Book Review: PenPal

PenPal by Dathan Auerbach is a hell of a ride.  I quite literally was not able to put it down and stayed up hours later than I planned because I had to keep reading.

The book starts with the unnamed protagonist telling the terrifying tale of how hearing foot steps in his house night after night led to a harrowing trip through the woods, barefoot, in the cold.  At first you wonder, was this a case of somnambulism?  Child hood fantasy gone awry? Turns out the truth is even stranger.

At the heart of this story lies an inability to trust enough to communicate.  Almost everything that happens could have been prevented or minimized if everyone involved had not been so determined to protect everyone else from the terrifying reality of what was going on.

The story starts with the terrible night in the woods and goes through the narrator’s early childhood and then teens.  He forms a close friendship with a boy in his class, Josh, and most of their adventures would seem like normal childhood activities, tromping through the woods, swimming in the lake, but everything is overshadowed by a sinister twist.

So much of the menacing is so subtle, and narrator so unreliable since everything is filtered through the lens of years and his young age that for long stretches of the book, I actually started to wonder how much was real and how much was fantasy. Josh seemed mostly oblivious to what was going on, most of the panic was from the narrator’s mother, and I began to believe that she may have been suffering from some form of paranoia that she was passing along to her son by over-reacting to mostly innocent things.

There were points that were so intense that I wanted to look away or cover my eyes until I remembered I was reading a book, not watching a movie.

By the time I read the final page, I wished my original theory had been right.  There was so much more that she never even let her son know. The world was even darker and stranger than he had even imagined. I recommend this book highly.

 

 

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Book Review: FanGirl

I’ll admit, Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell is not in my normal genre, but it was about someone who does write in it, if that makes sense. The protagonist is a college freshman named Cather. Cather and I have several things in common, so I felt invested in the story right away.

Cather is a twin, and her sister Wren (Cather Wren, yeah her mom was not as funny as she thought she was when she named them) is starting school with her at the university of Nebraska at Lincoln.Cather is internet famous in the Simon Snow fandom as a slash fiction writer. I happen to be a twin, and I did briefly attend the university of Nebraska at Lincoln, and I LOVE slash fanfiction.

I immediately related to her insecurity and uncertainty of going to college. Like Cather and Wren, my sister and I attended the same college and there was the constant struggle of trying and wanting to break out and be your own person and still being part of the “unit” as we were called.Wren decides to break the bond and take a roommate that is not her sister.

It is probably lucky for me that the internet did not exist when I was a freshman or I would never have left my dorm. Cather is an introvert and very shy, I could relate here too, I was very nervous about doing things as simple as going to the dining hall alone or making new friends. She struggles with trying to define her identity as an adult and college student and reconcile this with her identity as MagiCath on the fanfiction site she frequents.

I think we all may go through a little of that. Who I am at work and with my non-writing friends is not the same as who I am as a writer and fan. Finding a balance is hard for an adult, and a confused young woman with issues with abandonment and co-dependency (she feels compelled to take care of her unstable father rather than face her problems and find solutions.) has a much harder road to follow.

She has some of the normal trials and tribulations of a freshman, the difficult roommate, the first crush and betrayal, conflict with a professor, drama with her second crush, and watching her sister struggle with her own demons as the year wears on. There is even a tense semi-reunion with her estranged mother to make things even more complicated for her.

Over all, this is a very good book. I felt it bogged down a little, but I made the mistake of putting it down for several weeks so it was most likely just me trying to catch back up. The characters are well developed. They have a very real feel to them. And to me, characters are the real heart of the story, if you don’t love the characters, you won’t remember the story.

This is well worth the time to read it.

~Heather

Book Review: Cinder

Cinder: Book one of the Lunar Chronicles is one of my most recent purchases. Marissa Meyer has attempted to re imagine some of our most believed and well know fairy tales in a dark futuristic setting.

A Final World War has nearly destroyed the world and now the remainder of humanity has two new threats to contend with: A plague with a 100% fatality rate and a possible war with the people living on the moon.

This is a world of cyborgs, lunar aliens, mind control, and death.  Will Cinder be able to help the handsome Prince Kai fix his robot in time to help find a cure for the plague that is trying to claim the lives of both the Emperor and Cinder’s own sister? What information does the robot hold that is so important the prince brings it to Cinder instead of his own royal technicians? How does a lowly cyborg fit into any of this?

The big reveal is not really that big a deal since you can see where it is going from less than a third of the way through the book, but that does not take away from the sheer fun of such a new and original take on Cinderella.  It has all the elements of the familiar story, the poor mistreated step-daughter, the dead father, the evil step mother and step sister (one sister is NOT evil, which is a departure you may not have expected), the handsome and sought after prince, the pumpkin coach (after a fashion), and a borrowed gown.

Cinder is not your wilting Disney princess though, she stands on her own two feet and even rejects the offers of the prince.  Granted, she thinks he will reject her if he knew all her secrets, but she is not looking for a knight in shining armor, she is just looking to survive.

I liked it so much I read the entire thing in one evening and two plane rides. I have even bought the second book in the series. Scarlett. I highly recommend this book.

~Heather

Book Review: Tantalize

I had a lot of travel time while on vacation so I actually read two books.  The first was City of Bones that I reviewed earlier and this one : Tantalize by Cynthia Leithich Smith.

I just discovered that this is a series, actually.  This is the story of a not so typical high school girl named Quincie.  Her parents are dead and she is left to run the family restaurant with her sometimes flighty uncle.  Enter a new chef (the old chef being murdered horribly with her there in the building), and her uncles awful new girlfriend and things head south faster then a redneck BBQ.  And let’s not forget her half-breed werewolf boyfriend.

Actually Kieren (the boyfriend) is part of the problem I have with the book.  He is OK, maybe a little flat, but her obsession with him keeps the story from really developing in my opinion.  Everything is about her and who she is more attracted to. I get it, she is a teenager, she has hormone issues, but I just felt it was too much about her looking for validation through the men in her life.

That makes me sound a bit bats. Maybe I am not expressing it right.  Quincie could be more than just someone’s girlfriend, but at the root of her character, that is what she wants.

Now that I know there are more, I will give it another shot. Maybe she grows up a bit more between books.

~Heather

Book Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

I just finished reading The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. Now don’t judge, I know this is meant for young adults and I don’t count as a young anything any longer. (Howdy 40.) But sometimes I like to move outside of the dark and disturbing and see what young people are reading now.

I am going to start off by saying that I enjoyed this one. I really did.  There were a few things that were a bit predictable (for me to complain about that would be the pot calling the kettle black), but over all, not bad.

Is Clary A strong female lead?  That is a tough one. I actually think she qualifies fairly well, her main goal in not just to get the guy (and thank goodness she didn’t, but I won’t provide spoilers. You will figure it out early on.) She does have to be saved a few times, but Simon has to be saved more, so I still give her credit.

The characters are good, you care about them and what happens to them, though I would have liked to see more rounding out of Isabelle and Alex.  Of course, there are several more books to go and I may regret saying that. I plan to read the next one, but I will be rooting for Alec to get what he wants 😉

~Heather

Reviews

We got our first review on Goodreads. Not great, but it could have been worse. Not sure how I feel about it. On one hand I feel glad that it wasn’t just “It sucks, don’t waste your time.” On the other, I wish it had been better.

I realize I am just being insecure and neurotic. I know I have a LOT to learn still before I can call myself a writer. Just means I need to try even harder next time. I am really just grateful that someone read it.