4 star, YA

Review: Chaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Chaotic Good Comps14.inddCameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.


4 Drink Me Potions


Everyone, be prepared to get your nerdiness on! And be proud of it! ‘Cause Chaotic Good brings out the inner geeks for a wild celebration of cosplay, D&D and superhero fandoms.

While I can’t say the main subjects covered in the book may be something relevant to all readers – (like I’ve never tried sewing my own costumes before!), the themes embodied by Chaotic Good are universal that should tug at our empathy. How many of us have been bullied – or at least teased – for the things we love that may not be fully mainstream or “cool”? How many can say that we wanted to try something new that others thought wasn’t fitting for us?

Here, we follow Cameron, a girl who loves to sew cosplay costumes and buy comics. A world dominated by “true” fans of mostly the male variety. While I’m always for girl power, I loved how the author doesn’t quickly lump every guy as all bad or every girl without her own flaws. We see cool guys who do like Cameron the way she is, and her hobbies to boot. And girl besties who may not be fully sympathetic to her predicament.

Aside from the themes, each character was fun and unique. The inner boy sanctum of Dungeons & Dragons players were filled with people I absolutely adored. From easygoing Why and Cameron’s writer twin to not-always-likeable Brody, they made a ragtag group that felt like everyday people you’d meet or want to meet.

And this also features a story within a story! For those who haven’t played D&D before, it’s definitely a huge role playing kinda game and my, the storytelling for their game characters was just as unique and adorable. Including the beautiful comic drawings inside. Imaginative and wildly creative, I flew through these pages not just for the main story with Cameron, but for the unfolding plot within their game.

For those who also love a cute romance, this book’s got you. While I’m not fawning madly over the love interest, I still enjoyed this element as it added more than subtracted from the story. It also helps that this book features the girl-dressed-as-a-boy trope that makes the romance more fun!

So yes, my inner nerdiness was awakened as Chaotic Good brought out the best of all that is geeky. Whether you also love to cosplay, read superhero comics, play D&D or just love a good contemporary, this novel was both fun and endearing. And the ending was the perfect cherry on top!

Overall Recommendation:

Chaotic Good represents the best of geekiness, featuring a relatable protagonist who loves cosplaying, reading comics and playing D&D. Balancing between the serious issues such as the internet bullying Cameron was facing and the fun aspect of D&D role playing, this book has a little something for everyone. Imaginative and empathetic, there’s no other contemporary I can think of that meshes the realistic mess of everyday life with the fantastical of other imaginary worlds we wish to live in as well as this one. Please do yourself a favour and give this book a shot!


Have you heard of this YA book before? Are you as excited as I am about the premise of the story?

Advertisements
4.5 star, YA

Review: Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

broken things -lauren oliverIt’s been five years since Summer Marks was brutally murdered in the woods.

Everyone thinks Mia and Brynn killed their best friend. That driven by their obsession with a novel called The Way into Lovelorn the three girls had imagined themselves into the magical world where their fantasies became twisted, even deadly.

The only thing is: they didn’t do it.

On the anniversary of Summer’s death, a seemingly insignificant discovery resurrects the mystery and pulls Mia and Brynn back together once again. But as the lines begin to blur between past and present and fiction and reality, the girls must confront what really happened in the woods all those years ago—no matter how monstrous.


4.5 Drink Me Potions


**Broken Things comes out October 2, 2018**

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review

The problem with fairy tales isn’t that they don’t exist. It’s that they do exist, but only for some people.

I’ve been in a book slump for a while (actually, for quite a bit of this year, really), but Broken Things has definitely been a wild journey that spun me breathlessly through the lives of our protagonists, Brynn and Mia.

While I love a good thriller/mystery, what sets this novel apart in its genre is also the element of a story within a story. The girls were accused 5 years ago of murdering their best friend in the exact same way that was depicted in the fan fic sequel they were writing on an imaginary place called Lovelorn. Already sounds kinda good, doesn’t it?

The pacing was just the right amount. Alternating between Mia and Brynn’s POV – both in the present and in the past around the time of the murder – the pieces of what happened that day slowly unfolds while we try to understand who these girls are now in the aftermath of what happened. The town gave them a name: the Monsters of Brickhouse Lane. And the question that haunted me sometimes while reading this was this: did one of them actually do it and earn that name? Or are they really victims?

As mysteries go, it was the perfect blend of slowly unfolding clues and unique character story arcs to fill the in-between. And oh boy, were there some amazing characters here. I felt I knew Brynn and Mia by the end of it. Brynn, the girl who wants to appear all strong and tough on the outside but really was tired of the world calling her a monster. Mia, the dancer whose thoughts were in beautiful dance moves and poses, struggled to find the right words sometimes but in doing so showcased her underlying strength all this time.

Supporting characters such as Mia’s best friend eccentric Abby and Brynn’s cousin Wade who was dead set on proving her innocence were just the icing on top of the cake. Romance was interweaved into the story yet I found it wasn’t the most important thing. So I was VERY glad for its presence but happy it was kept more on the sidelines to allow the focus on the heart of the mystery.

And the world building of Lovelorn.

Oh my.

In between chapters, there were gorgeously written excerpts of the original story the girls loved, Return to Lovelorn as well as the sequel they wrote in the past. For a contemporary story, this felt like it had something lovely to add for fantasy lovers. Like it’s the best of both worlds put into one.

And the beautiful prose doesn’t just stop at these story excerpts. Lauren Oliver has outdone herself in her writing. I’ve read her past books before (and not all of them were particularly amazing) but I just really couldn’t put this book down largely in part ’cause of how she worded ideas or even the mundane events happening with Brynn and Mia.

So that is where I’ll end this review with. If this were a list to check off, then Broken Things definitely has it all: a gorgeous air of mystery/suspense, good pacing, realistic and fun characters that felt 3-dimensional, and beautiful prose.

And that ending was definitely perfect. You’ll know what I mean.

All these people, these hundreds of thousands of people, have stories. Fascinating, ever-unwinding stories. I am just one of them. And I am still midsentence.

Overall Recommendation:
Broken Things ties together elements that make for an exceptional mystery, whether in YA or otherwise. With good pacing and unique characters, there was always this air of intrigue hanging over me as I wonder who really killed Brynn and Mia’s best friend all those years ago. Beautiful prose by the one and only Lauren Oliver catapults us quickly to an ending that explodes with a culprit we may not have guessed, and it leaves me wanting more from these characters and the world of Lovelorn within their story. You definitely should check it out!

2 star, YA

Review: The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro

Series: Charlotte Holmes #3

the case for jamie -brittany cavallaroThe hotly anticipated and explosive third book in the New York Times bestselling Charlotte Holmes series.

It’s been a year since the shocking death of August Moriarty, and Jamie and Charlotte haven’t spoken.

Jamie is going through the motions at Sherringford, trying to finish his senior year without incident, with a nice girlfriend he can’t seem to fall for.

Charlotte is on the run, from Lucien Moriarty and from her own mistakes. No one has seen her since that fateful night on the lawn in Sussex—and Charlotte wants it that way. She knows she isn’t safe to be around. She knows her Watson can’t forgive her.

Holmes and Watson may not be looking to reconcile, but when strange things start happening, it’s clear that someone wants the team back together. Someone who has been quietly observing them both. Making plans. Biding their time.

Someone who wants to see one of them suffer and the other one dead.


2 Drink Me Potions


As mysteries go, A Case for Jamie wasn’t too complex or heavily-focused on the whodunit that I particularly enjoy in mystery novels. No, in fact, this story revolved more around the complexity of Holmes and Watson’s messed-up relationship.

I mean, I guess there are people who absolutely adore their strange chemistry lined with thinly veiled sexual tension. I, for one, am not part of that group of people. And while it was mildly more enjoyable due to the fact that Holmes and Watson were separated for the majority of the book, their thoughts revolving around each other and the toxic nature of their dependency, particularly Watson’s, on one another didn’t make me a huge fan.

Okay, I will backtrack and talk more about the ACTUAL story.

A year’s passed since the events of book 2 – no, I am STILL not over the fact of how that book ended even though it’s been over a year since I’ve read it – and you would think Jamie’s moved on with his life a little. There’s been no signs of Charlotte Holmes, who you can guess, is out for blood in the aftermath of the mess SHE created.

Fan favourites Uncle Leander Holmes and Jamie’s father make fun appearances in this book, playing a bigger role in some ways than in the previous ones. The other students at school are still kicking butt when push comes to shove, although that may only apply to Holmes’ ex-roommate Lena. And as usual, someone’s out to pin the blame on Jamie for crimes he didn’t commit. What’s really new, hmm? You’d think, new year, new Jamie, right?

The main plotline is to find Lucien Moriarty. Holmes for one reason, the Watsons and Leander for another reason (and that’s obviously to find Charlotte themselves). While that may seem kind of exciting – we’re chasing an infamous Moriarty who’s actually representing his last name! – like I mentioned before, this story hardly focused too heavily on it. The one highlight I can think of is finally getting to see inside Charlotte Holmes’ head. And it’s not always pretty thoughts that go on inside that girl.

So how do I really feel about this supposed conclusion? I liked that the relationship was kept minimal due to the separation between Jamie and Charlotte. I still think it’s toxic and they’re not really good for each other. I do, however, think the way this book ended felt right, especially on where their relationship stood. It was healing in a healthier way.

The secondary characters could’ve played a bigger role, in my opinion, and that could’ve happened if the main mystery behind Watson’s supposed crimes and the connections to Moriarty were better fleshed out. But I suppose we don’t get everything we want in life. The mystery culprit(s) behind it all was hardly too astounding, very quickly wrapped up and tied with a bow. I didn’t feel very impressed, but then again, I hardly brought many expectations into this book.

Overall, The Case for Jamie fared better than I felt the other 2 books before did in some ways, but it slipped a lot from its potential as a true MYSTERY novel. Would I necessarily recommend this book (or this series, for that matter)? That answer is a blatant no. The will-they-won’t-they nature of their partnership/relationship was too much and overshadowed all else in this series to make it too enjoyable. In that way, it really limited its ability to just soar with a modern day Holmes-Watson pair in America. Why couldn’t Brittany have taken a page from the show Elementary? No tension, just friendship and plenty of ass-kicking mysteries. Now that’s my kinda Sherlock story.

Overall Recommendation:
The supposed conclusion to this modern-day Sherlock pairing was neither exciting or mysterious in any way. While our Holmes and Watson are separated after the events of book 2 (be still my heart!), their POVs revolved too heavily on what the other was doing or thinking instead of the main “mystery” at hand. Someone was trying to make Watson look bad (oh no!), but it’s not like that hasn’t been done before. You could hardly call it a true mystery when SO little of the book space was truly given to it. Aside from possibly making fans of this Charlotte-Jamie pairing happy, this book didn’t make me feel anything, not even anger at this point, which in my books is not good enough. And no, it doesn’t give any more peace of mind about what happened before. In case you’re wondering.