Tag Archive | strong protagonist

Review: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Series: Arc of a Scythe #2

thunderhead -neal shustermanRowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the second novel of the chilling New York Times bestselling series from Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

Rowan has gone rogue, and has taken it upon himself to put the Scythedom through a trial by fire. Literally. In the year since Winter Conclave, he has gone off-grid, and has been striking out against corrupt scythes—not only in MidMerica, but across the entire continent. He is a dark folk hero now—“Scythe Lucifer”—a vigilante taking down corrupt scythes in flames.

Citra, now a junior scythe under Scythe Curie, sees the corruption and wants to help change it from the inside out, but is thwarted at every turn, and threatened by the “new order” scythes. Realizing she cannot do this alone—or even with the help of Scythe Curie and Faraday, she does the unthinkable, and risks being “deadish” so she can communicate with the Thunderhead—the only being on earth wise enough to solve the dire problems of a perfect world. But will it help solve those problems, or simply watch as perfection goes into decline?

4 Drink Me Potions

Explore this new facet of yourself with my blessing, he would imagine the Thunderhead telling him. It’s fine as long as you remember who you truly are and don’t lose yourself.
But what if this is who I truly am?

Thunderhead leaves me oddly impressed with the progression of the series. With unexpected twists and new characters thrown into the story, the problems Citra and Rowan now face are crazier than before as they each embark on a journey of self-identity in the new circumstances they now face.

While its predecessor, Scythe, made me think more as I wrapped my head around the different concepts of the futuristic world Shusterman has created here, this sequel was more about the intensity of what’s happening with our favourite characters as the worldbuilding seamlessly continues and fits like a second skin as I re-immerse myself into it.

This book was split more into individual storylines as each character faced a different challenge that occasionally merged together with another, but rarely as each could hold its own. It’s tricky with these kinds of stories as some plotlines I find are more intense whereas the others lack behind and feel so very bothersome to read in between, like filler for the exciting scenes. However, I never found myself feeling that, which is a very strong compliment for Shusterman’s writing skills as he can so easily craft separate stories that can (and eventually will) tie into each other that makes each part of the whole more understandable in the grand scheme of things.

Citra, now Scythe Anastasia, is in mortal danger. I know, that’s weird, right? She’s a scythe, for goodness sakes! Yet someone, or some GROUP, is out trying to kill her and Scythe Curie for good for who knows what reasons. The ramifications of how she chose to glean and her secret popularity among young scythes makes her a possible target for numerous enemies. Meanwhile, Rowan’s off hunting bad scythes, hiding from the rest of the scythedom only to appear to Citra occasionally (aww, how romantic! which means a lot because you know there’s really not much “romance” in this book). Although his storyline sounds less structured, a great amount of action and surprises were through his POV that I thoroughly enjoyed. I can’t tell you what, but I liked these new developments as it made the story juicier.

There’s also a new guy who’s been added to the roster of main POVs. Greyson Tolliver. He’s your average guy who had a conscience and wanted to do the right thing. When his life crossed with Citra’s, nothing stays the same. Out of the 3 teens we get to follow, I felt the most for him. Life took unfair turns (for interesting reasons that you’ll find out!) and he was left to deal with all its messes. But he also had the most amount of growth/re-growth/change. His character really spiced up the story and I think there’s more potential in where his role comes in with regards to the scythedom as the series continues.

As for the ending, we don’t exactly get truly ridiculous cliffhanger moment, but all 3 characters find themselves in some dire or strange circumstances. Neal Shusterman really knows how to amp up his game as this makes me so much more excited for the next book to come out! His worldbuilding is superb and it’s like you could live in this world after reading 2 books. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a scythe walking down the street in MidMerica. We get more layered understanding of how the scythedom works and its hierarchy of authority.

But most importantly of all, we get more of the Thunderhead. As the title may suggest. Where Scythe provided snippets from certain scythes’ journals, we get to see how the Thunderhead thinks. What it sees. What it wishes it could do. What it feels – if a system could express true feelings. I liked the change-up, but it is also a timely move that I think prepares us for how things may be different in book 3. Does anyone else feel like the Thunderhead may be benevolent towards humans, but it could go all bad AI at any moment if it could justify its actions? Hmm? Anyone?

So. Having read all that, you probably realized that I didn’t really say much of anything about the book. That’s ’cause there’s just so much beauty in how it was laid out and the surprises that came along the way that I think it’s best to leave most of it unsaid here. It was well-balanced between action, suspense, and continual worldbuilding. The only thing missing was a tad bit more romance between Rowan and Citra. Hey, I know it’s technically “wrong” for scythes to be together, but they could try being a bit rebellious, right? Here’s to hoping there’s more of those 2 together next time. Then maybe it’ll move to 5 stars.

Overall Recommendation:
Thunderhead continued seamlessly from where Scythe left off after months since the dramatic events of book 1 has passed. With individual storylines that are still full of action and surprises, Rowan and Citra – along with a new guy named Greyson – are faced with tough circumstances that make them question their actions, decisions, and just who they truly are after everything’s said and done. Although there’s still a lack of romance in this book (why, Shusterman??), the little teases of romantic chemistry whenever Citra and Rowan are together suffice as unexpected events take up precedent. With crazy things happening one after another towards the cliffhanger ending, I’d say this book wonderfully connected our introduction to scythes in book 1 to the ultimate conclusion to these characters’ fates in book 3, which marks it a true sequel.


Review: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

letters to the lost -brigid kemmererJuliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate.

But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

5 Drink Me Potions

Where do I even BEGIN with this book?

Letters to the Lost is everything that I could EVER hope for in a YA contemporary. Brigid Kemmerer is an absolute genius. It’s like she gets the heart of not only teenagers – and how they react when cornered – but the general human heart. When have we not suffered from isolation, feeling like we didn’t belong; grief from the loss of a loved one; the need to talk our feelings out with someone – ANYONE – before we feel like we’d explode from keeping it all within?

This book has ALL OF THAT.

Juliet and Declan have both been dealt a crazy hand in life. With the loss of her photojournalist mother, Juliet found it was hard to let go of her so she wrote letters and placed them on her mother’s grave. Where surprise, surprise, a guy with a recent criminal record for crashing into an empty building while driving drunk picks it up while mowing the grass in the cemetery.

The beauty of this story lies in how our paths connect. That was how Juliet and Declan intersected with each other. Yet the story asks big questions! Do we have the power to make our own paths or are we destined to stay stuck in the awful hand that was thrown our way?

It never felt too dark. It was more realistic than anything. You can’t expect a light, fluffy little piece when the topics it covers are literally life and death. But alongside the heavier topics, friendship and family were very much highlighted. Juliet had a hard time dealing with her comparably more boring father who looked like he barely acknowledged her presence even after all these months since her mother died. Declan felt like he couldn’t fit in with his mother and stepfather as they seem to think he’ll never amount to much more than this hardheaded criminal who may repeat his crime. If it wasn’t for the fact that they anonymously found each other, and through letters and emails, were able to talk about the deepest stains on their soul.

It was just beautiful. And heartwrenching. And the exact right thing for both of them.

Aside from family, Declan’s friendship with Rev was a delightful thing. Rev too had his own demons and his own story (stay tuned for More Than We Can Tell to learn even MORE) was hinted at throughout Letters to the Lost. For a secondary character, he was very well-developed and definitely not your regular plain besties that are just featured but never really stand out. No matter his past, he was there for Declan and stood by him even when the world felt like it was crushing him on the shoulders. I loved that about him, and I can’t wait to see how he’ll fare as a protagonist.

Anyway, coming into this book, I thought the romance would be the highlight of it all for me. Oh boy was I wrong. I normally LOVE romance, but I’m so glad that this took a bit of a backseat here. Yes, they exchange messages all the time, and attraction of some sort grows. Here’s the thing. They don’t know who the other is and so the attraction isn’t physical per se. It’s the connection they have with each other. Later, even when they don’t know who the other is, their crossed paths show that there’s underlying chemistry there. A sense of pain that only the other fully understands. So who needs the physical stuff (kissing, etc.) when this relationship is built on just KNOWING the other? If only ALL of our relationships were more like Declan and Juliet’s.

I don’t know where I’m going with this. My heart is still somewhere in between those pages and those messages. And to top it all off, Brigid ends the story with a great message for us all. Yes, we can make our own path and change it if we’re just brave enough to do so with our unconquerable souls.

P.S. there are so many beautiful quotes in this book that I just can’t figure out where to start and how to group them all in this one review. So I’m not gonna post any and just tell you to READ this thing NOW.

Overall Recommendation:
Letters to the Lost is a gorgeously written story that evokes true emotion in its readers as we follow the tragic situations placed in Juliet and Declan’s lives. This is a novel that really punches you in the gut and heart as it depicts topics such as true friendship, grief, family, strength from our experiences and future growth. The romance was realistic and just PERFECT as their relationship was equal parts friendship, trust, and attraction. I don’t think anyone else can write this story any better. If you love anonymous letter/email messages between protagonists such as Tell Me Three Things, then this book is for you. If you have a HUMAN HEART, then THIS BOOK IS FOR YOU. I honestly don’t know how to be any more clear about this.

So, something different with this review happens to be that this book was provided to me directly from Brigid Kemmerer. Granted, I won the auction late last year for donations to Puerto Rico, but I am still so lucky that this is a signed and personalized version of the book in my hands. Honestly am so delighted that this book was physically in Brigid’s hands as well. This story just blew my mind and I am ecstatically the proud owner of such a beauty! Look below 🙂 Oh, and look out for a review of her next novel, MORE THAN WE CAN TELL, soon as it comes out in March!!

letters to the lost book

Review: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Series: Truly Devious #1

truly devious -maureen johnson

New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 

The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.

3.5 Drink Me Potions

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

**Truly Devious comes out January 16, 2018**

Truly Devious delivered two interesting mysteries that are connected through time, with a cast of individually unique characters.

Stevie is not your ordinary kind of girl. She loves crime with a passion, and hopes to solve an age-old mystery surrounding the school she’s about to attend. Although it doesn’t necessarily market it this way, I feel this portrayal of Stevie is akin to another young, Sherlock Holmes-esque girl protagonist, such as Brittany Cavallaro’s series. I liked this depiction, and I thoroughly enjoyed the lush descriptions of the settings. It was written very much in third-person view that mimics the feeling of older mysteries like Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie. However, the downside to this was the inability to really connect with the characters, particularly Stevie. She’s not the most charming and sociably likeable girl so feeling the extra distance with her didn’t make it any easier in really investing in her and what’s happening in her life.

The vast cast of characters had its ups and downs too. It definitely made the mystery harder to figure out as there’re so many people that have been introduced. It could be anyone! But at the same time, there’s less room to invest in any of these characters, so much so that they start feeling a bit two-dimensional and whittled down to their stereotypical tropes.

The romance was all right, I suppose. I love my romance in any story as I feel it adds another layer of complexity to the characters. Stevie’s not too keen on getting into a relationship, and that’s fine. There is someone I can root for in the romance department, but it’s slow-going, and you never know if he’d turn out to be the culprit.

Although this story seemed to be a rollercoaster ride in my emotions and feelings towards it, Truly Devious was an easy read that I got through in a sitting or two. The mysteries are the heart of the whole thing, and while the ending was definitely by FAR from satisfactory in solving either of the crimes at hand, it hopefully sets the stage for some more amazing twists that are yet to unfold later on. The present-day mystery took a long while to really occur which made the plot a bit slow, yet there’s something beautiful about the way that the past and the present stories really intertwine so well. Overall, it was an interesting read from Maureen Johnson and I look forward to the sequel.

But if I’m honest, I kinda wished there was a bit more closure. And that ending! I can’t believe it just stopped there. You’ll just have to read and find out what kinda twists are in store.

P.S. that letter from Truly Devious at the beginning was really what reeled me in. You’ll know it when you see it. Like a letter from your nightmare.

Overall Recommendation:
Truly Devious fits well into the genre of excellent mysteries throughout the ages, with this book featuring a past and current murder that could very well be linked. I found the book slow going at times, particularly with the present-day mystery, but the descriptions are lush and well-written and the suspense was ramped up high. I love that I couldn’t really guess a culprit in the end, but the ending wasn’t all that satisfactory as it left us with more questions than answers. If that means you have to read the sequel, then what do ya know? Guess I’m hooked till the end. Overall, a good impression of Maureen Johnson for me.