. Because I have experienced something similar, I really expected to cry my eyes out but didn't. I found myself detached with the story as a whole, and was really reading it because I was buddy reading it, but also because all the hype surrounding it kept assuring me I would love it.

The friendships in the book were the redeeming quality, and because the story was told in both past and present view points, I looked forward to seeing the friendship between Theo and Griffin formed, as well as their third best friend, Wade. We don't see as much of Wade until the end, and I was really able to appreciate his character because of everything he went through as well. I wish his importance would've been brought to light from the beginning, but instead was saved to cause a dramatic/revealing secret at the end, and I suppose that was fine.

I can't say I was completely disappointed in this one, but I was expecting a little more. It can be a quick read, that most people have enjoyed. I had the pleasure of meeting the author, and hearing him talk about the book and writing process, so that was enjoyable in itself. I wish this would've been more for me, but I think I will give Silvera another shot in the future, and see how I feel about his writing at a later date.

Nov 14, 2017

Quick Reviews #9 | The Virgin Suicides by Jefferey Euginedes // Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler

The Virgin Suicides by Jefferey Euginedes

Synopsis: The shocking thing about the girls was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters' breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear.

Quick Thoughts: I'd been meaning to read this for years because since I'd watched the movie, I had felt a little unsatisfied with the story. But, the book is pretty much the same thing. There are a few changes here and there, the girls become a little more wild and die differently, but overall it felt like a very elusive story. Maybe because it's told from an outsiders perspective. I don't really know how I felt about this, but I suppose I enjoyed it.

Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler

Synopsis: Star basketball player Chelsea "Nitro" Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college--and everyone's admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family. As a graduation present, Chelsea's dad springs for a three-week summer "boot camp" program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she's immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who's haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain--or finally heal their heartbreak?

Quick Thoughts: This one sat on my shelf for years and I figured it would be a quick, fluffy contemporary. In fact, it's about a girl and guy who have left sports behind due to some form of injury and start a friendship which turns into a romantic relationship, but the girl has a boyfriend back home so I was left feeling ugh about the whole thing.

Nov 13, 2017

Review | The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

Title: The You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins
Series: N/A
Genre: YA - Contemporary/Poetry
Publication:   January 24, 2017 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Rating: ★★★

Synopsis: For as long as she can remember, it’s been just Ariel and Dad. Ariel’s mom disappeared when she was a baby. Dad says home is wherever the two of them are, but Ariel is now seventeen and after years of new apartments, new schools, and new faces, all she wants is to put down some roots. Complicating things are Monica and Gabe, both of whom have stirred a different kind of desire.

Maya’s a teenager who’s run from an abusive mother right into the arms of an older man she thinks she can trust. But now she’s isolated with a baby on the way, and life’s getting more complicated than Maya ever could have imagined.

Ariel and Maya’s lives collide unexpectedly when Ariel’s mother shows up out of the blue with wild accusations: Ariel wasn’t abandoned. Her father kidnapped her fourteen years ago.

What is Ariel supposed to believe? Is it possible Dad’s woven her entire history into a tapestry of lies? How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who has taken care of her all these years?

Thoughts: I've been an Ellen Hopkins fan for years and I was really excited to receive an early copy of her newest book The You I've Never Known which I didn't even know was releasing. While this, like most of her books, deals with tougher topics, it was not my favorite.

I didn't know what to expect from this, and really had no idea what it was about because I did not read the synopsis, so I found it to start off a little slow and not really go anywhere for a long while. I kept putting it down, and even though her books are so easy to read because they were written in prose, it took me a lot longer than expected to really want to know more about the story.

We are introduced to Ariel who lives as a nomad pretty much with her dad, was abandoned by her mom as a baby, and is struggling to figure out her sexuality all while trying to keep her father at bay about her romantic relationships. We also get a second story of another teen named Maya who finds herself pregnant and leaving her extremely religious mother to live with her boyfriend. While the stories aren't connected at all, you can sort of see where its going early on.

So while there is a twist, it is quite predictable. I found Ariel to be a relatable character but I didn't really like her. Maybe because she was so confused and fooling around with two people, but I really was whatever about her. I felt sympathy for Maya, who was struggling in the situation she was in, but ultimately found this book to be pretty meh. I gave it three start because it was still an interesting plot while somewhat predictable. It takes too long for the story to get going, but once it does, it was fascinating to see what the characters were going through. I recommend this one to EH fans, but don't think this is her best work if you've never read her before.

Nov 11, 2017

Short Story Saturday | Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

This feature was created by Lauren from 365 Days of Reading

Title: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Anthology: Different Seasons
Rating:  ★★★★★

One Line Summary:  A man convicted of murder lives in a prison brutally ruled by a sadistic warden and secretly run by a con who knows all the ropes and pulls all the strings.

Thoughts: I picked this up after my boyfriend read it, and loved it. If you've seen the movie starring Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins, this short story is almost word-for-word of that movie.

Stephen King creates these realistic characters in such a short time, that you learn to love and care for in just a few pages. I felt like I knew Red and Andy Dufresne and I really wanted their friendship to continue on for many years after the story was overall. Definitely a worthwhile read and can't recommend it enough (and the movie too!)