Book Review: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

the serpent kingTitle: The Serpent King
Author: Jeff Zentner
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary

I received this book from Owlcrate, a YA themed book subscription box. For more information, please visit their website.

The Serpent King follows the lives of three teenagers in a small, rural high school in Tennessee over the course of their senior year. Dill, Travis, and Lydia are close friends with differing ideas of what is in store for their futures, partly due to their very different home lives.

Dill is the son of the preacher who is known for having his congregation handle poisonous snakes to test their faith. Unfortunately for Dill, his father is even more well-known for what landed him in prison, causing Dill to be trapped at home with his mother and his father’s debts.

Famous on the internet for her fashion sense, Lydia has a ticket out of this town. She has a family that loves her and connections that will take her far in life and away from the town and people that don’t fit in her blog’s aesthetic.

Travis doesn’t care what anyone thinks. While Lydia prepares for college and Dill avoids thinking about her leaving, Travis prepares himself for the next book in his favorite fantasy series, “Bloodfall” by dressing like the book’s characters and rereading the series.

As the three friends cope with the ending of high school and the beginning of what lies ahead, they learn much more about themselves and each other in the process.

 Premise: 4/5

While at first I thought the snakes were a little weird, I quickly became interested in the backstory of Dill and his family. It’s weird enough to make it different than other things that I have read. I was also a little leery at first about the novel following a group of outcast friends, simply because it’s not that original. However, I liked the way that the three diverse friends came together.

Plot Development: 5/5

The Serpent King is quickly paced from start to finish, but not overly so. The plots jumps between the three main characters and what is currently happening in their private lives as well as what’s going on with the entire group. The plot was developed evenly with next to no filler material. I was unable to put the book down.

Characterization: 5/5

Each of the main characters keep parts of their lives private from their friends. They each have their own struggles on top of the struggles of the group as a whole. The way they cope with these struggles changed over time as they matured. The characters were developed appropriately throughout the course of the novel.

Writing Style: 5/5

I highly enjoyed the writing style of this novel. It was one of the reasons I read it in one sitting. Time passed quickly while I was reading. Each of the characters had their own distinct voices reflected in the writing style.

Readability: 5/5

Like I said before, I read this book entirely in one sitting. It read extremely easily, even though some of the content wasn’t exactly easy to read about (don’t worry, I won’t spoil you!).

Total Score: 24/25, avg. 4.8/5

5 stars

The Serpent King is one of my favorite reads of 2016 and may even have topped the list. This book made me love my Owlcrate subscription even more because I hadn’t heard of this book before receiving it. I am sure glad I read it. It’s an obvious five stars from me!

I also read this book for the #sixsquaredchallenge hosted by bookstacksamber! – New Releases (Debut Authors)

Have you read The Serpent King? What did you think?

kacie

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Want to purchase a copy of The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner for yourself? Check it out on The Book Depository by clicking HERE.

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Book Review: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

A Study in CharlotteTitle: A Study in Charlotte
Author: Brittany Cavallaro
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery

I had been anxious to read A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro since I’d first heard about its upcoming release. When the online book club in which I take part selected this novel as a possible upcoming read, I jumped on it. I voted on Twitter and in the Goodreads group for A Study in Charlotte to be our group read. It was selected as the March/April book and I bought it right away. The hardcover was even cheaper than the Amazon Kindle edition!

For more about this online book club, visit The Story Squad on Goodreads.

Trigger Warning for Book (not review): This book does contain references to sexual assault, but not an actual depiction of the assault in question.

Premise: 4/5

Alright…it’s a little cliché. I get that. The British great-great-great-grandchildren of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson just happen to attend an extremely small preparatory high school in Connecticut, USA. They meet, fall into their famous relatives’ roles, and work to solve a murder together. It sounds like it’s right out of the fanfiction community.

I was a sucker for it.

As I read about this book and then started reading it myself, I found myself wondering how the more well-known pieces of Sherlockian lore were going to be incorporated. What will Holmes’ vices be? Will the Moriartys come into play?

Plot Development: 4/5

With a cliché premise comes cliché plot development. That was okay! It was exactly what was expected, so I could not be disappointed. It was, at times, rather predictable, but it was so in a way that made me smile, thinking, “I knew that was going to happen this way!” If I was looking for a more difficultly pieced together sort of mystery, I would not be giving this a 4/5, but my expectations for this novel were satisfied.

Characterization: 4/5

Again, cliché, but expected. Holmes and Watson went through the exact character developments that were expected. Some characterization elements were even a little elevated. The only reason I am not scoring this a five is because I didn’t like some of Watson’s behavior. Some his character didn’t fit with the rest of him, like the author wanted to round him out a little, but came off as trying too hard.

Writing Style: 4/5

As with the rest of this review, I don’t have a lot to say about the writing style. It was a quick, easy read. Something that I adored was the change in writing style with the change of characters. Watson and Holmes truly had their own voices. In Watson’s point of view, Holmes’ voice shone through. In Holmes’ point of view, the writing style of the inner monologue completely changed to fit the character. This is pretty hard to do, so I’m impressed. If the writing stays the same, I’ll be sure to pick up the next book in the series.

Readability: 4/5

It was quick, easy, and cliché, and I loved it. It was quite refreshing to read from a male’s point of view. These days, male perspective YA is hard to find. If you’re looking for an easy, modern twist on a classic “whodunit,” this book is for you. If you’re looking for a more complicated mystery to keep you more on your toes, maybe look into some mysteries out of the adult literature section of your library or bookstore.

Obligatory teacher comment:  This book is intended for young adult audiences. Parents and teachers should note that it does contain drug references, mild language, and sex, including sexual assault. If your teen or student is reading this novel, be prepared to talk about these themes in a positive and educational way.

Total Score: 20/25, avg. 4/5

4 stars

Overall, I’d read this again, but definitely not for a few years. It didn’t wow me, but I enjoyed it enough to keep on my bookshelf.

I also read this book for the #sixsquaredchallenge hosted by bookstacksamber! – Books to Start a Series

Have you read A Study in Charlotte? What did you think?

kacie

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Want to purchase a copy of A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro for yourself? Check it out on The Book Depository by clicking HERE.

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

knifeofneverlettinggoTitle: The Knife of Never Letting Go
Author: Patrick Ness
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Fantasy

I received The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness as a Christmas gift this year and it had been on my wish list for several months. I’d only read one Patrick Ness novel, but I had heard so many great things about the Chaos Walking trilogy that I needed to pick this one up.

Premise: 5/5

A boy named Todd is almost a man. He’ll be a man in about a month, actually. When a boy becomes a man in Prentisstown, something changes within them. Todd is the last boy in Prentisstown, meaning he has been left out of a lot by the men. That’s not the only thing odd about Prentisstown. There are no women. Oh, and everyone can hear your thoughts. All the time. In fact, you can hear every thought in town, coming together to form the Noise that is the world’s background. Unfortunately for Todd, that means that his thoughts are going to cause him to be caught and possibly worse, because Todd is running. But how can you hide from a world that can hear your secret plans?

Yes. Sold. This sounds AWESOME.

Plot Development: 4/5

The plot did wonderful justice to this premise. It was paced well and was everything that I expected it would be. I only have a slight issue with the believability of a certain character that I won’t talk about due to spoilers.

Characterization: 4/5

I enjoyed Ness’s characterization in this novel, even though I thought it could be better. Ultimately, Beginning-Todd is much different than End-Todd, which is pretty great. I also loved Manchee, Todd’s dog. I thought the Noise was pretty well done throughout the novel.

Writing Style: 3/5

This book took me a month to read. It was hard for me to be in the mood for it because of the writing style. It reminded me of The Maze Runner by James Dashner, which I did not like, in that it was really dramatic and withheld a lot of information from the reader. Every chapter ended in too much suspense, making me think “dun dun DUN” way too often. Overall, I was able to look past this because of the intriguing storyline.

Readability: 4/5

The overdramatic aspects of this novel, however, made this a true Young Adult novel. It definitely caters to the intended YA audience. Its language and content was appropriate for the audience as well. Sometimes, the Noise made the dialogue between characters really confusing, but other than that, it was pretty easy to read…when I was in the mood to do so.

Total Score: 20/25, avg. 4/5

4 stars

This is an obvious 4 stars. It took me a month to read because of some issues I had with it, but I liked it overall. It was an interesting read and I’ll more than likely continue the series.

I read this book for the #sixsquaredchallenge hosted by bookstacksamber! – Books to Start a Series

Have you read The Knife of Never Letting Go? What did you think?

kacie

Find me on:

Want to purchase a copy of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness for yourself? Check it out on The Book Depository by clicking HERE.

Book Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

truthwitchTitle: Truthwitch
Author: Susan Dennard
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard is the first book in a new series called The Witchlands. In The Witchlands, there are many different types of witchery that one may be born with. There are Threadwitches, Airwitches, Waterwitches, Firewitches, and many more. Safiya is a Truthwitch; her witchery informs her when people are being dishonest. Her best friend Iseult is a Threadwitch who can see the emotions of others as well as the bonds they share with people. Safiya and Iseult are Threadsisters, sharing one of these special bonds. Safi’s witchery is something that is desired by the most powerful people in each of the three empires, making it a secret known to only a few. Her witchery would allow one to have more power over the others. She and Iseult must protect her secret while keeping the truce between the three empires intact.

I read Truthwitch for The Story Squad, a bi-monthly book club on Goodreads that consists of several YouTubers. This book was one of the most hyped books at the start of 2016. For me, it mostly lived up to the hype.

Premise: 5/5

I like the idea behind this novel and new book series. It’s a complicated and intriguing world. Two women that are sisters by bond, who are usually caught up in some heist or another, find themselves in the middle of an impending war. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but I like how they did this. It wasn’t the typical “female character must save the whole world just like she does in every other YA book ever” kind of way. The girls’ goals were much different than expected.

Plot Development: 4/5

The plot development was done fantastically. The pacing was appropriate; it was fast when it needed to be and slowed down when we needed to pay more attention to the goings on around the characters.  There is a very small, slow-burn romance plot which I think was done very well. No insta-love and no romance that overpowers the rest of the novel. Good on you, Dennard.

My only issue with the plot was that the reader is literally thrown into the action with no background knowledge. While Dennard didn’t info-dump on us, I felt that sometimes I didn’t have enough information to gain the most understanding of scenes early in the book. After a while, I was assimilated enough into the world and culture to comprehend what I was reading, but it was a struggle at first.

Characterization: 5/5

I loved each character in this novel and the growth each of them saw throughout the story. They had believable emotions and reactions when things went down. I find myself wanting to learn much more about their histories and relationships with others.

Writing Style: 4/5

The point of view changes every couple of chapters or so. This was done in a way that readers can identify the change in voice with each point of view. The point of view usually changed in the middle of some pretty intense action, but it always switched to another character that was somehow involved. Dennard flawlessly weaved so many separate stories into one.

Again, my only issue with the writing style was the lack of background information provided to the reader. It’s hard to become invested in a book confuses you for a large portion of the beginning.

Readability: 5/5

Other than the confusing beginning, this book was really easy to read. I found myself sucked in and wanted to read past my bedtime. I think it is absolutely appropriate for the YA audience. There is a slight romance plot, but it’s a slow-burn and not at all steamy. There are some conversations that are sexual in nature but not overtly graphic.

Total Score: 23/25, avg. 4.6/5

5 stars

I’m rounding up and giving this book 5 stars! I was hooked on this story and I didn’t want it to be over. Can I have book two now, please?

I read this book for the #sixsquaredchallenge hosted by bookstacksamber! – 2016 Releases (New to Me Authors)

Have you read Truthwitch yet? Let me know what you think!

kacie

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Want to purchase a copy of Truthwitch by Susan Dennard for yourself? Check it out on The Book Depository by clicking HERE.

Book Review: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

23512999Title: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Short Stories, Adult Fiction, Horror, Suspense, Thriller

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is the most recent collection of Stephen King’s short stories and poems. This collection of twenty entries is quite a large, chunky book, almost reaching five-hundred pages.

The thing I like most about King’s collections of short stories and novellas are that they really showcase how diverse an author King really is. Sure, we all know he can terrify us if he wants to (check out It and The Shining if you need proof), but he is also capable of so much more. Before each entry in this collection, King includes a short narrative that provides insight to the writing or conceiving of the story or even just a peek into the life of a famous horror writer.

As one of King’s “Constant Readers,” I know that King is capable of uplifting and moving stories such as the novella on which the movie The Shawshank Redemption is based. It amazes me that people do not know that King writes more than just what we consider to be a scary story.

In The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, we get a little of everything.

Mile 81 – 3.5/5 stars

“Mile 81” is a creepy and haunting tale of a monster who preys on the goodness in people. I enjoyed this story well enough, including the process of getting the readers to Mile 81 in the first place. I wasn’t thrilled with the cheesy solution or the ending of the story, but the rest of the story made up for it.

Premium Harmony – 3/5 stars

This one was alright. It told the story of a married couple that obviously has their fair share of couple’s spats. Anything else I could say would spoil the story. It was okay.

Batman and Robin Have an Altercation – 4/5 stars

I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It tells the story of a father and son, the father losing his grip on reality and his son nostalgic for the good ol’ days.

The Dune – 4/5 stars

A man sees harrowing predictions written in a sand dune. This is one of those stories where as you’re reading, you think, “King…I know what you’re doing…”

But you don’t have a clue.

Bad Little Kid – 4/5 stars

While I expected more from this, I was ultimately pleased with this story as a whole. This is about an evil kid who is evil for the sake of being evil.

A Death – 5/5 stars

This story was an unexpected love of mine and if I hadn’t known that King wrote it, I would have guessed. It is about a man on trial to be hanged for a crime for which he claims his innocence.

The Bone Church – 1/5 stars

This is a poem. Yep, a poem. I didn’t like it. After I finished reading, I couldn’t tell you about anything that I had just read. The parts that do stick out to me a little tell me that I may have enjoyed this as a fleshed out story rather than a poem.

Morality – 3/5 stars

This story was another that was okay. A dying reverend wants to commit a sin by proxy and makes an offer that a woman cannot refuse. This one got a little twisted, but overall left me feeling, “meh.”

Afterlife – 4/5 stars

I very much enjoyed this story about a man who reaches the end of his life and finds out that he can either move on or relive his life again. Which would you choose?

Ur – 4/5 stars

I read this one first when it was released as a promotion for the Amazon Kindle. I really liked that this story was included with an note from King about how he didn’t want to advertise for this product, but after being asked, this story just flowed from him. It is about a man who receives a pink Kindle that appears to predict the future.

Herman Wouk is Still Alive – 3/5 stars

I honestly don’t remember much about this one even though I read it less than twenty-four hours ago. I was able to predict most of the story and then the story just stopped. To me, this story didn’t have a real ending.

Under the Weather – 4/5 stars

A man takes care of the house and business while his wife is sick in bed. This one is creepy in a perfectly King kind of way. This was a favorite of the collection.

Blockade Billy – 5/5 stars

This is another that I have previously read. I read this as an e-book on my mother’s e-reader ages ago. I enjoyed it both times I read it. It’s baseball with a creepy twist.

Mister Yummy – 5/5 stars

This story was…cute, which is a weird description for a Stephen King story. Set in a retirement home, the residents cope with their lives coming to an end.

Tommy – 1/5 stars

This was another poem. While it was written in a way I was able to comprehend, I don’t understand why it had to be in a poetic format. Honestly, I don’t “get” poetry. I’m sure poetry fans would have different views on King’s poetry.

The Little Green God of Agony – 3/5 stars

This story was very King-like in writing style and plot development. Paired along with his story about surviving being hit by a car, this story really puts you as much into King’s experiences with pain as you can get. Too bad I wasn’t happy with the ending.

That Bus is Another World – 5/5 stars

A man is in a taxi cab and running very late to an important meeting. When he witnesses a crime in the bus sitting next to his taxi in traffic, he must decide what is more important:  his meeting or taking action.

Obits – 5/5 stars

This story is the story I was looking forward to reading most in this collection and I was not let down. A reporter for a trashy news site discovers that he can kill people by writing them an obituary. I enjoyed this from beginning to end, leaving me wanting nothing more.

Drunken Fireworks – 5/5 stars

This story involved a Hatfields vs. McCoys type of rivalry. A family of rednecks compete with a family of mobsters in a battle of the best fireworks. I liked the style in which this story was told, from one side of the feud. I especially appreciated how this story was brought to a close.

Summer Thunder – 5/5 stars

This was the perfect ending to the collection, a story about the end of the world and a man’s final days in a nuclear fallout.

Total Score: 76.5/100, avg. 3.82/5

4 stars

I’m giving this collection four stars. I enjoyed reading it as a whole, even though there were entries that I could have done without. Stephen King has done it again and I can’t wait to read his next release. I am, as you know, one of his Constant Readers.

P.S. If anyone in the UK/Europe wants to send me this BEAUTIFUL edition, I’d much appreciate it. 😉

25228309

It’s so pretty!

kacie

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Want to purchase a copy of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King for yourself? Check it out on The Book Depository by clicking HERE.

Book Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

9754815Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Anna and the French Kiss is not typically a book that I would read by choice. I’m not the biggest fan of YA Contemporary and am even less of a fan of romance. However, I’ve been reading a lot of dark and twisty books as of late and needed an easy, refreshing read that was just the opposite:  light and fluffy. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins definitely met this criteria.

Anna Oliphant is beyond mad at her father. She cannot believe that he is sending her to boarding school…for her senior year! How could he? Never mind that, he’s sending her to a boarding school in France. France! She doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t know anyone, and will be wrenched away from her friends and familiarity of home. How could he? Anna needs to learn her away around a new school in a new country, but luckily for her, she’s quick to find a group of friends. Not so luckily for her, one of those friends is the gorgeous and extremely kind St. Clair who is unfortunately seeing someone else. The thought brings her back to this:  how could her father do this to her?

Premise: 4/5

While this is your basic high school new student story, it does have one aspect that sets it apart from others:  it takes place in a foreign country. Even though that concept isn’t completely original, it has the potential to be unique.

Plot Development: 3/5

Too bad it’s not all that unique. The plot is extremely predictable, leaving the reader out of the suspense that is supposed to come with the buildup of a major plot point. However, the familiarity of the plot sequence of events and the basic story line adds to the lightness that I believe the author was going for. This book is not supposed to be deep and moving. It’s a cute, little ball of fluff, as it was intended.

I think.

Characterization: 4/5

Anna and the gang go through a series of events that lead to love, lust, heartbreak, and turmoil, and the characterization is handled pretty well throughout. It’s not the greatest, but it’s certainly not the worst either.

Writing Style: 4/5

I like Stephanie Perkins’s writing style a lot. It was easy to read and was successful in conveying Anna’s thoughts and actions throughout the novel. There were some moments that I had to re-read a page or two because Anna’s thoughts didn’t make rational sense to me, but I think that this might have been the author’s intention. She’s a hormonal teenager that is more than capable of making irrational thoughts. This comes across pretty well in the writing style.

Readability: 4/5

I read this book over a period of two days. I had a stressful week of work and it was nice to come home to something sweet and light to read. This book obviously didn’t blow me away, but it met the goal that I had set for it. It had fluff, but no smut, so I would absolutely recommend this to the Young Adult audience it is intended for. There are even a few messages in this novel that would be beneficial to teenagers, regardless of gender or sexual identity.

Total Score: 19/25, avg. 3.8/5

4 stars

I am scoring this novel four stars. I was looking for an easy read that didn’t require too much thinking and this hit the nail on the head. If I was looking for a book with a lot more meaning and the intention of invoking deep thought, this book would not have as high a rating as I am giving it.

Will I continue with Lola and the Boy Next Door or Isla and the Happily Ever After? Sure, but probably not right away. Next time I need a palate cleanser, however, I know where to look.

I read this book for the #sixsquaredchallenge hosted by bookstacksamber! – Books to Start a Series

Have you read Anna and the French Kiss? What did you think?

kacie

Find me on:

Want to purchase a copy of Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins for yourself? Check it out on The Book Depository by clicking HERE.

Book Review: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

gosetawatchmanTitle: Go Set a Watchman
Author: Harper Lee
Genre: Adult Fiction

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most influential books I read in high school. While I was reading it, I was also teaching it to a younger grade level as part of my English project. Now that I am a teacher, I can look back on that experience and realize that it definitely played a factor in where I am today.

When I found out that a novel featuring the same characters was going to be released, I jumped for joy. I’m sure I annoyed my mother will my excitement. I wanted to buy it on its release date, but I hadn’t yet found a job and needed to save as much money as I possibly could. Then, the waiting list at the library was ten miles long. When I finally got my hands on a copy, I felt like Gollum with the Ring.

Premise: 4/5

This novel was originally turned down by publishers. Lee wrote this novel before her iconic novel. Some people, after reading, believe that the publishers had been right all those years ago, but I’m really glad this novel was published. Jean Louise, or “Scout,” has grown up and returns home to visit her father, Atticus. While she’s home, she is brought back into those childhood memories we loved so much from To Kill a Mockingbird. As she is thrust back into her childhood, she sees the people her loved ones have become and questions everything.

Plot Development: 3/5

As I started reading this, I had no idea where it was headed. I’d only heard the hype from when it was released and I knew bits and pieces about the current Atticus, but I still didn’t know what the plot was going to be. Actually, I didn’t figure it out until the book was almost over. So even though it was a found manuscript that was written before To Kill a Mockingbird, it almost read like a fan’s companion story. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I understand why a lot of people did not.

There was very little plot, but it was written in such a way that it didn’t matter to me.

Characterization: 4/5

We see a whole new side to almost every character that is recognized from the iconic book. It’s done really well and we see some of the development through flashbacks. I loved seeing the changes in personalities and they made sense. Lee did a fantastic job of taking this original work and then taking it back twenty years to their younger selves to write such a brilliant novel. I love these characters.

Writing Style: 5/5

Even though this seemed to be a book about nothing, it read so easily due to the writing style. Lee added the right amount of humor into the flashbacks; she wrote this so well that I was happy to read about things that I felt didn’t advance the plot.

Readability: 5/5

This goes along with the above category, but this novel read really well. I enjoyed it from beginning to end. It was easy to read, even when learning about something less than desirable about a beloved character.

Total Score: 21/25, avg. 4.2/5

This was a very weird review because a lot of the stuff I talked about would typically make a book less enjoyable for me, but as To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books, I’m a little biased. It was a lot of fun to revisit Scout and the gang. While I was there was more substance, I enjoyed this novel very much. 4/5 stars!

4 stars

I read this book for the #sixsquaredchallenge hosted by bookstacksamber! – Goodreads Choice Winners

kacie

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Want to purchase a copy of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee for yourself? Check it out on The Book Depository by clicking HERE.