Review: The Sandcastle Empire 

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Publication: June 6, 2017

Pages: 455

Rating: 3.6/5

Goodreads summary: When all hope is gone, how do you survive?

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

The Sandcastle Empire is a YA dystopian  novel set in a war-torn world, 30 years in the future. Climate change initiates the war, but the greed for power keeps the Wolves going. After spending two years planning to escape her camp alone, on the day of her escape she is met with three new acquaintances. The book follows Eden and the others as they hope to find freedom and peace on the island, but they soon realize that they are a part of a much bigger world.

This book reminds me of The 100 (the show) and Allegiant. The four girls arrive blindly at Sanctuary Island with their hopes high, but then one of them goes missing and they realize they’re not alone. It’s not until another resistance group shows up on the island that they get answers about their world.

It’s an interesting idea, but it felt like this book was trying to be too many things at once- dystopian, teen romance, sci-fi, thriller. Not to mention that the romance just felt forced. Despite seven people being the main focus of the story, Eden and Lonan are the only ones explored on a deeper level and Eden is the only one who faces any challenges. I wanted to know more about the other three girls that arrived around the island and see their progression as a unit since that’s what the synopsis led me to believe.

The attention to detail in the setting was captivating as well that at times, I wanted to visit this fictional place myself for the scenery. I find in most books the setting is rarely an important narrative so this was a nice change of pace. Nothing aggravates me more than technology being too complex or futuristic in novels. That was not the case here, and I wasn’t lost when it described Havenwater bottles, bloodlocks, and sedative serums.

This wasn’t my favorite read ever, but it did help break my brief reading slump. What element of fiction is most important to you as a reader- setting, character, plot or something else?

DNF: Love & Gelato

I made it to Chapter 10 of Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch before I had to put it away because I wasn’t enjoying it. The writing was poor and the characters were bland. Here, I’ve compiled a list of lines in this book that either made me laugh or just left me completely confused, sometimes both.

-He sounded American, but he looked about as Italian as a plate of meatballs. (59) 

-“Okay. I can pick you up on my scooter. Around eight?” (78) 

  • This really is only funny because in my mind, I was picturing Ren picking up Lina in one of these.

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-…excitement started building up in me like steam in a pressure cooker. (80) 

-So…apparently my father spoke Italian. Fluently. (83) 

  • Well, he has been living in Italy for 16+ years.

-He honestly had a dreamy look in his eyes. Did my more-than-a-friend love for food come from him? (84) 

-My cheeks were boiling like a pot of marinara sauce. (87) 

  • Now I’m just hungry.

-He met my eyes, and suddenly I wished with all my heart that I could evaporate, like the steam still curling off my pizza. (90) 

  • If giving inanimate objects feelings is personification, what is called when you reduce a person to an object…and can we not do that.

– A straight-up monsoon was happening in the general vicinity of my face, and the words kept running together in a big, blurry mess. (96) 

  • She was crying. Just say you’re crying.

-“Isn’t it like two a.m. there? (102) 

  • So you knew this, yet you still thought Addie would answer your call?

-“Elena told me there are rooms that she’s never even set foot in, and she and her mom sometimes go days without even seeing each other.”  (114) 

  • This is concerning and definitely should not happen, no matter how big your house is.

-They started raining questions. (117) 

“Ragazzi, dai. My mom will freak out if she finds out you are up here. I had a forty-five minute lecture after the last party. Some idiota left a piece of pizza on the two-hundred-year-old credenza. Come downstairs, per favore!” (124) 

  • Because we’re in Italy. With Italians. In case you forgot.

-“Ren, come on. We’re an hour late. What’s he going to do?” (131) 

  • Lina does what she wants and has no regard for authority.

Check out my full review on Goodreads. Are you confused by any of these lines or is there some philosophical reasoning behind these quotes that is beyond my comprehension?

Review: Eliza and Her Monsters

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Publication: May 30, 2017

Pages: 383

Rating: 100/5

Goodreads summary: Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimonaand Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl

The summary doesn’t do this book justice. I received this book in my Owlcrate subscription box, so even though I was interested, I wasn’t too excited about it. Now that I have read it, it’s probably one of my favorite books… ever.

The concept of the book reminds me of both Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl (which I liked) and Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds (which I loved). Half of the book takes place as if it were online, with parts of the dialogue written in text speak and profile pages, representing the good, bad, and ugly of fandom culture. Pages from Eliza’s webcomic are also integrated throughout this novel. On the outside, this book seems trivial at best, and it had me laughing out loud for more than half of the book.

BUT, HOLY SH*T, THIS BOOK IS SO MUCH DEEPER THAN IT APPEARS TO BE. There’s a twist, and it comes out of nowhere. Then, when Eliza’s identity is revealed, important and darker topics are introduced and explored further. We learn about her anxiety after she suffers a panic attack at school, and the healthy ways to live with it. There’s also a brief mention of suicidal thoughts better explained than Thirteen Reasons Why (the show)*. I did not expect to sob over this book, but here we are.

Another reason why I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy this book is because it includes a romance between Eliza and the most popular fanfiction writer, Wallace Warland. I admire that this romance didn’t feel forced. They got together just like your favorite strangers-to-lovers au. After they paired up, they didn’t fight like crazy either, and Zappia portrays a healthy relationship with communication and trust. (Okay, so she lied about LadyConstellation but she had her reasons, also, she was kind of dealing with the whole anxiety thing- it wasn’t right, but it’s forgivable). At the end of the day, this book promotes good friend, familial, and romantic relationships, in addition to taking care of yourself. 

To see what I’m reading next, add me on Goodreads. Also, what kind of reader are you, fast and excited like Eliza or slow and methodical like Wallace?

*To be clear, I’m not hating on the show at all. I think it’s well executed from the script to the actors, but it focuses much more on the external factors of Hannah’s suicide than internal. It spreads the message “be kind to everyone” and “you never know what someone else is going through,” which are good, but is a little harder to relate to (at least personally).

ATTN: SPOILERS, PLEASE READ THE BOOK BEFORE YOU READ THIS  Continue reading

Book of the Month: May

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Publication: January 20, 2011

Pages: 353

Rating: 4/5

Dysfunction and lack of identity are the common themes in this story. It takes place in the small, college town of Barnwell, Ohio and follows the three sisters- Rose, Bean and Cordy, through all their insecurities and past mistakes, as they question who they are and what there role in the family is really.  For Rose, she has lived there throughout her adult life and likes everything to be in its place, so she’s faced with a difficult decision after her husband gets a job opportunity in Oxford, England. Their mother has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, which only adds hesitation to Rose’s big decision. Unlike Rose, Bean and Cordy couldn’t leave their hometown fast enough. Bean, the wild child trendy middle child, jetted off to New York only to return after she’s been fired for embezzlement. Lastly, Cordy is the free-spirit, baby of the family who comes home when she’s finds out she’s pregnant. Neither want to stay in Barnwell, but they also know that they can’t return to the same ways from their old life.

When I first picked up this book, I wasn’t sure of the plot, but since I knew one of Brown’s other works and their was somewhat high praise for this one, I thought I’d give it a read.It’s a slow start, to be honest, and all the Shakespeare quotes can be a little overwhelming at first, but once I got a hang of the style, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

The book also raises questions about how birth order affects our personality and heavily focuses on Bean’s journey to self identity, with Rose and Cordy as side characters. She has the most growing to do and also makes the most progress in the end, but is still flawed (aren’t we all?). Although the plot may have been subpar, Brown knows how to write characters.

Finally, the book is written in first person-plural, which was a bit confusing in the beginning, but made for an interesting read by the end. I still don’t know if I like it or not.

. . .

Goodreads summary: A major new talent tackles the complicated terrain of sisters, the power of books, and the places we decide to call home.

There is no problem that a library card can’t solve.

The Andreas family is one of readers. Their father, a renowned Shakespeare professor who speaks almost entirely in verse, has named his three daughters after famous Shakespearean women. When the sisters return to their childhood home, ostensibly to care for their ailing mother, but really to lick their wounds and bury their secrets, they are horrified to find the others there.

See, we love each other. We just don’t happen to like each other very much.

But the sisters soon discover that everything they’ve been running from — one another, their small hometown, and themselves — might offer more than they ever expected.