Audiobook Review: Acceleration

Acceleration

by Graham McNamee

Narrated by Scott Brick

Published 2005 by Laurel Leaf

accel

Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s a hot, hot summer, and in the depths of the Toronto Transit Authority’s Lost and Found, 17-year-old Duncan is cataloging lost things and sifting through accumulated junk. And between Jacob, the cranky old man who runs the place, and the endless dusty boxes overflowing with stuff no one will ever claim, Duncan’s just about had enough. Then he finds a little leather book. It’s a diary filled with the dark and dirty secrets of a twisted mind, a serial killer stalking his prey in the subway. And Duncan can’t make himself stop reading.
What would you do with a book like that? How far would you go to catch a madman?
And what if time was running out. . . .

My Review: 

This was a fun read. I think it tapped into every teenager fantasy to be a hero.

When Duncan finds a killer’s journal he has to face his demons. The story captures readers right away. First, McNamee leads the story with Duncan’s motivation to be a hero. It’s obvious he’s not much of a hero to start with, but at least he’s not as bad as his friends.

There’s not a lot to really like about Duncan’s friends so I won’t talk about them. They’re flat characters with little development. Even Duncan lacks a certain amount of depth, but where character development lacks, it is made up for in action. Which truthfully is the premise of this book.

I was definitely on the engrossed in the story during the high action scenes. It was a little slow building up, but McNamee entertains readers with some light comedy and a few flashbacks. It was fun to imagine with Duncan. He was completely captured by the journal he found – Roach’s journal.

I’m going to keep this review short because there’s not too much to say about it. It was a quick, light read. I would recommend it for the action, but other than that there’s not a lot of depth to it. A great summer read!

As far as the audio, I think Scott Brick was fantastic. It helped that he only had to narrate male voices, but I think he captured the teenager’s attitudes very well.

I give Acceleration by Graham McNamee a 3 out of 5 Stars.

3 Stars

Book Review: Inside the Outside

Inside the Outside

by Martin Lastrapes

Published 2011 by Cannibal Press

571 pages

lastrapes

Goodreads Synopsis:

By the time Timber Marlow is fifteen years old, she has already killed three men. Despite the bloody and violent nature of their deaths, Timber is hardly a murderer. She has lived her entire life as a cannibal within a cult tucked away in the San Bernardino Mountains called the Divinity of Feminine Reproach. The Divinity keeps itself isolated from the Outside, which is the mainstream society beyond its invisible borders. When the opportunity presents itself, Timber escapes into the Outside, bearing witness to some dark and unsettling truths about the world around her and the integral role she plays in it. But no matter how long she stays away, Timber finds out the past isn’t as far away as she thinks it is. In this debut novel, laced with scenes of horrific violence and uplifting humanity, Martin Lastrapes has written a one-of-a-kind story about love, friendship, sacrifice and cannibalism

My Review:

This book was unlike anything else I’ve read recently. I was intrigued by it once I read the synopsis and Inside the Outside lived up to my expectations and then exceeded some.

First, the book took readers inside the cult, the Divinity, as it is referred to. The concepts of cults fascinates me, so I was completely captured by the source and beliefs of the Divinity. I’m happy Lastrapes offered a brief, yet detailed history to the origin of the cult. I believe this made it easier for readers to buy in to the story.

The characters were great. They were just like you and I, yet raised on a vastly different belief system. Even so, Lastrapes does a great job exploring human nature and death. While the cult dealt with a lot of death – sometimes eating their own kind – it was obvious that the deaths affected the hearts and minds of some of the cult members. It’s important to understand that while the cult was raised on the belief that human flesh in a necessary sustenance, there’s still a struggle with death and evil.

Timber, the heroin of the story, was fully developed. She was twisted with love and murder. She had a deep knowledge of human kind and no understanding of society. When she gets thrust into the ‘outside’,the story takes on a whole new dynamic. I really liked the fact the story changed settings as it did. It developed the idea of the story and allowed for the larger themes to be explored.

It is difficult to separate good and evil in this book, but it is obvious who the antagonist is. Daddy Marlow is perfectly revolting, and while we know little about his boys, readers aren’t exactly inclined to like them either, but there is certainly sympathy there. The character I most struggled with was Luna. She knows full well the murder and rape happening all around her, yet chooses to stay for the simplicity of life in the Divinity. Regardless of her disregard for the things happening around her, she cares deeply for Timber, and she is a necessary catalyst to the story.

Let me return to the whole murder and rape thing. This book really isn’t for the faint of heart. It tackles big issues, but in doing so Lastrapes includes some graphic imagery. The cannabalism is horrifying, but the rape is by far worse. Sexuality is a major theme of this novel. In the Divinity, Timber and her friends learn about their bodies, but then their bodies get taken advantage of. Once Timber is on the outside, living with a porn star, she carries on this warped sense of sexuality until she finally finds and understands love. It’s a long journey for her, but the character Timber becomes is far from the one at the start of the novel. It’s a truly remarkable journey.

I really loved this novel. It was tough to deal with at times because despite my love for Timber, she wasn’t all that good despite her best efforts. Even Luscious had a shady past. That said, there is no good character in this book, but their flaws are what attracts us to them.

I thought Lastrapes did a great job on this novel. There was some predictability with the way the story developed. With heavy foreshadowing and titled chapters, it was difficult to be really surprised by the story, but it was no less enjoyable. It took me forever to read this book because of moving cities and starting a new job. I think I would have been more impacted if I could have read larger chunks of the story at once, but I was still engrossed with the story even when I wasn’t reading it.

Like I said, it was unlike anything I’ve read before. It tackled big issues such as Good vs. Evil, human limitations, power, money, homosexuality, and love but never truly dwelled on any of them. The story was actually a very easy read, despite the more graphic scenes. It was well written. It read more like young adult fiction in that it the plot moved quickly and the main characters were quite young, but I would definitely classify it as adult fiction because of some of the graphic imagery.

Before I finish this review, I want to give props to Mr. Lastrapes. I had difficulty getting my epub to read correctly on my Nook. A number of sentences ran off the page and I would miss valuable pieces of the story. He reached out to me and offered me a new version of the story. I re-downloaded the new epub on my Nook and I happened to have the same problem. I did find that I could read the story on my iPad through iBooks. I might have been annoyed that I had to read it that way, but since Lastrapes was genuinely concerned with my inability to finish the story, I was happy that he took the time to reach out to me. The story was capturing and I often would find my place on my phone and read in the waiting room of the doctors office, in my car before work, or anywhere I had a few minutes to spare. It actually worked out perfectly and I’m very happy to have finished it.

 

I give Inside the Outside by Martin Lastrapes a 5 out of 5 stars.

5 Stars

Book Review: The Last Werewolf

The Last Werewolf (Bloodlines Trilogy #1)

by Glen Duncan

Published 2011 by Random House Audio

were

Goodreads Synopsis:

Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you’d never suspect it. Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you—and a diet with lots of animal protein. Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is now the last of his species. Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely.

Jake’s depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide—even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old. It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything. But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive.

Here is a powerful, definitive new version of the werewolf legend—mesmerizing and incredibly sexy. In Jake, Glen Duncan has given us a werewolf for the twenty-first century—a man whose deeds can only be described as monstrous but who is in some magical way deeply human.

My Review:

I enjoyed listening to this book. The deep throaty voice of the narrator, Robin Sachs, brought out the character of Jacob, the werewolf. Unfortunately his American accent wasn’t all that great and some of the other characters seemed silly when they definitely should not have. Also, his voice was much too tenor to narrate a woman, but he gave it a valiant effort.

Duncan is certainly insightful towards metaphors. I truly enjoyed many of the figures of speech although some made me cringe; others made me shake my head. They just weren’t a good fit. Unfortunately I don’t have the text to draw back on, so I can’t recite any. I will say one thing, even for the metaphors that didn’t quite fit. Duncan (perhaps with the husky voice of Sachs) made valiant efforts and managed to make everything seem poetic. Speaking of poetic, the descriptive narrative gave the story major appeal. Even though some description of scenes was downright horrifying. I guess that’s to be expected in a story about monsters.

There was a lot of back-and-forth in this book. And yes, that is double entendre. First, there’s a tangle of people to keep straight and to remember who wants Jake dead vs. who wants him alive. It can be difficult to keep straight in some of the chaos, so stay sharp. But of course there is also quite a bit of sex. Not that it drives the plot in any way. Nor does it really seem all that useful towards the story at all. It’s not romantic, although you get the sense you’re supposed to believe it is. I wouldn’t call this book “steamy”, which is good since I prefer it that way, but if the romance is your thing, I wouldn’t recommend this read.

This one is graphic actually. Duncan never shied away from his imagination. Every gory detail is laid out – from the intimacies of sex to the gore of the kill, often awkwardly in the same paragraph. Speaking of killing, it happens often and quite casually. I suppose 200 years of being a werewolf can have that effect. The premise of this story is Jakes acceptance of his monster, even his delight in it. It’s raw with human emotion and detachment. Before you can feel anything, it get brushed away. While reading, I wish there had been a deeper emotional connection to Jake, but the dismissal of emotion made it difficult to feel sorry or hopeful for him.

I thought the story was paved very well. There were moments when I was completely lost for what was happening which is partly due to my distractions while listening. Still I think it was difficult to catch back up since roles changed and characters were constantly invading the story of Jakes life. I can’t be blamed for getting it backwards once or twice. I do wish there had been less secondary characters, but I’ll allow that it was important to build the chaos this novel thrives on.

Oddly, Duncan liked to compare his story to what might happen “in the movies”. This is all fine and well but the story actually was laid out like film at its moments, which for lack of imagination, the author simply described it’s coincidence as being like film. Unless, of course, it was conveniently unlike film. The whole theme was loosely paired with the events of the story and didn’t follow any recognizable pattern.

I think a part of me wanted to like this book more than I actually did. The prose was so tempting. Duncan knows how to craft words so they flow beautifully. However, the meaning was often too shallow or confusing to appreciate deeper. I liked the gore, but wish the sex and romance had been left out as they were fairly useless throughout the story anyway. However, the ending was very good. I was getting bored and worried I would be tempted to not finishing the book, just when the twist of the story came and led to an epic ending for the novel.
3 Stars

I choose to give The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan a 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars (Audiobook Version)

Written by E. Lockhart

Narrated by: Ariadne Meyers

Published 2014 by Random House

Runtime: 06:26:33

liars

Goodreads Synopsis:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

My Review:

I listened to the audiobook version of We Were Liars, narrated by Ariadne Meyers. I really enjoyed this as an audiobook since it was simple to follow and Meyers did a great job with voices.

We Were Liars is a stunning tale of friends who only know each other on the island their wealthy families own. The island is a paradise, and in its description it’s hard not to believe just that. But as the synopsis will suggest, there is ALWAYS trouble in paradise.

The plot was slow to form, but it is clear early on that there is something horrible about the Sinclairs. It’s nothing shocking honestly. The family is filthy rich and battles for inheritance become threat to the threads that hold the family together. But that’s not what this story is about. It was an entertaining part of the novel and in many ways I thought it was going to play a bigger picture in the story. No, this story is about the children. What happens to the kids of a broken, wealthy family?

Drunk on power and the realization of the lack thereof, this novel is a roller-coaster of hope and failure. There is pain that no one talks about and the healing is slow. I was fascinated by the characters in this book. The liars, each beautiful and terrible in their own ways. Not that you can blame them. And then you have the aunts and their constant bickering, and grandad and his dementia. Lockhart creates a family portrait that intrigues readers. All set in the picture-perfect setting of their private island.

Amidst the bickering, there is also romance. I was less impressed with the romance. Of course Lockhart’s teenage love was much more realistic than many other young adult novels.The love felt shallow and constricted although I think we were supposed to believe it was more than that.

As I mentioned above, I thought the novel was a bit slow moving. With a lot of focus on Cadence’s self-pity. It was all worth it in the end when the reader finally understands everything. There is genuine horror in this novel. I was shocked so much that my mind was reeling my entire shift at work. I had the fortunate experience of finishing the book moments before my shift started. It really messed with my head.

I don’t want to give away anything, so all I can say is that I loved the conclusion of this novel. It was a harsh pull back to reality. I highly recommend this book!

4 stars (2)

I give We Were Liars by E. Lockhart a 4 out of 5 stars

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls

Written by Patrick Ness

Concept by Siobhan Dowd

Illustrations by Jim Kay

Published 2011 by Walker Books

216 pages

Monster

Goodreads Synopsis:

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming…

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

My Review:

Even though I read this book over a month ago I still carry it with me (figuratively speaking), and I think I always will.

The story is potent and bound to draw some reaction or memory from you perhaps long forgotten.

Conor, a young boy who believes the Yew tree in his yard wakes him at night to tell him stories, has a lot on his mind. Too much. There are realities in this world that no mind can tolerate, and to a young, pliable mind such as Conor’s these realities are simply to overwhelming to deal with alone.

The story doesn’t just tug at your emotions, it will wrench them free, so just prepare yourself to let go. Conor knows his fears. Or at least he thinks he does. Throughout the story those fears will be challenged.  Are they just covering up for a bigger fear? Our feelings are fragile. Conor knows this. He can be pushed down and scrape his knee, but that doesn’t hurt. What can hurt Conor? The mysteries swirling inside his mind. The story of a monster. One that calls to him in the night. Stories hurt. Because the stories will tell the truth.

I don’t recommend this book if you’re looking for a light read. If you’re a sympathetic as I am, this book will probably make you cry. Don’t be ashamed of that. Let it open up your veins and bleed from one pain-drenched pain to the next. Okay, that’s a bit extreme. There’s hope too, but not without first staggering imbalance.

Am I being cryptic? Well, I don’t want to give too much away. The main thing to take away from this book is that it is not a happy story, but it may bring you peace. The story itself is brilliantly written in that what isn’t said is the most important piece of the story. This book is a young adult novel and while the themes might seem too mature, they are crafted so that they are understood in full. It doesn’t challenge death or contemplate afterlife, it simply identifies what is. In this way, A Monster Calls is suitable for all ages.

A Monster Calls is about understanding. And that sometimes we push understanding away because it hurts. Following Conor with his life at home – dealing with mum, with grandmother, with dad who lives in America now… it’s an eye-opening experience. One you don’t want to miss out on.

Accompanied with beautiful, dark imagery. This book is a complete journey. I give A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness 5 out of 5 stars.

5 Stars

Book Review: The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner

by James Dashner

Published by Delacorte Press

374 pages

MR

 

Goodreads Synopsis:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

My Review: 

What if the world you hated was better than the world you desired – you just didn’t know it yet?

Dashner poses a unique threat to a semi-post-apocalyptic premise.  The harrowing tales of a group of boys who supposedly have been surviving in what they call the Glade for nearly two years, is unique in the sense that haven and danger stand side-by-side in this unpredictable tale.

The story lets in on the action, no background, just a boy who has only his name and no other memories. He’s welcomed to the Glade by a large group of boys about his age, and all he knows that this place is dangerous. How dangerous, though, he has no idea. The other boys seem to refuse to answer Thomas’s questions and since his arrival in the Glade, he suspects even more at risk than anyone lets on, and somehow he now has a part in it.

The Maze Runner isn’t an entirely new concept, it follows much of the popular fiction that kids have loved for years, but it does bring something new and fascinating to the story – puzzles. The whole book is like an abstract image you have to try to piece together. It can be a challenging read for some as there is so little information given throughout the story, especially in the beginning. The maze is just as fascinating and terrifying to the readers as it is to the characters, but mostly it is just infuriating. How many dead ends can you run into? Reader empathy is not too difficult with this book.

I mostly enjoyed the mazes of the book. Just like the boys struggled with the maze, readers struggled with the plot and all that it witheld.

However, there were some shortcomings to this book that I have a hard time overlooking. First, all the boys are considered geniuses. Well, there was never an explanation as to why all boys were chosen. There might be a very reasonable explanation, but Dashner so far has not offered anything to the readers. The only time a girl arrives, she is there to disrupt everything and mostly regarded in terms of her beauty. As a female reader, I’m trying not to find this text a bit sexist, but there was just so little explanation. Second, all the boys are considered geniuses, but they really didn’t prove that they knew that much. In fact, most of the time they seemed pretty clueless. Perhaps they shouldn’t have been described as genius, but rather courageous, because that they were. They were brave, but nearly to the point of stupidity. They endured a lot of misery over two years and still had the strength to carry on, but I’m not entirely convinced they were geniuses.

Some final thoughts – I loved the idea of the grievers. I’m intensely curious to see how they are portrayed in the upcoming film. I thought these were some incredibly creative monsters. Absolutely horrifying. It had this book  balancing on the genres of supernatural thriller, mystery, and horror all at once.

And lastly, the ending of this book was fantastic, horrible, but the perfect shock to put any dedicated reader into a coma for at least an hour.

There’s a lot more I could talk about with this novel, but I’m going to end it here. Comment or email if you want to talk about it more!

 

I give The Maze Runner by James Dashner 4 out of 5 stars.

4 stars (2)

 

Book Review: Everwild by Neal Shusterman

Everwild [Skinjacker Series #2] by Neal Shusterman

448 pages

published by Simon & Schuster, 2010

Goodreads Synopsis:

“Everlost, the limbo land of dead children, is at war. Nick the “Chocolate Ogre” wants to help the children of Everlost reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Mary Hightower, self-proclaimed queen of lost children and dangerous fanatic, is determined to keep Everlost’s children trapped within its limbo for all eternity. Traveling in the memory of the Hindenburg, Mary is spreading her propaganda and attracting Afterlights to her cause at a frightening speed.

Meanwhile, Allie the Outcast travels home to seek out her parents, along with Mikey, who was once the terrifying monster the McGill. Allie is tempted by the seductive thrill of skinjacking the living, until she discovers the shocking truth about skinjackers.”

line break

My Review:

The second installment of Shusterman’s series is a thrill. His regular frights become more frightening, more disturbing, more chilling. The agonizingly slow, yet strange and unpredictable plights of Nick to the deeply (very deeply) disturbing practices of Mary the Sky Witch make this book a welcome challenge to the reader. I’m 22 years old and this book disturbed me in ways I didn’t expect. Shusterman doesn’t adhere to the idea of innocence, he exposes something that might make the reader squirm, but its a thought that’s certain to stick with your memory. If you’re up to the challenge – read this book.

The characters become more rounded and complicated in this book, even some of the secondary characters such as Speedo have inner conflicts in Shusterman’s sequel. The character development is quite impressive. However, I was less impressed with some of Shusterman’s new characters. Squirrel and Moose, other skinjackers, seem to fit the static henchman stereotype and were entirely uninteresting. And as for Milos, he’s a boy with too many problems; during my reading I got the impression Shusterman changed his mind on Milos’s character and shifted his personality just slightly too much for me to enjoy him as a character. Zinnia was an enjoyable character, but her naivety after all her years in Everlost were a bit of a let down to her character. While I enjoyed the additional characters to Everwild, they seemed poorly developed in comparison to Mary, Nick, Allie, and Mikey. Speaking of Mikey, the emotional roller-coaster in just this little boy made me topsy turvey. I do think it was done artistically . Mikey reminded me that Everlost is a place of children, and children can be incredibly emotional and upredictable. I’m excited to see what happens to Mikey in the last installment of the Skinjacker series, Everfound.

Also, as much as I enjoyed this novel, there is one major plot hole in Shusterman’s story. Shusterman seems too eager to find a solution to why only some children can skinjack. Allie’s revelation is unrealistic and uncharacteristic of Shusterman’s otherwise tight plot. 

The plot of the novel was relatively slow paced. A lot of action takes place between the sequences of Mary and Nick’s plotting, but with as many story lines woven throughout the story, the final confrontation scene was a bit of a letdown. Shusterman continues to be incredibly creative in his plot, his action scenes are always a delight to read. However, the end left more loose ends than completed ones. I’m looking forward to the last novel of the series. I believe Everfound will be the profound ending to a good series or a letdown of Shusterman’s genius creativity.

I give Everwild a three out of five stars.

3 Stars