Review #40: Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

a forwardsandbookwords review
Cover Reviewkill the boy band: A lot of people don’t like this cover because it looks like it would be an ARC. I actually really like the simplicity, though. Underneath the dustjacket, the book is solid, hot pink with black lettering. It looks pretty cool, but if you read it without the dust jacket in public, everyone will be sure to look at you and realize that you’re reading a book called Kill the Boy Band.
Title: Kill the Boy Band
Author: Goldy Moldavsky
Description: Stand-alone YA contemporary
Publishing Information: Released February 23, 2016 by Scholastic, Inc.
Pages: 312
First Line: People have called me crazy. 

Barnes and Noble          Amazon         IndieBound        Goodreads

synopsis

The book follows four friends who are self-proclaimed fangirls of a British boy band called the Ruperts. Each of them have their favorite member of the band, which is composed of four boys all bearing the name Rupert. After getting a hotel room at the same hotel that the boys are staying in, one of the girls accidentally kidnaps the least talented member of the group. The girls dig themselves deeper and deeper into trouble as they try to figure out what to do with him.

pros and cons

When I review books, I try not to compare them to other books. There are so many different genres and goals for different pieces of writing, so I just don’t think it’s fair to match them up against each other. Instead, I try to think about what the book is trying to be (like, what the synopsis claims that it’s going to be) versus what it actually ended up being. If the book does exactly what it said it would, how can I say that it was a bad book?
From the synopsis, this book sounded absolutely ridiculous. Four fangirls “accidentally” kidnap a member of their favorite band? A band that is obviously parodying One Direction?
Well, this book was certainly one of the most ridiculous books I’ve ever read. So, kudos for that. The characters of the fangirls are so, so exaggerated (but at the same time, not that exaggerated? It’s actually kind of scary).
Basically, just ridiculous. It was exactly what it promised to be, but I can’t say I really liked it. Maybe that’s my fault for picking up a book like this.
A lot of my issues with it were personal things. There was more swearing than I like (and yes, I know that swearing is pretty much unavoidable in most books but there’s using it well and then there’s using it just to use it). Some of the motives that the characters had for acting the way they did were pretty extreme, and just not things that I like reading about.
None of the characters were particularly strong, either. They didn’t learn from their mistakes and they didn’t really reconcile anything by the end. They all had unique personality traits but nothing much deeper than those. The main character (I don’t think we ever learned her name? Which is interesting) had potential to have a really interesting backstory but the author didn’t tell us much about it. **mild spoiler ahead – skip to the next paragraph to avoid** One character, named Apple because she was eating an apple when her parents saw pictures of her and decided to adopt her, was portrayed as really just a fat, crazy girl. I was extremely hopeful that she would go through character development and we would learn more about her actual personality, but that was really all we got. Her favorite Rupert was Rupert P. It was speculated by the main character that she liked him because he was the ugliest and she felt like he was actually attainable for her. I wish there was a moment at the end of the book where Apple realized that she is beautiful and her life doesn’t have to centered around practically worshipping ugly guys because she feels like she deserves nothing better, but no such luck. In fact, the last we hear about her she is following a new boy band and in love with a new character, who is conveniently described as extremely unattractive. Sigh.
And speaking of personality (maybe for the first time if you chose to skip the spoiler), the mood swings in this book were unbelievable, and I don’t think they were written that way for comedic effect. If a character suddenly decided that they wanted to stand up for themselves, it wasn’t gradual. It went from timidness to full out yelling and storming out. It was almost cringe-y. Like, hey. Calm down, pal.
Negatives aside, the book made some interesting points about fan culture. I wish it would’ve had more parallels, though, showing both sides. The negative perspectives were plentiful, and the positives were really only represented by characters who had already been written to seem crazy. It did make me think a lot, though, which can sometimes be rare for a humorous, YA contemporary.
And it definitely was humorous. Most of the humor was found in the exaggerations of character, however, and if this isn’t really your style then you might find 300 pages a bit too much to suffer through. Another aspect I really enjoyed was the inclusion of supposed lyrics from the boy bands songs, which emphasized the cheesiness of it (because let’s be real – it can be pretty cheesy). In fact, I might even say that these were my favorite parts.

Coming to the hotel now was only the tip of the iceberg compared to some of the cray things other people had done. If you really thought about it, we were the rational ones. And for one night we would be sleeping under the same roof as The Ruperts. My feelings on the matter could best be summed up with lyrics from The Ruperts’ hit “I’m So Excited.”

Yeah Yeah Yeah!
I’m so excited!
Yeah Yeah Yeah!
Tonight is the night!

The parallels to One Direction were great, as well. Each member of the group audition separately on a British talent competition and were later grouped together. Some of their personality traits immediately made me think of specific members, as well. Considering I used to consider myself a pretty big fan of good ol’ 1D, I enjoyed making the connections.
Finally, this book was ridiculously fast-paced. I finished the entire thing in a span of maybe four hours? It almost read like a middle grade (although it is definitely not) just because the plot really held no regard for realistic-ness. I enjoyed how unpredictable it was – eventually you realize that there’s literally no way to guess what happens next because so many ridiculous things had happened already.

final thoughts

Though I liked reading something so fast-paced and easy (I’m a bit behind on my Goodreads goal) I can’t say I completely loved the content. Usually books put out by Scholastic aren’t too explicit, but this one had a bit too much for me. I certainly didn’t have any trouble finishing it, though. It really depends on your personal preferences. If you’re in the mood for something light-hearted and crazy, maybe pick this one up from the library.
2.5-3/5 stars

Thanks for reading! 🙂
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Quickie Reviews & A Rant

Sometimes you have good days, and sometimes you have days where you get your braces tightened and it’s impossible to eat anything but you’re so hungry so you spend five minutes chewing a Goldfish with only your front teeth only to discover that it is horrendously stale.
But enough about me. How is your day going? I know that I said I was going to be posting randomly, but ever since then I’ve posted every day! Don’t worry. It won’t last.
So while I was gone I read some books (although not nearly as many as I wish I had, it’s seriously shameful. I stumble across some long, boring ones that I tried to push through and just couldn’t. Also I reread Harry Potter, and it’s not like after the fourth time around I realized how much I secretly hate them, you know? Nothing new.) I want to share my thoughts on them but I definitely don’t have time to review each and every one by itself. So here are 11 quick reviews, all leading up to one not-so-quick rant. So, um, stick around? Brace yourself?
Maybe leave early.
(If I can somehow persuade you to read a book in 3-4 sentences, click the title to be taken to their Goodreads pages)

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – I had to read this one for school. It wasn’t nearly as hard to understand as I thought it would be, and I actually ended up really enjoying it. All of the analysis and projects definitely took away some of the fun, but I’m glad I read it and I would definitely recommend it to someone looking to read a classic that isn’t too complicated but still incredibly well-written. 4/5 stars
  2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – I was really entertained by this book. It was a darker plot that still had funny moments and an easy-to-follow plot. I just feel like the whole girl-meets-boy (who is equally as quirky as girl), boy-and-girl-go-on-adventures-until-something-tragic-happens thing wasn’t that original or amazingly executed in this story. It was a nice break from the other boring books I was reading at the time. 3.5/5
  3. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare – This was another one I had to read for school. It wasn’t a bad play at all, and the ending honestly got to me. It’s so tragic and frustrating and you just wish that you could grab the characters and scream, “Thou art an idiot.” I definitely think that reading this in school kind of ruined it for me though – we would read one chapter as a class, then listen to a recording of it, and then watch the movie clip before moving onto the next part. It took forever3/5
  4. The Martian by Andy Weir – Sooo good! I don’t know why it took me so long to get to this one. I meant to read it before the movie came out (which I still haven’t seen) but after I missed that deadline I guess I wasn’t really in a rush. Mark Watney is so funny. I didn’t think I’d be able to handle a book of just mostly narrative – I usually like some light dialogue – but it was fantastic. 5/5
  5. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – Once again, for school. I thought this book was so quirky and hilarious. I flew through the first half. If I’m being honest, I do think it got ridiculous to the point of being hard to follow, but I still enjoyed it for the most part. The beginning was definitely my favorite, and I need to watch the movie. 3.5/5
  6. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – I don’t think that this book was nearly as amazing as everyone made it sound, but that’s not to say I didn’t completely love it. Based on the hype I was expecting fantastic writing and a life-changing plot. However, it was so entertaining. I read it in one sitting, and immediately took it to my friend’s house so she could read it. I totally, totally predicted the ending, but I was okay with it. The romance was pretty insta-love and unrealistic if you’re one of those people who hate that, but I was okay with it. It was just one of those addictive contemporaries that I love so much. 4/5
  7. We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist – This book was really okay. Like, it wasn’t bad. I just expected it to be funny stories, as opposed to stories. The whole plot was that this guy went around and found everyone that he ever almost dated and asked them why it didn’t work out, but that was really about 10% of the story. The rest of the book was him dragging out the backstory of how they met into multiple chapters. And then the stories were basically, “I met her, I thought she was cute. We became friends and then I was going to ask her out because I got scared.” And then when he meets up with them again the girls are like, “Well, yeah. We didn’t date because you never asked me out.” I’m explaining this poorly. It had a good message, it just wasn’t very… interesting. It was just stories. And I know he’s a Youtuber, but I don’t watch his videos. Maybe if I was more invested and interested in his life I would’ve enjoyed it more. 2.5/5
  8. Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy – I’m a sucker for long titles and unique formats, and this book is told entirely in lists. The issue is, it’s more than 650 pages long. The idea is great, but when that idea lasts so long and is backed by a mediocre plot, there’s only so much you can do. I didn’t actually finish this one (I think I have about fifty pages left) but I’m counting it because if I really wanted to I could finish it in about an hour. I just don’t really care what happens to the characters. It’s hard to get attached when you only learn about them through lists. It was a cool idea, though. 2.5/5
  9. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – I loved this book so much. I know that some people have an issue with it because if Harry Potter wasn’t a thing this book really couldn’t be a thing, but it doesn’t bother me too much. They really aren’t that similar, and the plot was so unique and good. I can’t imagine the last time I finished a book this long so fast. Rainbow Rowell does it again. 4.5/5
  10. This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp – I was really hoping that this book would be more than it was. The entire plot takes place over maybe an hour, while a school shooting is going on. The little hook on the cover is “Everyone has a reason to fear the boy with the gun.” It sounds like it should be so chilling and crazy, but it just wasn’t to me. It felt like the entire book was either brutal murder or vague backstory. It had so many perspectives that it was hard to keep them straight. I read it very quickly, but I wasn’t super hooked. 3/5
  11. The Crown by Kiera Cass – You know how I feel about these books. Poorly written, but ridiculously entertaining. I read this in one day and loved every second of it. 4/5
    BUT… this is where the rant comes in.

If you’ll recall, I wrote a predictions post about this book a million years ago. As it turns out, that post ends up pretty high in the search results when you Google what happens at the end of the series. In the days leading up to and following the release of The Crown, my blog was being flooded with people who weren’t wanting to wait to know what happens (like, that post now has around 10,000 views).
Most of the comments on that post were really nice, and I appreciate all of them, even the ones that weren’t (I would tell you to go and read them – there are some really interesting ones – but I don’t think I approved them at the time and they’re so buried now). I love getting feedback on my writing and interacting with people. Most of them pointed out that I forgot to consider one of the bachelors (did he really have a chance?) and gave their own predictions.
However, there were three comments that stuck out. Again, I really do love all of the comments and I know that no one means any harm by them. I’m not trying to call out or make fun of anyone, I just like ranting. Honestly, thank you for those comments, you three.
One of the comments was in all caps, screaming at me because I predicted that one of her favorite characters was going to die. Look, I didn’t want it to happen. I just thought there was a pretty good chance. I honestly loved this comment – it’s crazy to me how books can provoke so much emotion in people. Can you imagine writing fictional characters that people get so attached to that they’ll yell at real-life people over them? My favorite part was that it concluded with the commenter saying that she loves the cover of the book because I don’t.
That’s when you know that she’s really angry, because I stand with months-ago me. It’s a horrible cover.
The second comment just blatantly spoiled the ending of the book. It was really my fault for reading the comments before I read the book – I should’ve known someone would spoil it. It was just funny because the comment just opened with, “(name) wins her heart.” There was no warning, no chance to realize the potential danger and get out. It was devastating.
Perhaps more frustrating though, was a comment that said (name) wins, except she didn’t really say the name. She said the first and last letter, and then put stars in the middle. It’s a nice thought, because you’re not really saying the name while still potentially being able to discuss with people who have already read the story. Except… except in what story are there two guys competing for a girl’s heart whose names are the same amount of letters and begin and end with the same two letters?
None. At least, not The Crown. So when she did that, there was only one option.
*sigh* The thought was there. She even went on to say that I can’t say that she spoiled the book because she didn’t actually say his name.
Pro-tip: If you have to explain how you didn’t spoil something, you spoiled it.

That’s all from me, folks! I hope you enjoyed these quick little reviews – I might do some more like this in the future. I also hope you liked hearing that rant-y story. I’m over it, though. It was reasonable for them to assume that if I spent so much time making a predictions post, I would’ve been dedicated enough to get the book right away and read it immediately and I would’ve already known what they told me.
Be sure to let me know any of your crazy stories or if you’ve read the books I’ve reviewed in the comments! You can also subscribed to my blog and follow me on my other social media below, if you’re feeling generous. 🙂
Happy reading!

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Review & Discussion

What the Book Is and a Ramble-y Story

If you haven’t heard already, at midnight on Harry Potter’s birthday the script-book edition of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was released. And if you haven’t heard already, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth Harry Potter story, told in the form of a play that you can actually see if you’re super lucky and live in London, or that you can read in the form of this book.
Also, do you have to pay property tax on that rock you live under?
I personally didn’t go to a midnight release party for it because I’m a fake fan. But seriously, my sister’s graduation party was that night and I was exhausted. Also – and I don’t know if this is TMI – but I’m literally so sunburned. All of my skin is falling off and I didn’t want people thinking that I was cosplaying as a molting basilisk.
I had to go to the DMV the following day to get my temporary driver’s license (which isn’t really good for anything but WOOOOO) and I figured I would be super bored waiting so my mom and I ran to Barnes and Noble and – not too surprisingly but completely disappointingly – they were completely sold out.
In a panic, we went to Target, wondering, might they have a copy left after all this time?

hp target

Always. 
Target did a thing where you got a free poster with the purchase of the book so that was pretty cool even though the poster wasn’t anything too amazing. The cashier was really friendly and talked about how he felt like a fake fan because he didn’t even realize it was coming out until he was stocking the shelves. He still gave me a funny look when he asked me if I wanted it in a bag and I almost yelled, “No!” and grabbed it.
Watching people put hardcover books in those plastic bags stressed me out so much. You are literally begging the universe to rip the dust-jacket.
But I digress, it was a good day overall.

happy nerd

Spoiler-Free Review

**because this is a play, the plot moves very fast and it will be hard to review this without revealing any details. If you haven’t read the book yet and want to go into it blind, stop here.**
So the basic premise of this book is that it picks up from the epilogue in Deathly Hallows where the grown up squad of Hermione, Ron, and Harry are seeing off their children at King’s Cross. The main focus in this story is on Albus Severus Potter, who is having a hard time feeling like he fits into his family or anywhere. This leads him to make some extremely poor decisions and almost ruin the entire world.
First of all, let’s talk about the characters. Scorpius Malfoy is my spirit animal, obviously. He’s just an adorable little nerd trying to get through life and be brave while simultaneously being afraid of everything. Rose Granger was also fantastic, just a really funny, strong character. She reminded me so much of Hermione without the authors blatantly trying to make them the exact same person.
Albus kind of annoyed me. He did sort of remind me of Harry though. He just really wanted to do what he thought was the right thing, but didn’t always think it through very well. I’ll get more into that with the spoilers.
As for the plot, it made sense if you didn’t think about it. I don’t necessarily mean that in a super negative way, it’s just true. It was fast-paced and entertaining and I’m sure that’s part of the reason why it translates so well onto the stage. However, if you pause and think about the actual logistics of some of the magic and time-travel, it’ll make your head hurt.
In some ways, the plot also seemed a little cliché and predictable to me. The whole “tiny change in the past creates crazy ripples in the universe” element was well done but nothing new. However, the different alternatives that we get to see poses some very interesting “what-ifs” and allows more old characters that we’ve missed to be incorporated into the story.
And speaking of old characters… let’s talk about Harry, Ron and Hermione. They’ll always be some of my favorite characters of all time. How could they not be? I was excited to see how their personalities would stay the same and change as they got older.
Here’s the issue: You know how Maxon and America were all grown up in The Heir and The Crown? And like, it was them, but it wasn’t? Like they were older, but it seemed like their characters just served the purpose of being some parents, and even though they were well-developed as parents, they didn’t seem like the well-developed younger characters, just grown up? It’s like they were completely different people with the same names, and some of the old trademark qualities being extremely forced as if they’re screaming through their beaming, remembered faces, “Look! It’s us! I promise!”
If you haven’t read the Selection and didn’t really get that comparison, I was also reminded of one of my favorite songs at the moment, called “Next Year” by Two Door Cinema Club. It had a line that goes:

Maybe someday,
You’ll be somewhere,
Talking to me,
As if you knew me

I know it sounds dramatic, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that line. They really just didn’t seem like the same characters at all. And I know that they’re grown up and I know that they’re not going to be completely the same, but the entire time it felt like these characters were talking, trying to become people that they just aren’t anymore. Like those characters were really new, more boring characters Polyjuice-potioned into being Harry, Ron and Hermione. Impostors. Impastas.

noodle harry.jpg

As for the formatting, I didn’t really mind it being a play. I’m sure that some of the issues with things not being very well-explained could’ve been fixed if it was a full narrative, but that was really my only issue with it. I found it interesting – as I was reading, I pictured everything on a stage. Did that happen to anyone else? It was weird, but not unpleasant.
The stage directions/descriptions were really amazing, too. I had to slow down a lot when I was reading to make sure that I was really reading and appreciating everything, because there were some beautiful little gems in there. My favorite was this one:

There’s a silence.
A perfect, profound silence.
One that sits low, twists a bit, and has damaged within it. 

First Line: A busy and crowded station.
Pages: 308
Hooked by page: 1
Rating: 3.5 stars
Recommend for: Harry Potter fans. I can’t say it felt like a completely genuine Harry Potter story, but it was great to have new Hogwarts adventures.

Goodreads          Barnes and Noble          Amazon         IndieBound

Spoiler-y Discussion

pretty harry

First of all, can we talk about how beautiful this book is? People were going to buy it no matter what, but I’m grateful that Scholastic took the time to make it look nice and all high-quality. The binding, man. It’s got that stripe-y stuff going on – that’s when you know it’s well made.
On to the discussion – where to begin? I liked seeing where the characters ended up. Hermione was the Minister of Magic, which was awesome in a way but also kind of forced, I felt like. Hermione is smart and strong, so let’s make her the leader of the Wizarding World, of course! Ron is funny, so let’s have him own a joke shop! (Also, why was Ron running Fred and George’s joke shop? What happened to George?) It felt like they were taking the easy way out.
And speaking of taking the easy way out, some things were just oh-so convenient. Delphi just so happened to have Polyjuice potion, which normally takes, like, a month to brew – lying around? And they just happened to have some sort of DNA from Harry, Ron and Hermione?
Whatever. Moving on.
I thought the idea of Amos wanting someone to go back and save Cedric was a solid basis for the plot. It was exciting enough because it would involve evil by facing Voldemort in the past without introducing an entirely new force of evil. But like, if you’re going to bother going back in time to save a life, why not just go big and go all the way back to when Voldemort was a baby and kill him then?
Goblet of Fire has always been one of my absolute favorite Harry Potter books (although, aren’t they all?) so when the plot involved a lot of time-traveling back to that time I was pretty excited. But as soon as they mentioned time-traveling, I just knew something was going to go horribly wrong. Time is just so weird and nothing about it makes sense when you start going backwards.
Initially, when they started messing with the competition in order to stop Cedric from reaching the final I thought the mishap was going to be that if Cedric had a rough start to the competition he wouldn’t want to help Harry with the egg clue and things would be thrown off that way.
I loved all the alternate universes though. Getting to see Snape again when he wasn’t mean and got to know about how he would end up being a hero was my favorite.
The whole thing about how after Cedric was embarrassed in the competition he got super angry and awful and became a Death Eater and then kiLLED NEVILLE was too much. I mean, I liked it, but liked it in a way that was more like, “THIS IS PROVOKING A LOT OF EMOTION IN ME WHICH MEANS THAT IT’S GOOD WRITING” as opposed to, “Nice.”
The one alternate universe where Albus and Harry’s relationship stayed exactly the same except Albus was in Gryffindor was kind of strange to me. Like, how in the world did messing with the past cause Albus to be sorted into a different house? Did those changes change Harry, thus affecting how he raised his son and causing Albus to grow up with different values?
I think the whole point of it was for Albus to make the realization that the fact that he and Harry didn’t get along wasn’t due to him not being in Gryffindor.
YER A GENIUS, ALBUS!
Do you mean to tell me, small child, that your father, who named you after the Slytherin headmaster and was almost sorted into Slytherin himself, doesn’t hate you, a Slytherin?
All of the arguments between Albus and Harry were so uncomfortable for me. It was like if angsty, book-five Harry as an adult was fighting angsty, book-five Harry as a child. When Harry told Albus that sometimes he wished that Albus wasn’t his son, I literally cringed.

control your emotions.gif

Jumping to the ending, because I’m out of control. Delphi always seemed kind of off to me, but that was more because I thought she was just an awkward and under-developed character with an intriguing but unexplored backstory rather than evil.
And not only evil… but VOLDEMORT AND BELLATRIX’S DAUGHTER?
I’m not kidding, at the beginning when we first hear about the rumors that Scorpius might be Voldemort’s son, I was literally thinking, “No, he can’t be, because Voldemort and Bellatrix were in love.”
I HAVE SHIPPED IT SINCE DAY ONE (read: book five, but whatever).
The thing that seemed off to me was that Delphi said that she was born right before the Battle of Hogwarts. Like, define “right before”. Was Bellatrix pregnant when she was torturing Hermione or killing Dobby? Or was the baby born a while before that when our gang is in the woods?
In that case, where’s the baby during aforementioned Hermione torture and Dobby murder? Or the Battle of Hogwarts, for that matter?
It would’ve been cool if some things in this book explained little details foreshadowed in the original stories. Obviously it couldn’t, because this book really is just an additional, unplanned thing.
Anyway, once we find out that Delphi is Voldemort’s daughter and Scorpius and Albus are trapped in time, they manage to get a message onto Harry’s baby blanket. In hindsight, it’s a good idea, but I wish we had gotten to actually see them go in and get it. You’re not supposed to make contact with your previous selves when you use time travel because it can really mess you up, so what happens if you unwrap a blanket that’s around your dad as a baby? Poor Harry was already so messed up, what happens when he stares into the eyes of his son who is more than ten years his senior?
The entire Augurey thing was so, so weird to me. Did Voldemort somehow know that he would be killed at the Battle of Hogwarts and planned to have this baby that would travel back in time and save him? I can’t think of any other reason why Voldemort would want to have a child, but that isn’t at all foreshadowed in the books, which just reminds me again that this book is more milking the franchise than finishing off the story once and for all.
Harry transfigures into Voldemort, which I didn’t even really know was possible, but it worked for the most part. It was heartbreaking to hear Delphi, whose only purpose, it seems, is to save her dad even though he will never learn to know or love her.
Even more heartbreaking was reading about Harry reliving the death of his parents and not being able to do anything about it. GAH. That was painful, but very well done. 10 points to Gryffindor.

So those are my thoughts! I could go on forever but I’ll stop there. If you’ve it this far, thank you! I hope you enjoyed what I had to say. Feel free to leave any and all of your thoughts in the comments below. You can also follow my blog and on my other social media if you feel so inclined.
Thanks for reading! 🙂

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Review #39: Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

a forwardsandbookwords review

Cover Revieacb5f-madeyouup2bcoverw: I love it! It’s so beautiful (and honestly it was what made me first want to read this book).
Title: Made You Up
Author: Francesca Zappia
Description: Stand-alone YA contemporary mystery.
Publishing Information: Released May 19, 2015 by HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 428
First Line: If I was good at the grocery store, I got a Yoo-hoo.

Synopsis (taken from Goodreads): 

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook, and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.

pros and cons

MIXED FEELINGS AHHHH.
The things I liked about it, I loved so much that they completely destroyed me. Unfortunately though, I had some issues with this book.
Going into it, I had only read the blurb on the inside of the hardcover jacket. Even if I had read the full synopsis though, it still seems to describe a different story than this one really was. The blurb, which is what intrigued me (along with the gorgeous cover) reads,

“Let’s play twenty questions.”
“Okay . But I ask the questions this time.”
“Fine.”
“If I guess it before five, I’ll be really disappointed.”
The corner of his lips twisted up into a smile and he said, “Don’t insult me.”
“Are you alive?”
“Yes.”
“Do you live here?”
“Yes.”
“Do I know you?”
“Yes.”
“Did I make you up?”

Unless I completely missed it (which is possible), this conversation wasn’t even in the book. If it was in the book, this moment wasn’t relevant enough to the story to really stand out, because the book isn’t really solely focused on our main character, who has schizophrenia. Instead, it was about a girl who is solving a mystery and dealing with jerks at school and fighting with her parents and falling in love and, oh, yeah!, she has schizophrenia.
Mental illness isn’t what defines a person, so maybe it was good that the only plot line of the book was the fact that the main character has schizophrenia, but there was just so much going on. There was bullying and history and Nazi Germany and a snake in the ceiling and a haunted scoreboard and family drama and sabotage and partying and abusive adults. It almost felt like Francesca Zappia had all of these really great, individual ideas and tried to fit them all into one book. They started overshadowing each other and I wasn’t sure what was relevant and what was even going to end up being real, which can be really exciting but it also had me extremely confused.
Within all of these plot lines, there were some really, really terrible people. It almost wasn’t enjoyable to read about. Obviously sometimes books don’t need to be super enjoyable, and instead they’re meant to send a message or make us think, but it just felt like there was so many crazy, unnecessary sad and scary things in these little side plots. It made me… well, sad and scared.

“I am real. This”–he put his other hand over the first-“is real. You see me interacting with other people all day long, don’t you? I talk to people; I affect things in the world. I cause things to happen. I am real.”
“But-but what if this whole place”-I had to suck in air again-“what if everything is inside my head? East Shoal and Scarlet and this bridge and you-what if you’re not real because nothing is real?”
“If nothing’s real, then what does it matter?” he said. “You live here. Doesn’t that make it real enough?”

Now for the love interest… I don’t know. I’m not a fan of the whole “bad guy gone sweet” trope, even if we do usually get a backstory that occasionally almost excuses the jerkiness of these people. I grew to like Miles, but I think that’s only because he seemed like a completely different person in the last third of the book or so. His transformation didn’t seem very realistic because it wasn’t really a transformation. It was just like he was replaced with a new Miles that wasn’t a jerk.
Yes, we got a backstory eventually. Yes, I kind of shipped them eventually. Yes, he got nicer (like they all do) eventually.
I don’t know. It took him long enough.
Tucker, on the other hand, was fantastic. He’s one of my favorite best friends/sidekicks I’ve read in a contemporary. Great guy.
This book kind of lacked any good family support systems for any of the characters that we got to know; they all had pretty horrible home lives. It could be argued that Alex’s family was pretty good, but her mom drove me crazy. Refusing to acknowledge your daughter’s wishes and listening to what she has to say is not protecting her.
Last complaint. There was too much unnecessary swearing. This is really a personal preference, but I just didn’t enjoy it. But, you know, that’s just me.
There were things about this book that I really enjoyed. It was incredibly fast-paced, funny (I mean, not always. See above: scared and sad), very quotable, and sent some powerful messages.
One of the big twists really got me. I didn’t see it coming, and I was absolutely heartbroken and angry. I also absolutely loved the ending.
I loved the conversations Alex had with her Magic 8 Ball and the games of Twenty Questions that Miles was impossibly good at. I loved the crazy jobs that Miles did for people.
That’s enough quirkiness and side-features of the book for one contemporary, wouldn’t you think? Because normally, books with such great plot twists and endings and formats like that would be getting five stars. How could they not? Unfortunately, there was just too much going on. I couldn’t focus on the effects and the heartbreak from that plot twist when I was worried about how nine other side stories were going to work out.
I think this book had a ton of potential, and it didn’t completely disappoint me. It just wasn’t what I expected at all, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would. However, I am glad that I read it. It was entertaining and books that make you feel so many things (sad, scared, annoyed) clearly are connecting with you in some way and therefore doing something right.

final thoughts

So, did you think all of that was incoherent? Just wait for me to try and sum up my overall feelings.
Giving this book a low rating would imply that it wasn’t amazing, right? But this book was amazing. There were so many freaky elements and it surprised me and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it.
However, I feel like it could’ve been a lot better. Looking back on it, I remember my favorite elements and feel like it’s a five star book. The issue is, it’s a five star premise. The execution just didn’t work for me, and maybe it will for you. There are plenty of reviews out there that completely praise this book, and I’d like to think that this review is one of them as well, because I did enjoy it. I’m glad I read it. I might even read it again one day.
I keep contradicting myself.
I don’t know guys. I really liked some parts, but I really didn’t like some other parts. There were so many different parts to have feelings about.
This book is somewhere between a 2.75/5 and a 3.75/5. You would think that would make it a 3.25, but that doesn’t feel right either.
I’m a mess.
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Review #38: The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

a forwardsandbookwords review

Cover Reviethe shadow herow: It’s a solid cover. It gives you a good sense of the art style and the subject of the book (superheroes, obviously).
Book: The Shadow Hero
Author(s): Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
Description: Graphic novel YA compilation of 6 comic issues (did that make any sense? I’m new to the comic/graphic novel world. I don’t know what I’m talking about)
Publishing Information: Released July 15, 2014 by First Second
Pages: 169
First Line: In 1911, the Chi’ing Dynasty collapsed, ending two millennia of imperial rule over China.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A VIBRANT HOMAGE TO A CLASSIC COMIC FROM TWO MASTERS OF THE MODERN GRAPHIC NOVEL.
The Shadow Hero is based on golden-age comic series The Green Turtle, whose hero solved crimes and fought injustice just like any other comics hero. But this mysterious masked crusader was hiding more than your run-of-the-mill secret identity…The Green Turtle was the first Asian American superhero.
Now, exactly seventy years later, New York Times-bestselling author Gene Luen Yang has revived this nearly forgotten, pioneering character in a new graphic novel that creates an origin story for the golden-age Green Turtle.
With artwork by the unmatched Sonny Liew, this hilarious and insightful graphic novel about heroism and heritage is also a loving tribute to the long, rich tradition of American superhero comics.

pros and cons

Overall:
I picked up this book completely on a whim. I was just sitting on my couch, thinking about how daunting my current read (a Brandon Sanderson book – ahhh) is, and that maybe I should pick up another little book on the side. The Shadow Hero was sitting on the couch next to me because my sister was planning on reading it soon, and I just picked it up.
I’m not going to lie and pretend like I know anything about superhero comics or the history behind this one, but it was fascinating. If you read the synopsis, you’ll know that this was a re-vamped version of an unsuccessful comic from “The Golden Age”, and reading about the history behind this story in the back of the book after finishing the actual story made me enjoy it even more.
I don’t typically read superhero story or watch any of the big superhero movies, but this story did seem to have a few of the typical superhero tropes (that I can’t get too into without spoiling things). Still, the culture and that was included was refreshing and helped to make this such a fast read.
The Plot: 
The plot really took me by surprise. It was a lot funnier and more (for lack of a better word) ridiculous than I thought it would be. It follows a boy named Hank whose mother is unsatisfied with her life in America. Of course, this is before her life is saved by a superhero and she decides that her son’s destiny must be to become a superhero. The only issue is, he doesn’t have any powers, and in his attempt to prove himself to his mother, Hank makes some very powerful enemies.
The story was incredibly fast-paced, as graphic novels tend to be. I love that it was able to combine a kick-butt story with culture and also a ton of humor. The ending wasn’t anything unexpected, but it was satisfying and I enjoyed it.
The Characters:
I really liked the family dynamic in this book. Sure, the mom was a little crazy and the dad was sad all of the time, but going into this with the knowledge that it was about superheroes, I expected our main character to be either an orphan or the child of mad scientists.
Hank’s mom was hilarious. She was crazy, but the scenes that included her were absolutely crazy and ridiculous and my absolute favorites. She also had some pretty admirable character development throughout the story.
I also really loved Hank’s relationship with his dad. While his mother thought that his grocer father was nothing to be proud of, Hank loved working with his father and someday dreamed of taking over the family business. It was a really cute element of the book.
All of the side characters were pretty well developed, although I sometimes had a hard time keeping track of all of Hank’s enemies (which either gives you a taste for my horrible memory or what a horrible situation Hank is suddenly thrust into). Hank’s love interest was fantastic. It seemed like the type of thing that would be insta-love, but it really surprised me. She was maybe even more kick-butt than Hank, which was really nice because in the time period that the book takes place in (and even still today *sigh*) calling people a girl, or saying they fought like a girl, was used as an insult.
Favorites: 
Like I said before, Hank’s mom was fantastic. I think my absolute favorite moment was pretty close to the beginning of the book when she decided that Hank was destined to be a superhero. She was eavesdropping on some ladies who were talking about how a famous superhero become a superhero, and one of the ways was exposure to acid. In the next scene, she and Hank are walking by an accident involving a truck carrying toxic waste, and she literally kicks her son into it. It was so unexpected and hilarious and I did a horrible job of describing it, so I apologize.
I also loved reading all of the history and explanation behind the graphic novel at the end of the book. It was honestly fascinating and really added a lot to the story.
Meh:
The wasn’t really anything in particular that I didn’t like about this book, but it just wasn’t my favorite. It wasn’t mind-blowing by any means, but it was a solid story. There were a ton of fight scenes, which just aren’t my favorite, but that’s a personal preference.

final thoughts

This was a really enjoyable, quick read. I’m not huge on superhero stories, but it was entertaining and exceeded my expectations. If you like reading the classic superheroes or watching the superhero movies, you’ll probably enjoy this story. It was definitely nice to read such a unique story while also learning about the history behind it.
4/5 stars
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Review #37: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

a forwardsandbookwords review

Cover Review: nimonaI love this cover so much. It’s adorable, and gives you a good sense of the adventure and beautiful art style within the book. I mean, this is only the second graphic novel I’ve read, so what do I know about art style? But I really enjoyed the art. Also (you can’t really tell in the picture), there’s so much detail in the background of this cover that’s so cute and goes along with the story so well.
Book: Nimona
Author: Noelle Stevenson
Description: Stand-alone(?) YA graphic novel
Publishing Information: Released May 12, 2015 by HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 272
First Line: “What? Who are you? How did you get in here?” (Kind of out-of-context and unhelpful considering this is a graphic novel…)
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

pros and cons

Overall: 
This is the first graphic novel I’ve ever reviewed, mainly because (with the exception of Smile in fifth grade) it’s the first graphic novel I’ve ever read! I typically avoid graphic novels because 1) I like to buy/own all of the books I read but 2) graphic novels are really expensive, especially considering 3) they don’t last me very long.
However, of all the graphic novels I’ve read – which, admittedly, isn’t that many – this one was my absolutely favorite. Though best book out of two books isn’t that impressive, I’m confident that in comparison to other graphic novels out there, this is one of the best.
It was just so good. The plot wasn’t anything too extraordinarily new (villain with goofy sidekick do villainous things while annoyingly wonderful superhero stops them), but it was executed very, very well. Because I haven’t read very many graphic novels, I guess I’m not that great of a judge of art styles yet, but this one was adorable. All of the pictures seemed very nice and coordinated side-by-side, but the color uses changed from scene to scene.
I think it’s fitting that Rainbow Rowell blurbed this book. If Rainbow Rowell wrote a good vs. evil adventure story and had it turned into a graphic novel, it would be this book. The characters are so lovable and remain hilarious even in “dastardly” situations.
The Plot: 
What separates this book from other good vs. evil stories is that it’s become clearer that the “good” organization might not be as good as everyone is led to believe. The “evil” side, in the form of Ballister Blackheart and his new assistant Nimona, has a main goal to return justice and, if things go according to Blackheart’s “rules”, kill as few people as possible.
I didn’t plan to read this book in one sitting, but I honestly don’t know how it would be possible not to. It’s incredibly fast-paced, beyond what you can normally expect from a story that’s mainly comprised of pictures. It wasn’t just that I could read this book in one sitting, I wanted to.
The Characters: 
Though a surprising amount of characters are introduced in a pretty short book, we follow three main people: Nimona, Lord Ballister Blackheart, and Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin.
Nimona was nothing like what I expected her to be. There was a lot more to her character than the typical qualities of goofy sidekicks that we’ve come to know in many different stories. Her backstory is slowly revealed throughout the book and it’s fascinating. Usually in graphic novels, they kind of have to say everything flat-out, because it’s hard to make assumptions when you’re not getting that constant stream of narrative. This book wasn’t like that, and it was fantastic.
Ballister Blackheart was easily the most lovable “villain” in the history of books. He wasn’t much of a villain; I’d sooner regard him as a hero fighting the rogue heroes in the most peaceful way possible. He slowly warms up to Nimona but doesn’t allow this new friendship make him reckless or abandon what he believes in, which I appreciate because that seems to be rare in YA literature.
Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin was the epitome of a pathetic hero, because that’s what he’s supposed to be. Even his name screams that he is going to be frustrating. His rise to power as a “hero” and character development throughout the story was almost as beautiful as his hair.
Favorites: 
It’s kind of hard to quote a graphic novel, but I had so many favorite moments within this book. Though it was a story in and of itself, there also seemed to be moments when it was mocking other heroic stories a little bit. For example (and I’ll try to recreate this as best as possible)…
Nimona: Boss, he’s going to sound the alarm!
Alarm: (sounds)
Nimona: Boss, he sounded the alarm!
All of the dialogue was adorable. Also the epilogue. Epilogues get me every time.
Meh:
I’m not going to lie, the ending confused me a little bit. The epilogue was great, but I didn’t quite understand the last twenty pages or so leading up to it. Everything is going so crazy, and then it calms down and everyone is dead but then no one is or are they but… wait? What? I don’t know. I wish that the ending had been a bit more flushed out and explained before we get into the adorable epilogue.
We also didn’t get much reasoning behind the magic system in this world (or if there even is one), the government, and the reasoning behind the bad guys going evil. It’s hard to provide a long-winded backstory like you normally get in a fantasy story when said fantasy story is a graphic novel, but it would’ve helped make it slightly less confusing.

final thoughts

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of graphic novels and really fun stories in general. It’s a quick read, but you’re going to want to read it all at once so be sure to clear your schedule beforehand. I’ll definitely be picking up more of Noelle Stevenson’s work in the future. The ending wasn’t completely clear, but I wouldn’t say that it was disappointing. It was still definitely worth the read.
4.5/5 stars
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Review #36: Maximum Ride Forever by James Patterson

a forwardsandbookwords review
Book: Maximum Ride Forever
Author: James Patterson
Description: The ninth and final(?!) book in the YA series Maximum Ride
Publishing Information: Released May 18, 2015 by Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 383
First Sentence: Hey, you!
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synopsis
(taken from Goodreads)

THE NINTH AND ULTIMATE MAXIMUM RIDE STORY IS HERE! Legions of Max fans won’t be disappointed by this encore episode in the beloved series about the incredible adventures of a teenage girl who can fly. As Maximum Ride boldly navigates a post-apocalyptic world, she and her broken flock are roaming the earth, searching for answers to what happened. All will be revealed in this last spectacular “ride”- a brand-new grand finale featuring all of the nonstop action, twists and turns that readers can rely on in a blockbuster Patterson page turner!

pros and cons

maximum rideCover Review: I hated this cover at first. However, in real life, it’s really shiny and dramatic and I love it. Still, this series has more cover changes than it does books, so I guess it doesn’t really matter when there’s likely going to be three new covers revealed tomorrow.
Well, I never thought I’d be reviewing the ninth book of a series that probably could’ve ended at three.
I also never thought that I’d like it this much.
Look, let’s get a few things out of the way. Was this book necessary? Nope. Was it just churned out to make more money on an already incredibly successful series? Almost certainly.
I was exploring James Patterson’s website in an effort to ensure that this would really be the last book this time. I mean, the description for the eighth book was:

Are you ready for the final chapter? Are you ready for the ultimate flight? Because THIS IS IT. One last incredible, explosive adventure with an astonishing ending that no one could have seen coming.

But then suddenly, another book! I mean, you would think that an eighth book described as “the final chapter” and “one last incredible, explosive adventure” would be… I don’t know… the last book?
HA.

But is it good? I mean…
The way that James Patterson’s books are written make them so incredibly easy to read. Every chapter end is a cliffhanger that forces you to keep reading, and every chapter is only like, three pages long. I read this book in its entirety on the day I got it.
It’s not my favorite book in the series by any means, but I did really like it. The narrative wasn’t as funny as it is in the other books, but Max is still snarky and Angel is still creepy and Total is still a talking dog who says more insightful things than I do.
I put off reading this book for so long – because it is so unneeded and it’s not as if James Patterson is running low on supporters – but I genuinely hated the ending of Nevermore and I wasn’t about to let a new ending pass me by. Plus, you don’t just get eight books into a series and then refuse to read the ninth.
Ten is where I draw my line.
Probably.
I don’t have much to say on the specific plot of this book (I feel like I’m one of the few people who have actually made it few the first eight books and I’ll be spoiling anyone else who hasn’t). I had an issue with an element of the ending (which I’m trying my best not to spoil, maybe skip to the next paragraph just in case), simply because it sent a bad message that was really unexpected and unnecessary. It started to seem like fan-fiction instead of the kick-butt adventure story it normally is. Still, I liked the ending much better than Nevermore and maybe things are a little different when the world is ending. Whatever.
Stepping back and thinking about it, this series is a little ridiculous. Plot lines are built up and then completely dropped, characters are killed but then not dead in so many ways, and The Final Warning was so off-topic that you could probably convince me that it was actually called Maximum Ride: The Earth Day Special.
But… they’re such fun books. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the first book, and I kind of want everyone to read them. I’ve never finished one and thought, “Well that was bad.” I mean, there have been a couple of, “LOL, what are you doing, James?” moments, but I’ve always enjoyed them.
I don’t even know what to say, because I feel like the last six books or so are just James Patterson dragging out the story to make more money, which is hard. Like, if the author doesn’t really care about the story and the characters, why should I keep reading? I guess the simple answer is because care about the characters and the story, and I don’t really want to pass up the opportunity to read six more adventures if I’ve enjoyed them every time.

final thoughtsI don’t regret reading this book one bit. I started reading this series five years ago, and nine books later I’m pretty sad that it’s over… but it better be over this time. If you’re debating whether picking up this “encore” as a fan of the eight books, I think it’s worth it. The ending is much more satisfying than that of Nevermore, and, as always, it’s just a really fun read. As for anyone who has yet to pick up this series, I highly recommend at least reading the first three books. Honestly, I love this entire series, but the first three will always be my favorite. Don’t let me stop you from continuing on… however, you could probably skip Max. They eat pizza and save Max’s kidnapped mom. That’s pretty much it.
4/5 stars

Thanks for reading! 🙂
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