“Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty

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Pirriwee Public is a beautiful little beachside primary school where children are taught that ‘sharing is caring.’ So how has the annual School Trivia Night ended in full-blown riot? Sirens are wailing. People are screaming. The principal is mortified.

And one parent is dead.

Was it a murder, a tragic accident or just good parents gone bad? As the parents at Pirriwee Public are about to discover, sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal…

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, school-yard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

-excerpt taken from http://lianemoriarty.com.au/Book/big-little-lies-us/

Review:

I like to stay relevant on this blog and read what is popular, so I moved this book to the top of my TBR list after hearing a lot of hype about it, and I am so happy that I did.

“Big Little Lies” is what I would describe as a lighthearted whodunnit that also manages to cover some real issues, such as domestic and sexual abuse.  It does so in a way that I think could be helpful, showing the mindset of the abused and what must be done to overcome and get out of those types of situations.

The story is told from multiple POV’s.  Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different lady, most of whom have children that attend the same school.  We find out in the first chapter that there has been a murder that occurred on the night of an annual school trivia night.  Every chapter is leading up to the night of the murder, and dropping hints about who the victim and the murderer are.  We don’t know either as we go through the book, and the author does a good job IMO of keeping you guessing – my ideas changed many times throughout the book.

Also, in each chapter she adds short excerpts of police interviews (the POV’s of these range widely, and oftentimes aren’t main characters) from the night of the murder that show the speculation of attenders of the trivia night, and also the way the characters are viewed by the society they live in, i.e. lots of gossip ensues.

I give this book 5 out of 5 lollipops {had to, look at the cover 🙂 }.  The whole concept is quite genius and I couldn’t help but think about how complicated this book must have been to write.  It went down easy, and when I wasn’t reading I was thinking about it.  I enjoyed the short chapters – as a mom of four, I like having readily available stopping points in a book for when my kids inevitably interrupt my reading time.  The only critique I have is that there are SO many characters in this book, I sometimes had a hard time keeping them straight.  I have a hard time even calling that a critique however, because part of the way through I had it figured out.  Liane does a good job of really painting a picture of who each character is, all of which are completely individual from each other, so if anybody can handle a large cast in a story, it’s her.

Extremely enjoyable read – I highly recommend!

 

“Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick

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A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

-excerpt taken from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29868610-scrappy-little-nobody

Review:

I had just finished reading “The Chemist” when I began browsing my shelves for a new book.  After the heavily-detailed government spy story, I knew I needed something light, funny, and effortless.  “Scrappy Little Nobody” had been on my TBR list for quite some time, and I was positive it would fulfill all my reading needs at the time.

I’ve been a fan of Anna Kendrick since she played “Jessica” in The Twilight Saga movies.  One thing you learn about her, especially if you watch the Saga’s DVD extras, is that she is naturally hilarious.  The directors said they would let the camera roll while she went off on comical tirades, specifically the scene in “New Moon” outside of the theater where she talks about zombies and leprosy, and also when she makes a speech at the wedding in “Breaking Dawn Pt. 1.”  She became much more well-known when she landed the lead role of “Beca” in the “Pitch Perfect” movies, and her song “Cups” was wildly popular, landing on many top music charts.

“Scrappy Little Nobody” is a hilarious autobiography of her life, starting with essays about her childhood auditioning and then landing different jobs.  She is reluctant to admit that she was a child actor, because “they’re crazy”, as she says.  She started mostly as a stage actor before transitioning to movies.

One thing I really enjoyed about this book was her honesty.  She spends a lot of time talking about how she struggled as a poor actress, even after landing some of her bigger roles, including “Up in the Air”, which earned her a nomination for an Academy Award.  She also talks about how parts of fame are very overwhelming and, at times, required her to “say the right thing” to the point of making her feel like a liar.

She says many times throughout the book that she doesn’t want to become an entitled famous person.  People will congratulate her in the street for trivial things like walking places instead of being driven, to which she will respond, “walking is not so bad.”  You can tell from reading this that it’s very important to her to stay grounded.  Her dream was to be a famous actress, and she “doesn’t want to get used to it” – she continues to work hard for fear of being a has-been.

Another thing that I really liked was that she threw in quite a bit of helpful advice throughout the book, mostly from learning things the hard way herself.  She suggests not dating somebody unless they meet your standards, which I wholeheartedly agree with.  She admits to not having it together completely, but says she is getting better at “adulting,” and tries to get a little done at a time so that things don’t pile up on her.  I’m still working on it too, Anna!!  I feel you, girl.

I give this book 3.5 out of 5 cupcakes (No stars for me, thanks.  Cupcakes are better.)  Well, maybe 4 out of 5 cupcakes, but one of them has a big bite taken out of it.  I enjoyed this book and it went down easy, but I thought it would be a little funnier than it was.  Don’t get me wrong, it was funny!  It just wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, more like internal chuckle funny.  If you want a lighthearted read, and you’re an Anna Kendrick fan, I suggest picking up a copy!

“The Chemist” by Stephenie Meyer

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She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn’t even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning.

Now she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They’ve killed the only other person she trusted, but something she knows still poses a threat. They want her dead, and soon.

When her former handler offers her a way out, she realizes it’s her only chance to erase the giant target on her back. But it means taking one last job for her ex-employers. To her horror, the information she acquires only makes her situation more dangerous.

Resolving to meet the threat head-on, she prepares for the toughest fight of her life but finds herself falling for a man who can only complicate her likelihood of survival. As she sees her choices being rapidly whittled down, she must apply her unique talents in ways she never dreamed of.

-excerpt taken from http://stepheniemeyer.com/project/the-chemist/

Review:

I was beyond excited when I found out that Stephenie Meyer was coming out with something new.  I am a huge fan, as stated in a previous post, and was hungry for more of her work.

Stephenie Meyer is a big fan of the Bourne series and even dedicated the book to “Jason Bourne and Aaron Cross.”  She mentions seeing “The Bourne Legacy” nine times in theaters in her infographic that she released.  It also mentions that she was on the set of the “Breaking Dawn” movies when the idea for this book was originally conceived.

The main character is a girl who has had many names, but we know as “Alex.”  She moves from place to place, always looking over her shoulder, and setting up chemical booby traps as she sleeps to keep herself safe.  She is a brilliant chemist who was formerly used by the government to torture information out of people using her own sinister concoctions, that not only cause extreme pain, but have never failed her in getting the information she needs.

Tired of looking over her shoulder, and offered a way out, Alex takes one final job.  She is told her target has weapons that could possibly kill hundreds of thousands of people.  When given information about the accused, Daniel seems like a decent guy; a teacher; a volleyball coach, but Alex knows this is all a front.  She is able to find him, sedate him, and eventually torture him through the use of her injectables.  When his thought-to-be-dead twin brother, Kevin, comes crashing into the building to save him, she soon finds out that the man she is torturing has been set up.

Kevin works for the CIA and had faked his own death.  Daniel is very surprised to see him because of this.  They soon find out that the real reason Alex had been asked to do this job was to draw Kevin out of hiding, and, with any lucky, one or both of them would be killed, eliminating problems for their respective agencies.

After a struggle between them, they are able to figure all of this out, and by Daniel’s suggestion, they band together to try to stay alive; a tactic the agencies won’t expect.  They go into hiding, all the time having to watch their backs.  Alex is surprised when she develops feelings for Daniel, and by default he becomes a liability for her that she has to try to keep safe.

I give this book 4 out of 5 strips of bacon (Yes, you heard me – bacon.  This is my book review blog, and I don’t have to rate in stars if I don’t feel like it.  I’m a way bigger fan of bacon than stars anyway.)  This is not my typical genre.  But I still thought it was very enjoyable, and Stephenie Meyer is great at making you care about characters that make questionable life choices (i.e. drink human blood or torture people using chemicals).  I found myself rooting for Alex and Daniel’s relationship.  I’m not an animal book/movie person, but Kevin’s use of trained dogs to keep them safe was more entertaining than I would have guessed.  I kind of want a highly trained dog now, though I would only use mine to bring me treats, and give my children rides on its back.

The only criticism I really have is that it was probably a tad too long and detailed (over 500 pages), but I know that is Stephenie Meyer’s style and you really can’t knock her for that.  Overall, an enjoyable read!

 

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

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At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

-excerpt taken from http://www.cherylstrayed.com/wild_108676.htm

Review:

Usually I come off a book raring to write my review.  This particular story left me feeling speculative, and thankful to be quite honest.  I needed a few days to soak it in and meditate on it.  This book could not have come at a better time for me.  I read it, only knowing that many friends had dubbed it a “must-read”, and it was next on my TBR list.  What I didn’t know was that it would be therapeutic for me in a strange and sad time of my life.

This book is a memoir, and is largely about life after the loss of the author’s mother.  I lost my own mom just three months ago, on November 5th, 2016.  The similarities between the way she described her emotions and the way I have felt are so similar that I could have written this book myself.  Her descriptions are raw and honest; The story so poignant and relatable to my own grief.

She dealt with her grief first in unhealthy ways, including hard drug use, infidelity, and ultimately divorce.  She was smart enough to realize her life was in shambles, and needed to do something to get it back on track.  She decided on a whim, after spotting a guidebook about the Pacific Crest Trail (or PCT), that she would set off on a lengthy backpacking trek, starting in California and ending in Oregon, over 1000 miles in three months.  With little to no experience, she embarked on a journey that tested her physically – she lost most of her toenails, got scraped up a few times, faced dehydration, and carried a backpack (dubbed “Monster”) that was way too heavy for her; tested her emotionally – she walked mostly alone across the country while grieving the loss of her beloved mother.  The trail was long and arduous, but ultimately led to her healing.  The unhealthy life choices she was using to fill the void her mother had left were no longer her desires when she finished.

It almost feels silly to write a review on a book so many have already found and know to be wonderful.  I couldn’t leave the experience I had reading it alone, and never speak of it.  It was too profound, too wonderful, too perfect.  It helped me when I didn’t expect it to.  Cheryl Strayed, if you ever read this by some crazy chance – Thank you.  You helped me.  You spoke about a subject that tends to not be spoken about because it is painful.  Those of us who lose mothers too young are in a special club that we didn’t ask to be a part of, but can band together in the void.  We can come together and understand each other.  We can say “it’s not fair” without somebody rolling their eyes and saying “the world isn’t fair”, and we will understand each other.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars, and I wish I could give it 6.  It was the best memoir I’ve read.  I enjoyed every chapter, every paragraph, every honest word.  Everybody should read this book.

“Flashfall” by Jenny Moyer

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Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner, Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it.

-excerpt taken from http://www.jennymoyer.com/read-me/

Review:

I have been dying to bring this review to New Book Smell Reviews for quite some time.  I started reading this book before its release when I was able to get my hands on an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy).  I was lucky enough to befriend the author and watched as the magic of publishing her first novel unfolded.  The process intrigues me greatly, and so it was fun to watch her YouTube channel where she let us in and allowed us to observe as each stage came to pass.  I watched as she edited, unveiled her book art, and held a copy of her book in her hands for the first time.

I only give honest reviews, so I am very happy to say that I loved this book.  I have heard it compared to “The Hunger Games”, but I think the only reason for that is because it’s an action-packed book with a strong female main character.  It really is unlike anything that is currently out there, so I have a hard time truly comparing it.  Orion is not like Katniss to me at all.

The story is about Orion, the main character, and her friend/caving partner, Dram. They are trying to mine cirium, and if they mine enough (400 grams) they will earn passage into the protected city on the other side of the Flash Curtain.  Cirium is supposedly the element that will keep them safe from radiation.  Orion is the best ore scout.  They don’t know that she can sense the cirium, and that is why she is able to mine so much of it.  Orion later learns that they are being deceived.

Jenny is a brave author.  She is not scared to write a passionate love-scene, create terrifying monsters, or kill off a character in a grisly death.  Some of the pictures I had in my head were so vivid by Jenny’s descriptions, that I can’t wait to see if this story gets picked up to be made into a movie, so I can see if the images I created were close to correct.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars.  I really couldn’t get enough of this story.  When I wasn’t reading, I was imagining Outpost 5, or the way it must feel in your throat and on your skin as you would approach the Flash Curtain.  I am so happy that we have a sequel to look forward to.  An amazing debut by a talented new author.  Cheers, Jenny!

life and death: Twilight Reimagined

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      Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined is an additional, non-canon reimagining of Twilight. The book was written and published by Stephenie Meyer in honor of the 10th anniversary of the Twilight franchiseThe story is set in an independent, parallel universe in which the most significant difference is that the genders, names and roles of the main characters have been reversed, with only a few exceptions.[2]

The story follows essentially the same plotline as Twilight, but with necessary adjustments and slight changes to the story, dialogue, backgrounds, and personalities of the characters to accommodate the switched gender roles. Life and Death also features an alternate ending from the original plot-line.

-excerpt taken from http://twilightsaga.wikia.com/wiki/Life_and_Death:_Twilight_Reimagined

Review:

Before I go any further I would like to say there will be spoilers in this review.  So if you plan on reading this book I would stop now and come back after you’ve read it to hear my thoughts.  Now that you’ve had fair warning, I will proceed…

I would like to point out first and foremost that I am a huge, and I mean HUGE, Twilight fan.  I am enraptured by the story.  I’ve traveled to Forks, WA to check out the sites.  I own all of the movies, books, supplementary books, some jewelry and clothes, and a few random trinkets that people have gotten for me.  I try to stick to new books on here for my reviews so that my readers are hopefully able to make choices on new reading material and hear a review based on somebody who is reading all the new stuff that’s out there.  Also, if I wrote a review on the Twilight books it would go something like this, “Bella is so lucky.  She found the perfect man who loves her unconditionally even though she’s just average.  OH MY WORD, HE’S A VAMPIRE!  OH MY GOSH, I WANT TO BE A VAMPIRE!  HOLY COW, I WANT TO MARRY A VAMPIRE!  AHHHH!!! I WANT TO HAVE A VAMPIRE BABY!”  I just don’t think I could be completely impartial in my thoughts of my favorite book series of all time.

When I saw that there was a new book going to be released that has a different spin than the original I was very happy that I would be able to review a favorite story, completely indulgently, and hopefully give an unbiased review.  After finishing the book I think I can successfully do that, because it was just different enough that I don’t consider it the same.

The entire premise of “life and death: Twilight Reimagined” is that the gender roles and names have been swapped for everybody in the entire book, from the main characters all the way down to the teachers in the school, except for Renee (& Phil) and Charlie, and the members of the Volturi that are mentioned in the book.  Stephenie Meyer was quoted saying that the reason for this was that people saw Bella in the original Twilight series as a “damsel in distress” which always bothered Stephenie who thought it wouldn’t matter what gender the main character was.  So in this story, Bella is Beaufort (Beau for short), and Edward is Edythe.

I would say that the story does have a different feel with the roles reversed.  The major disadvantage I had as a reader who knows the original story inside and out, backwards and forwards, is that my mind had a hard time switching the characters in my head.  I would sometimes have to stop and really think about what I just read to make sense of it.  I would say to myself, “Wait, so Jessamine is supposed to be Jasper, and Eleanor is supposed to be Emmett, right?”  I thought this would subside but I found myself doing that into the last chapter of the book.  Archie (a.k.a. Alice) was mentioned the most so I had the easiest time remembering who he was supposed to represent and what his special abilities would have been.  Because of these struggles it would be much easier to read this as somebody who wasn’t already such an invested fan of the saga.

I am admittedly old-fashioned so there were a few parts that I didn’t love with the roles reversed, or at least I didn’t think they flowed the way they were meant to.  One of them was when she paid for him whenever they ate.  I know this generation is obsessed with strong women and equality, but it felt like Beau was uncomfortable with that and I didn’t like it either.  It’s fine if a girl pays but maybe let the guy pay sometimes.  Another time was when she ran with him on her back.  I just kept thinking of how awkward that sounded and how a big strong dude wouldn’t want to ride on his tiny girlfriend’s back.  The other thing that was bizarre to me was when Beau would kiss Edythe – because Edythe (and Edward) were so very careful about kissing or really any physical contact for fear of losing control it seemed like the vampire should always be the one leading, and not the other way around.  That just seemed very unnatural to me.

Now, I am going to broach the biggest spoiler of them all, so if you were naughty and read this before you finished the book, here is one last chance to turn back…

 

The biggest variance from Twilight to this book is the ending.  They end up driving Beau to Phoenix just like in the original, and Beau sneaks away from Archie (Alice) and Jessamine (Jasper) when he learns that his mom has been taken by Joss (James) and heads to the ballet studio where Renee once taught dance (instead of where Bella once took ballet class).  Beau is cornered by Joss and has bones broken, and then Joss bites the tip of his finger.  When Edythe arrives she tries to save Beau by sucking out the venom but Archie sees that there are only two remaining conclusions:  Beau dies because Edythe can’t stop drinking his blood and kills him, or they let the change take place.  Beau decides to let the change happen.  They keep him as comfortable as possible while they drive him back to Forks.  They also let him know that if he changes he won’t be able to see his family ever again and his death will have to be faked.  The story concludes with Beau and Edythe watching his funeral from a tall tree far off in the distance.  He watches as his parents, family, and friends mourn his death, which was supposedly in a fiery car crash.
He also meets up with the werewolves and explains that the treaty wasn’t broken, and that a vampire who wasn’t affiliated with the Cullens was the one responsible for the change.  They don’t like that it happened, but agree that the treaty was still, in fact, intact.

 

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  I can’t deny that even though the story is flopped, at its core, it is one of my favorite stories.  The genius behind the premise is still there, and that’s what I fell in love with.  However, I don’t think this version works as well.  I wonder if the franchise would be anything like it is today if it had been written this way to begin with.  I don’t think so to be quite honest.
Reading this book made me excited for the day that Stephenie hopefully writes some new stuff.  I would love to dive into a new series by her.  She always teases in interviews saying she is writing all the time, but just hasn’t released anything new* in quite a while.  Hopefully that day will come soon, and if not, at least I have this to tide me over for a while.

I came across this article by buzzfeed and it made me laugh out loud, so I thought I would share it too.  #30 cracked me up.

 

 

*Yes, I realize this is technically new, but I mean ALL new.

 

 

 

 

 

“Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” by Susannah Cahalan

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One day, I woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to my bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. My medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which I have no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier I had been a healthy twenty-four year old, six months into my first serious relationship and beginning a career as a cub reporter at the New York Post.

My memoir Brain on Fire chronicles the swift path of my illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving my life. As weeks ticked by and I moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia, $1 million worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit me to the psychiatric ward, in effect condemning me to a lifetime of institutions, or death, until Dr. Souhel Najjar—nicknamed Dr. House—joined my team. He asked me to draw one simple sketch, which became key to diagnosing me with a newly discovered autoimmune disease in which my body was attacking my brain, an illness now thought to be the cause of “demonic possessions” throughout history.

-excerpt taken from susannahcahalan.com

Review:

Oh, do I love a good memoir!  This book was fantastic.  We, as readers, are lucky that this particular circumstance happened to a skilled journalist.  Once she recovered from her harrowing journey of near comatose and possible death, she was able to ask the right questions to many different people and fill in the blanks of what she didn’t remember.  There was also video footage available from the hospital because she had been placed on a floor devoted to epilepsy, a place where they need to keep an eye on their patients who have regular seizures.  This story is so fascinating – once you’re finished reading you want to do research and watch videos of Susannah speaking and even video from her lost time in the hospital, and just catch a glimpse of this girl who had gone through one of the most devastating and incredibly interesting medical diagnoses.  Some of her behaviors are not only erratic, but kind of scary – reading this book alone at night sort of gave me the creeps – she had everything from seizures to vivid, scary hallucinations to loss of basic motor skills.  It’s interesting because I was thinking about how some of the things she describes remind me of demon possessions I had heard about over the years, or even scenes from “The Exorcist” movie.  Later in the book there is a chapter on precisely this subject, and how some people with the same disorder have been mistaken for possessed and never get the true medical help they actually need.  The disorder is so rare (only now being more commonly diagnosed) that there are many undiagnosed cases that lead to these people being institutionalized for the remainder of their lives – this girl only had the worst of the symptoms for a month and it took the better part of a year to recover.  Can you imagine going through severe symptoms, not receiving the diagnosis in a timely manner, and living in this state for years or even the remainder of your life?  How devastating and exhausting!  If only they could get diagnosed, the treatment is fairly simple for how seemingly complex and destructive the disease can be.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars.  I devoured this book in two days.  I couldn’t put it down or soak in the information fast enough.  In doing a little research for this blog I found that it is being made into a movie as well starring Chloe Grace Moretz as Susannah Cahalan.  I am very interested to see this movie when it comes out to see if they can capture the pure madness that is described within this memoir.  This is a great example that truth is stranger than fiction.

“The Alchemyst” by Michael Scott

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He holds the secret that can end the world.

The truth: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on September 28, 1330. Nearly 700 years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life.

The records show that he died in 1418.

But his tomb is empty.

The legend: Nicholas Flamel lives. But only because he has been making the elixir of life for centuries. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects- the Book of Abraham the Mage. It’s the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. That’s exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it.

Sometimes legends are true.

And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

 

Review:

Well, it’s finally happened here at New Book Smell Reviews – a book I couldn’t stand so much that I couldn’t even finish it.  This was a hard one for me.  The book comes off as a YA novel, and IMHO, should be with the subject matter, but is actually (as it turns out) written in a genre referred to as “juvenile fiction”.  That’s a good way of describing it.  I couldn’t get the word “immature” out of my head as I read it.  The part that makes me kind of confused however, is that the story isn’t bad – it’s the writing that drove me nuts.  I felt that things were over-explained, as in “Yeah, I get it.  You didn’t have to bother spelling that out for me.”  And the young teen characters made poor choices that just leave you rolling your eyes – like the time somebody tells them not to leave the room they are in because it’s not safe, and they immediately leave the room without a second thought and run into danger.  Also, the time they start looking around for cameras because they’re pretty sure they are on a hidden camera reality show had me rolling my eyes – it took away from the magic for them to go there.

Another thing that bothers me is the Harry Potter connection to this book.  I am guessing there are a huge percentage of readers (me included) who saw “The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” and picked it up thinking it was some sort of cool spin-off.  To me, the author is capitalizing on JK Rowling’s huge success, and I guess what I am saying is leave the Harry Potter spinoffs to her.  That’s her territory, and ain’t nobody gonna do it better than JK herself.

I give this book a 2 out of 5 stars.  I gave it a 2 instead of a 1 because the story isn’t bad.  I could see a movie geared towards late elementary/middle school aged kids that would probably be better than the book, and do fairly well.  I am not 100% sure that I wouldn’t like these books myself if I were quite a bit younger.  For a 28-year-old who just came off one of the best adult novels I have ever read, this just wasn’t my piece of pie.  I won’t be finishing this series, but I may give it to my 7-year-old daughter to read in a few years.

“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins

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Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

-excerpt taken from paulahawkinsbooks.com

Review:

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book this compelling.  If my life wasn’t so busy I would have had this book finished in a day or two, but because of my schedule it took me four days (still very fast for me).  You know a book has got you hooked when you wake up early for church on Sunday so you can get a little reading in before you have to get in the shower.

This story is told mainly from the perspective of Rachel, who rides the train every day and becomes interested in a couple (whom she’s nicknamed “Jason and Jess”) she can see from the window who seemingly have the perfect life, similar to a life she used to have.  We learn fairly quickly that Rachel is a drunk.  She has been fired from her job for her drinking, and only rides the train every day to make her roommate think she is still employed.  She one day witnesses “Jess” kissing a man who is not her husband.  Rachel takes this betrayal personally having gone through infidelity in her own past relationship.  When she spies her very own “Jess” on the cover of a news article stating that she is missing she thinks she may be the only one who knows about the woman’s lover and should come forward with what she knows.

“Jason and Jess” (whose real names end up being Scott and Megan) happen to live on the same street that she used to live on herself with her ex-husband, Tom, and now the mistress he left her for, Anna.  Her interest in the couple she sees from the train oftentimes has her bumping into her ex, his new wife, and their baby more than she already had been (and had been told not to).  This does not go over well with her ex’s new wife, Anna, who wants Rachel out of their lives.

Rachel begins contacting Scott to try to help and integrates herself into the investigation.  She had been blackout drunk the night that Megan went missing and she can only remember bits and pieces of what happened and desperately tries to remember and piece together the puzzle so she can hopefully help figure out what really happened to Megan.

The book is written originally from Rachel’s POV, but then changes between Megan’s and also Anna’s POV’s as well.  The dates are off-set as well, so as you are reading you are finding out what is happening from how Rachel is seeing it as well as what was really going on from the inside with Megan’s side of the story, until you build-up to the end where the pieces finally come together.

I was pleased with how the book was set up.  I am noticing a trend with a few books recently where first person POV’s change frequently.  It can be confusing but in a way you are able to get more info because you are seeing multiple sides of the same story.  This book, unlike others I’ve read that are set up with the changing POV, states at the beginning of each section whose POV you are going to be reading – I really like that because I don’t have to spend any time trying to figure out who is “talking” and can just enjoy the subject matter.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars.  It is not very often that I read a book that I can’t put down.  I really didn’t want this one to end, and I don’t often feel that way.  In a way I feel relief at the end of some books just because it will be nice to take a break from a particular subject and move onto something new, but not with this one!  I’m wishing I had a sequel to look forward to.  I would definitely recommend this book if you are a fan of mysteries, thrillers, and adult fiction.

“The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey

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After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

-excerpt taken from RickYancey.com

 

Review:

This story starts from the point-of-view of Cassie, short for Cassiopeia.  A survivor of the first 4 waves of an alien invasion on Earth.  She is a teenage girl who watches as many people close to her, including friends and immediate family members, are killed by the different waves of the invasion.  She is left virtually alone to try to survive – something she’s not even sure possible.  The first 4 waves killed billions of people, and so she assumes a 5th wave will drive the human race into extinction.

This book starts in a very bizarre rhythm that you kind of have to ease into.  It is from a first person point-of-view, and is just kind of quirky.  I wasn’t sure that I liked it, but it’s not as bad once you get past the first 10 chapters or so.  That may seem like a lot but the book has many chapters that are only 1-2 pages long.  I actually really like that as I can be kind of ADD and I like a chance to take a break if I see a shiny object that distracts me, or what have you.

One thing I didn’t catch onto right away is that the book changes point-of-views throughout.  It is broken apart into sections separated by black pages with a title on them. Example:

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Each time you get to a new section the POV changes between 4 different characters, beginning with Cassie.  I would’ve liked a heads up at the start of the new sections as to who is talking because I don’t like spending the first couple pages trying to figure out who’s talking instead of enjoying the story.

Cassie speaks of many people from her past, her family members, kids from school, and even people she has run into along the way who are also trying to survive.  The whole book you don’t know if these people have survived or not, which is why I’m having to be very vague with my description.  Half the fun is finding out who made it and who didn’t, and finally, what the next steps are to survive.  If I had to describe this story I would say it is a mixture of the TV show “The Walking Dead” and “The Host” by Stephanie Meyer.  Basically the alien invasion version of “The Walking Dead”.  If you’re familiar with “The Walking Dead” there is a large portion of this book that I imagined took place at Hershel’s farm.  That’s just what it sounded like to me when he described it.

I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.  The dialogue threw me for a loop at first, and at times some of the more complex descriptions had me re-reading to make sure I understood.  I am glad this story has already been made into a movie.  I’m looking forward to visualizing some of these things just to clarify for myself and see if it is anything like I imagined it to be.  I would recommend this series, and will be reviewing the next book in the series, “The Infinite Sea”, within the next month or two.