Atmospheric and haunting: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson [REVIEW]

we-have-alwaysWe Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
First published in 1962
Tags: Adult, Classics, Gothic, Horror

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | B&N 

Source: Purchased

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Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

First off I just have to say how much I love this particular edition of the book. The cover is beautiful and creepy, and the edges of the pages are frayed so they look old and worn. Gorgeous. My original plan with this had been to get it on my kindle, but I was powerless to resist it when I saw it in a bookstore. RIP wallet. 

Second, this is such an atmospheric book. It’s beautiful and gothic, but don’t be mistaken, this book (probably) won’t scare you, it’s not that kind of horror book. The horror is subtle and psychological, you won’t find anything supernatural here. If you go into it expecting that then you might be disappointed. It left me with a haunting feeling. 

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The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness [REVIEW]

22910900The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
First published by in August 2015 by Walker Books
Young Adult, Fantasy, Contemporary
Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryB&N

Source: Library

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What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable.

It’s been two months since I finished this book so it’s about time I write the review. Those of you who don’t know anything about this book might wonder why I classified it as both fantasy and contemporary, as ‘contemporary’ in the blogging world tends to refer to realistic non-fantasy books. Well, this book is set in a world where fantasy stuff goes down, but the book still reads largely like a contemporary because it focuses on regular people (mostly) and their every-day lives. It’s about those people in the background, who watch the chosen ones with weird names run around fighting vampires and zombies and blow up the school on prom night. Yeah, you know those people, we’ve all seen those shows and read those books. 

But what about the people in the background? What are they doing while all this is happening? And how do they deal with the consequences of the chosen peoples’ drama? Well, they just live there, and this time we’re pulling the background into the foreground and putting all the special kids (called “indie kids” in the book) in the backdrop. They go about their daily lives and their own personal battles. Everyone’s a hero in some way. 

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Tearjerker Alert: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes [REVIEW]

me before you review blogMe Before You by Jojo Moyes
Series: Me Before You #1
First published by Penguin Books in January 2012
Pages: 369

Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Buy: Amazon | Book DepositoryB&N
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Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time

I read this as part of a read-along with Trang from @bookidote. Check out the fashion related tag for the book she created that we both answered.

This is a book I’ve taken on and off my tbh shelf several times. I don’t know why, I’ve just lost interest and then gained it back again for what feels like hundred times. I finally got around to it now though, and I have to say I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. 

I don’t read a lot of romance, you see. It’s not my thing, unless it’s fanfiction. But throw in some tragedy and something other than all the lovey-dovey stuff and I’ll be way more into it. And as you all probably know, this is a tearjerker, yet at the same time it’s a book about hope, about finding yourself and living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity. At the end of the day it leaves you hopeful, if a little sad.

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Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

lgbt books for young adultsCarry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published by Pan Macmillan in February 2016 (first pub. October 2015)
Pages: 528

Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, LGBTQIA
Source: NetGalley
Amazon | Book DepositoryBarnes and Noble
Rating: lgbt books for young adults

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

I received a free ebook copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

lgbt books for young adults


I hadn’t originally planned on reading this, both because I didn’t like Fangirl and because it seemed too similar to Harry Potter and that bugged me. But then I saw this as a “read now” book on NetGalley and I couldn’t resist that. 

And what do you know, I actually enjoyed it. It starts off very similar to Harry Potter, that it does. For those who don’t know, the story of Simon Snow started in Fangirl as the main character’s fanfiction. And in that universe, Simon Snow is like their Harry Potter, it’s an eight book fantasy series with a huge fandom about a magic school and a Chosen One. And then this book, Carry On, isn’t Cath’s fanfic, but it’s still the characters and story Rowell invented in Fangirl. Though in Fangirl, all the fic excerpts were terribly boring and this is a lot better. Are you with me? Alright. 

So yes, it starts off with a lot of Harry Potter-isms. There’s an orphan boy who goes to a magical school. People whisper about it being a school for unruly or criminal kids. He’s the Chosen One, but’s not really feeling it. There’s a prophecy that says he’s the most powerful mage there is and he’s been chosen to save the magical world and defeat the Big Bad. He has a really clever friend named Penelope, who would remind anyone of Hermione. He has a rich asshole ~nemesis~ that he’s obsessed with ala Harry and Draco in The Half-Blood Prince. The nemesis lives in a mansion. The headmaster is Simon’s mentor. 

But most of these elements are pretty basic. There are lots of stories about Chosen Ones and magical schools. Yes, the similarities are many, because after all Harry Potter is the inspiration, but as far as the plot goes it’s not Harry Potter. I stopped reading it as Harry/Draco fanfiction in not too long. 

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ARC Review: Getting Him Back by K.A. Mitchell

k.a. mitchellGetting Him Back by K.A. Mitchell
Series: Ethan and Wyatt 1#
Published by Carina Press in February 2016
Pages: 133

New Adult, LGBTQIA, Contemporary, Romance
Amazon | Barnes and Noble
Rating: gay books

An unexpected fresh start leads to an unlikely-but-absolutely-perfect pairing in this male/male new-adult novel from bestselling gay romance author K.A. Mitchell

Ethan may have followed his high school sweetheart to college only to get dumped his first day there, but he’s not going to let that stop him from exploring all his new life has to offer. Sex-only hookups, his photography, new friends and a campus-wide game of zombies vs humans all help keep his mind off his broken heart and move him toward building a new, better life without his ex.

And then there’s Wyatt. Mysterious, grouchy—hot. And possibly not gay. But Ethan’s not going to let that stand in the way of figuring out what makes Wyatt tick. New college goal? Get Wyatt into bed and into Ethan’s life.

Step one: arrange a “tutoring” date. Step two: “accidentally” bump into Wyatt as often as possible. Step three: explore the sexy body under that ever-present hoodie. And when their friendship deepens into something neither of them expect, convince Wyatt he’s not just a pity fling or a one-time hookup, but that Ethan is in it for the long haul.

I received a free ebook copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

First off, I don’t think the synopsis does a good job of really describing the novel. Or short-story maybe, because it’s very short, it’s a couple thousand words shorter than a NaNoWriMo story. I think the synopsis is talking about a book much longer than this one, because Getting Him Back is too short to really be about all these things the synopsis claims is in the book. Sure, it mentions some of it, but it’s not part of the plot. At all. Sex-only hookups? Not really. Photography? I can’t even remember that. New friends? They’re there, I guess. Zombie vs. humans? It’s there, kind of, but doesn’t really have any significance. 

The plot is basically 1) Ethan arrives at campus looking for boyfriend 2) Boyfriend breaks up with him 3) Ethan is sad/angry 4) Ethan needs info about ex-boyfriend so he makes ex-boyfriend’s grumpy but cute roommate tutor him 5) Grumpy but cute roommate likes him??? 6) Ethan hooks up with ex-boyfriend’s grumpy but cute roommate 5) Some angst 6) The end

But even though it should have been longer, I thought this was incredibly cute, I was smiling almost all the way through and towards the end I even felt a little tug on my heartstrings because of the angst. I think that if you view this book as simply a small slice-of-life type story then it works. Don’t expect a deep plot or grand character development, but simply expect a little peek into Ethan and Wyatt’s lives. 

I read a hell of a lot of fanfiction. A lot. This reads a lot like one because of how it’s built up. I don’t read a lot of NA, maybe it’s like that a lot? There’s nothing new here for me, I’ve read it all before, I’ve even read about this couple before, but who cares, it was cute and I enjoyed it. Ethan and Wyatt as a couple is my favorite type of couple. You know, the couple where one is sunshine, kittens and rainbows while the other one is a tiny grump with a filthy mouth and a bad attitude.

“I didn’t realize that a smile from someone who acted like they didn’t know how to meant a lot more than one from someone who smiled at everyone.”

So not surprisingly, they reminded me of my OTP, Ian and Mickey from Shameless US. Really, Wyatt is basically Mickey. And since Mickey is my all-time favorite character you better believe Wyatt moved into my heart. 

gay booksgif by tinkrdust

Slight spoiler maybe? What set this book apart a little is Wyatt and his Waardenburg Syndrome. The moment Ethan noted that Wyatt had a white streak in his hair I knew it, and I was excited, because I haven’t seen a character with Waardenburg in a book before. I only know about this syndrome because of Stef on youtube, she’s absolutely adorable. 

I really do wish this had been longer, a lot of things could have done with some expansion, but it was adorable and I’m happy. 

I have to add that I loved that this book used the term “dude-bro.” 

k.a. mitchell

Do you read a lot of NA? What do you think about it? Have you read this particular one? Discuss! 

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Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

good middle grade booksWonder by R.J. Palacio
Published by Knopf in February 2012
Pages: 315

Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Rating: good middle grade books

My name is August. I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

This is a middle grade novel, the main character Auggie is 10 years old, but I think this book can speak to you no matter your age.  

Auggie, or August, was born with a facial deformity. He’s had several surgeries on his face, but he still looks far from all the other kids. You really feel for Auggie when you read his story and you feel bad for him when you see the way people jump, freeze, look away, or smile just a little big too widely when they look at him or talk to him. Auggie feels like the only one who doesn’t judge him, on any level, because of his face is his beloved dog. His relationship with the dog is heartbreaking. ;_;

The story isn’t only told from Auggie’s perspective though, which I wasn’t aware of before I started. I liked that, I especially appreciated his older sister’s POV because I understood her situation. Eventually we also get to see the POV of some of the friends Auggie makes, as well as his sister’s friend and boyfriend. I didn’t think the boyfriend’s POV added that much though, his was the only one I didn’t enjoy as much as the rest. 

I also have the version of this book that includes “The Julian Chapter,” which I think is about 85 pages long and is written from Julian’s POV, Auggie’s main tormentor. I didn’t read this one yet, as it’s not a part of the original book, but I will eventually. I’m curious to see what he’s thinking and why he acts the way he does. 

I see a common criticism about this novel is that it’s cheesy and a bit too uplifting considering the heavy subject matter. And yes, the ending is quite uplifting, but what you have to remember is that this is a middle grade novel and I don’t think they’re often written to be super depressing. They’re hopeful and encouraging, which is often the main difference between books for children and books for adults. I found the ending really sweet, it’s only one day in Auggie’s life after all, we don’t know if the rest of his life will be this uplifting (probably not, unfortunately). But at the end of the book he’s happy, which made me happy because he deserved it. 

Overall I enjoyed this book a lot. I read it in one setting, as it’s very easy to read. It’s a very moving read, I recommend it to children, teens, and adults alike, especially if you’re a fan of contemporary books. If you’re prone to crying while you read you might want to pull out the kleenex. 

good middle grade books

Have you read Wonder? What are your thoughts on it? 

What are your thoughts on happy endings in books for children?
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Review: The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan

The Private Eye by Brian K. VaughanThe Private Eye (Deluxe Edition) by Brian K. Vaughan
Published by Image Comics in December 2015
Pages: 300
Genres: Adult, Graphic Novel, Mystery, Crime, Dystopia
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository
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I received a free ebook copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review was written for the Dystopia Reading Challenge

The Private Eye is a series of ten issues that, as far as I understand it, were originally posted online but has now been published in hardback. It’s horizontal, I love that. 

You might recognize the author as the author of Saga, which is a well known sci-fi graphic novel series. I’ve read the first four volumes of Saga and I love it a lot, so when I saw this on Netgalley I couldn’t resist. I ended up not loving it as much as Saga, but I really enjoyed it. 

The story is a hardboiled detective story merged with a dystopian future in which everyone has a secret identity. This came about after “the cloud” burst 60 years ago and exposed everyone’s deepest and darkest secrets. So now there is no more internet, no more smart phones, and everyone uses masks and fake names to hide who they are. 

“Look, nobody knows if it was an act of war or an act of God, but for forty days and forty nights, everything just poured right out for the whole damn country to see. Every message you thought was safe, every photo you thought you deleted, every mortifying little search you ever made… it was all there for anyone to use against you. People lost their jobs, families were torn apart, blah fucking blah.”

Just imagine everyone knowing your complete browser history, and more. Yikes. 

Our main character is P.I., an unlicensed private investigator, who suddenly gets a visit from a mysterious woman who has a case for him (in true hardboiled style). When his client winds up murdered, P.I. gets dragged into a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the newfound world-order. 

Okay, so I loved the plot of this. It took me a little while to get into it, but when the ball started rolling I got sucked into it and finished it in one sitting. The premise is great, I love how current it is (in the sense of the theme of privacy and the internet) at the same time as it’s so incredibly wacky. They’ve really gone all out with the whole secret identity thing. No one’s going to know who you are dressed as a giant fish. 

The Private Eye

One of my favorite things about it was probably the characters, especially P.I.’s grandfather, who is basically from our generation. He’s slightly senile (or just deeply in denial) and keeps trying to get onto the internet and turn on his old iPhone, to no avail. I feel his pain. He’s also not a fan of the younger people’s obsession with anonymity. I love him because I’m always wondering what kind of things our generation will sit and grumble when we complain about “today’s youth” when we’re in our 80s. 

The Private Eye 

I also liked Mel, P.I.’s assistant. She’s a young girl who can’t wait to be 18 so she can get rid of her charm bracelet (that shows she’s underage) and finally get a “nym” (fake name) and a mask. 

Like Saga, this comic is wonderfully diverse, both racially and sexually. P.I. is a black man who’s previously been in a relationship with a man. Whether or not he’s gay or bi or whatever I’m not sure, but I was delighted to see that. This is coming to be one of my favorite things about Vaughan’s stories.

Also like Saga, this is in no way a “clean” graphic novel. There’s violence, blood, nudity (though not that much) and swearing. I don’t mind it at all, it adds to the grittiness of the story and makes it realistic by not shying away from anything.

I’ve seen a lot of people are iffy about the ending. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, but I didn’t necessarily hate it. I think I kind of liked it. 

I really recommend The Private Eye, it’s fast-paced, highly interesting, and the really colorful art captures your attention. If you don’t read too fast you’ll notice fun little things like the characters standing in front of Madonna’s memorial, which predicts she’ll die in 2017. Hm.

The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan
Have you read The Private Eye? What do you think? 
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