Book Review: Otherworld

Title: Otherworld
Author: Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
Genre: Science Fiction-Young Adult
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Pages: 355
Buy This Book:Amazon/Audible (affiliate link)

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I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I loved the premise of the book and the virtual reality theme, and I found it engaging enough to hold my interest until the very end. It was very fast-paced and action-packed, at times enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. On the other hand, the storyline was a bit unbelievable for me – there were too many coincidences and too many things happened just conveniently when Simon was around or needed them to happen. Also, how is it possible that no one questioned why hundreds of people in a small geographical area suddenly developed an incredibly rare medical condition except a couple teenagers? Not one doctor, nurse, or hospital staff member noticed, even though they had likely never seen that diagnosis at that particular hospital before? There are other examples I could give, but I’m trying to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. Needless to say, there are several parts that I don’t believe would have played out the same way in real life.

The other major drawback for me is that I did not like the main character, Simon. He came across as very spoiled, angsty, and self-centered. Yes, self-centered. Even though most of the book is focused on Simon trying to save his friend Kat, he is doing it for selfish reasons with no regard for her interests (she has told him repeatedly to leave her alone, but he continues to essentially stalk her, both in real life and virtually, because he has decided that he “needs” her). However, as much as I didn’t like the main character, the supporting characters that we meet along the way somewhat made up for that. They were relatable, smart, and funny. I thoroughly enjoyed Carole and Gorog’s playful banter during their journey through Otherworld.

I want to mention that the world-building in this book was excellent. When we were exploring Otherworld with Simon, I felt almost as if I was right there beside him. I could see what he was seeing, feel how he was feeling, and I wanted to stay in that world longer. Unfortunately, the majority of the novel is written outside of the virtual reality world, in the real world. I’m hoping that we will get to spend more time in the virtual reality world in the next book.

One other quick note: the writing style in this book was very simple and straightforward, definitely geared towards the younger readers in the YA category, although it does have some PG content. This is not necessarily a negative or a positive thing; I just wanted to set your expectations correctly if you’re planning to read this book.

Overall, I’m giving Otherworld a 3/5 score. It had the potential to be something really great, but somehow I think it fell short. Fortunately, it is the first in a series and there’s still a chance for the authors to improve on it.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Blogging For Books program in exchange for my honest review.

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Quick update

Hey guys! I just wanted to check in real quick before you start thinking I’ve dropped off the edge of the earth – or at least the blogosphere. I know I’ve been somewhat neglecting my blog lately… Between traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, having all 3 kids home on break from school, and spending some much needed time with my family and friends, I haven’t really had any time left to read (much less write/post reviews) over the last couple weeks. However the kids are now back in school and things are falling back into the usual routine so I was able to get through a new book: Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller. As soon as I gather my thoughts on it, I’ll be posting the review on here so keep an eye out for that! I also started a couple new books today AND I was approved as a member of Blogging For Books so I will start getting new books to review on a semi-regular basis (in addition to the usual books I purchase or rent from the library).

Anyway, I just wanted to let you all know I’m still around and there’s still much more to come. I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

Book Review: All The Bright Places

Title: All The Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: Contemporary-Fiction-YA
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Pages: 378
Buy This Book: Amazon/Audible (affiliate link)

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“…the great thing about this life of ours is that you can be someone different to everybody.”

“The thing I know about bipolar disorder is that it’s a label. One you give crazy people. Labels like ‘bipolar’ say This is why you are the way you are. This is who you are. They explain people away as illnesses.”

I loved All The Bright Places! It is an absolutely enthralling read which is certain to pull at the heartstrings. The two main characters, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, are both teenagers who attend the same high school, but come from two completely different walks of life and seem to have nothing in common. They meet on the ledge of the school bell tower, each intending to jump, but make the decision to live instead. As I was reading the first couple chapters, I started to worry that it was going to be a book geared towards a much younger audience than my 30-year-old self: a high school romance, corny and cheesy with lots of teenage angst and insta-love. I was really happily surprised when that wasn’t the case AT ALL. It gets better and better the further into it you get. The second half is absolutely amazing; and I was ugly crying by the end.

This book reminds me of 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, in a good way! It touches on a lot of heavy topics: depression and mental illness, suicidal thoughts and plans, and the impact of loss on family and friends. However, it still somehow remains positive and inspiring overall. One thing I really liked was that it describes what it’s like living with bipolar disorder in a way I’ve never seen before. There are many books dealing with mental illnesses, but Jennifer Niven’s refreshingly new approach is eye-opening. It tells the story without the usual condescension and allows the characters to be more than just their illnesses. I finished this book and immediately told my husband and best friend to read it. Needless to say, I highly recommend it and therefore I’m giving it a 4.5/5 score.

The Dreadful DNF

Let’s talk about that thing no one wants to admit to – the decision to not finish a book.

Last week I was really struggling with the 1st book in the Millennium series, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Really. Seriously. Struggling. I kept picking it up, dredging through another chapter or two, and then putting it back down before I ripped my eyeballs out in boredom. Ok, I’m being hyperbolic… But not by much. When I started this blog entry, I was about a third of the way in to the book and found it to be INCREDIBLY boring and uninspiring. Correction, the prologue was intriguing for me. After that, total snoozefest! I didn’t find the characters interesting, there was nothing in the plot pulling me in and making me want to continue reading, and there was entirely too much information about financial journalism (a topic I have exactly zero interest in) that I needed to sludge through in order to get to anything of plot-related significance. So after one last failed attempt, I put the book into my DNF [did not finish] pile.

To clarify, I was not in any way saying that it was a “bad” book or that it deserved a low rating. Obviously, this book appealed to many people since it is an international bestseller and was the inspiration for a very popular, highly rated movie. I had just decided that it was not the right book for me… and that’s okay. It was also perfectly okay for me to put the book down unfinished.

Let me repeat that, because it’s important.

It’s okay to admit that a book isn’t working for you and it’s okay if you don’t finish it.

In the not-so-distant past, I used to force myself to finish every book I started. I would tell myself it was a waste not to make it to the end and find out what happens, since I had already invested so much time in the book. However, the truth is, even if we read a book every single day of our lives from a very young age, we still will not read even a small percentage of the books that are out there; and more and more books are being published every day. The real waste was all of the time I spent finishing a book I didn’t like, instead of reading something more enjoyable. Because of that, a couple years ago I decided I would never again feel guilty about not finishing a book that I’m not enjoying. I have never regretted that decision.

Now in this particular case, I ended up staying in the hospital with a close family member who had a stroke over the weekend. My cell phone was dead and I didn’t have a charger with me (so no access to my Kindle app). All I happened to have with me was the copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo that I had tossed in my purse earlier in the day with the intention to drop it off in a little free library. In between visits from the nurses and doctors, while my relative was resting, I decided to try reading it as a distraction and managed to finish the book. It turns out, this book DID get much better for me and I actually enjoyed the second half. I have already started the second book in the trilogy. However, if I had never finished the book, my life would not have been missing anything. Yes, I would have missed getting to know these characters specifically, but I would have still continued reading excellent books, going on grand adventures, meeting new characters, and exploring new worlds. In short, life would have gone on, and I would have had no regrets.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you agree with my decision or are you someone who feels the need to finish every book that you start? 

Book Review: What Remains True

Title: What Remains True
Author: Janis Thomas
Genre: Fiction-Drama
Release Date: December 1, 2017
Pages: 348
Buy This Book: Amazon/Audible (affiliate link)

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“I could shelve my personal problems, slough off any issue that was plaguing me, allow the stress to seep from my pores as my work enveloped me and carried me away. But this is not a problem I can shelve, nor an issue I can slough off. This is not stress. This is grief. Overwhelming and insidious grief that refuses to be ignored or denied or temporarily tucked away.”

No, the release date isn’t a typo. I received What Remains True through Amazon’s Kindle First program for Prime members, so I got to read it a little early. Quick side note: If you’re a Prime member and you aren’t taking advantage of this feature (like I didn’t for years), start now! Seriously. So worth it! If you’re not even sure what I’m talking about, click here for more information.

This was a very heart wrenching, emotional read for me. I already knew going into it that it was about a very heavy topic (a family grieving the unexpected loss of a 5-year-old boy) so of course I assumed it was going to be a tearjerker, but I was still a bit surprised that I only made it a few chapters in before I started crying. To be fair, I tend to cry over fictional characters in books, TV shows, and movies rather easily. I also have a 5-year-old son who’s very similar to Jonah in a lot of ways, which made it hit a little too close to home for me. So it might just be me, but I’m giving you fair warning just in case you’re as… well… sensitive as I am. 😉

Another thing I want to mention about this book is that it is written in first person narrative from each character’s point of view. A lot of times when authors use that writing technique, I find that it makes it harder to follow the storyline and the writing just doesn’t seem to flow quite right. Janis Thomas really pulled it off this time though. The story was easy to follow (even switching between different time frames) and each of the characters had a very distinct, well-developed personality. One thing I didn’t like about it, however, was that Thomas included the dog Shadow’s point of view. Those parts came across as cheesy and pulled me out of the story every time. I also didn’t find them to be very believable so they ruined some of the realism for me.

As for the story itself, this book held my interest throughout its entirety. In the second half I found it hard to put down, as more and more was revealed about the events leading up the the young boy’s death. I wasn’t a big fan of the ending, but I’m not sure how it could have ended differently while giving closure. I’m going to give it a 3.5/5 score. It’s not one of my favorites, but still definitely worth the read.

Book Review: Sleeping Beauties 

Title: Sleeping Beauties
Authors: Stephen King and Owen King
Genre: Horror-Fantasy-Fiction
Release Date: September 26, 2017
Pages: 702
Buy this Book: Amazon/Audible (affiliate link)

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“That was one way in which the sexes had never been equal; they were not equally dangerous.”

“The Black Angel came up from the roots and down from the branches. Her fingers are death and her hair is full of cobwebs and dream is her kingdom.”

Let me preface this by saying I am a HUGE Stephen King fan and I have yet to find a book of his that I wouldn’t recommend.

Sleeping Beauties started off slow for me, like most Stephen King books do. It wasn’t until about halfway through that I really began getting drawn into it. However, the detailed character and plot building at the beginning of the story was worth it, in my opinion, to set the stage for yet another excellent book from Sai King! In fact, I feel like this book was even a little less “wordy” than some of his other ones, which may be due to the collaboration with his son, Owen King; although I honestly couldn’t tell you who wrote which part as their collaboration was seamless.

The premise of the book is pretty simple – as women (and girls of all ages) fall asleep, a cocoon forms around them and they don’t wake back up, leaving the men to fend for themselves in a world without women. What I love about Stephen King’s writing is the realism he weaves into it and this book was no exception. Even though it is obviously a supernatural/sci-fi based story, the way it is written makes you feel like something like this could actually happen in real life. I also like that the story forces you to think about some of the more prominent flaws in our society and the gender roles we assume, without pushing a political agenda. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and give it a 4.5/5 score.

Hi everyone!

I probably should introduce myself, huh? My name is Dorie and I’m 30 years old. I currently live in Pennsylvania, although I grew up in Maine and someday hope to move back (I miss it SO much – especially the ocean!). I’m happily married to an amazing guy, 10 years strong, and we have 3 beautiful children together.

All of my life, I’ve been an avid reader – your typical bookworm. I’ve navigated my life with my nose buried in a book and I enjoy a wide variety of genres: classics, biographies, horror, suspense/thriller, paranormal, science-fiction, historical fiction, mystery, and YA/NA. Really, the only genre I do not typically enjoy is romance novels, although I have found some exceptions to that rule.

I decided to start a blog when I realized just how badly I suffer from “book amnesia”. With the exception of some really good books/series, after a few months I struggle to remember details from the books I’ve read and sometimes I even forget the entire plot/storyline altogether! This is really a problem for me since I have a large collection of books and I haven’t always been great about tracking which ones I’ve read. There have been times when I would get about halfway into a book and realize I had already read it! Writing reviews helps me absorb more from the books I read and remember them for longer. I’ve decided to use this blog to keep track of all the books I read and my thoughts on them, although I might also throw in some other random book-related musings from time to time.

I’m fairly new to blogging so bear with me as I get this all set up and rolling. I spent today creating a new email account, social media accounts (I’m trying to keep my blog accounts separate from my personal social media accounts), and other various stuff needed to make a complete online profile. There’s a lot more to this blogging stuff than I thought! But I’m fairly confident I’ll get a good handle on it all soon. Click the follow button and watch as this page grows into the awesome blog I know it will be. In the meantime, I’ll gladly welcome any hints or tips you might have. I’m also open to feedback on how I should schedule my posts and what kinds of content you would like to see. Just comment below. 🙂

Book Review: Beneath a Scarlet Sky

Title: Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Author: Mark Sullivan
Genre: Historical Fiction, but based on a true story
Release Date: May 2017
Pages: 526
Buy This Book: Amazon/Audible (affiliate link)

“We never know what will happen next, what we will see, and what important person will come into our life, or what important person we will lose. Life is change, constant change, and unless we are lucky enough to find comedy in it, change is nearly always a drama, if not a tragedy. But after everything, and even when the skies turn scarlet and threatening, I still believe that if we are lucky enough to be alive, we must give thanks for the miracle of every moment of every day no matter how flawed.”

What an incredible book!

When I first picked up this book, I had no idea what to expect. I’ll admit I hadn’t even read the synopsis; I just started reading it based on a recommendation. But once I started reading, I quickly realized I couldn’t put it down! This is a truly captivating tale of bravery and perseverance. Throughout the story, Pino takes on one seemingly impossible task after another and faces so much devastation, tragedy, and unspeakable horrors, it will leave you wondering how much can one person really handle. I have a feeling that I’m going to be thinking about this book and the characters in it for months. The fact that it is based on a true story is awe-inspiring to me.

I recently made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t buy anymore physical books unless it is something I really enjoyed and plan to re-read. At least until I can afford a house with a large private library (and wouldn’t THAT be nice?!?), I have limited bookshelf space so it has to be a special kind of book to earn a spot on my shelves. For now, I’m going to try out new books on my Kindle or borrow them from my library. That way I can continue to read new books without breaking this promise. Not long after finishing Beneath a Scarlet Sky, the book got added to my Christmas list and I already know that if I don’t get it as a gift, I’ll definitely buy myself a copy for my bookshelf. So as it turns out, I’m going to be starting off this blog with a perfect 5/5 score.