Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy: review

CriminalCriminal by Terra Elan McVoy
Stand Alone
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult/New Adult
Genre: Realistic, Thriller, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: May 7th 2013
Synopsis: A searing and gripping read that explores the depths of desperation true love can inspire, from the author of Being Friends with Boys.

Nikki’s life is far from perfect, but at least she has Dee. Her friends tell her that Dee is no good, but Nikki can’t imagine herself without him. He’s hot, he’s dangerous, he has her initials tattooed over his heart, and she loves him more than anything. There’s nothing Nikki wouldn’t do for Dee. Absolutely nothing.

So when Dee pulls Nikki into a crime—a crime that ends in murder—Nikki tells herself that it’s all for true love. Nothing can break them apart. Not the police. Not the arrest that lands Nikki in jail. Not even the investigators who want her to testify against him.

But what if Dee had motives that Nikki knew nothing about? Nikki’s love for Dee is supposed to be unconditional…but even true love has a limit. And Nikki just might have reached hers.

My Thoughts:

I believe that there are different ways to love someone. After reading so many books, watching so many movies and T.V. shows, I think that I have found out about many of those ways. But Criminal is the first novel that I have read that features such a dark, startling honest story about the consequences of being utterly blinded by love. But awhile this is a strong and solid story, I did have a few quibbles here and there.

The Things That I Liked–

— Criminal is super addictive. The story is tough to read through at times, but there is just something so compulsively addictive. Perhaps it is the yearning of knowing the characters’ fates. Perhaps it is the massive want of finally seeing the bright light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever it was, it kept me reading.

— I also have to say that Criminal packs quite a punch. There were times that I felt like it was hopeless. There were times when I celebrated. And then there were times when I just felt angry. McVoy did an excellent job at pulling just the right emotions out of me.

— The writing, although it is very minimalistic at times, is very good. McVoy’s prose matches the mood of the story perfectly, enhancing the dark, cold feel that I already felt all too well.

–Nikki is the type of character who needs to be written with a careful hand. She is very, very rough around the edges. She is desperate, blinded by love. But it is that terrible flaw that makes her transition from a girl who can’t see to a girl who can is incredible. Nikki’s growth as a person is a reason alone to read this novel.

— The side characters were given a fair amount of attention and written well. Bird, Priscilla, and the rest of the group were created with finesse. Awhile some like Cherry can be categorized easily, most of them can’t.

The Things That I Didn’t Like

— I feel massively disappointed by Dee’s character. As the reader, all I could feel towards him was hatred and disgust. I could feel nothing else. Nothing else at all. You see, I like antagonist who are fleshed out. I like feeling sympathy, even if just a fragment of it, toward them. The reader doesn’t learn anything about Dee, which is, to be blunt, disappointing.

— Open endings are not normally my thing. And the ending of this book is no exception. The end of Criminal would have been much more satisfying if it had an epilogue devoted to Nikki’s future.

The Verdict

Criminal is a dark story with solid writing and a good group of characters that knows what story it is trying to tell– and is completely honest about it. Which is absolutely refreshing. I would certainly recommend this novel to people who are aching for a story that doesn’t hold back anything.

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How To Lead A Life Of Crime by Kirsten Miller: review

How to Lead a Life of CrimeHow to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller
Stand Alone
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary, Thriller
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: February 21st 2013
Synopsis: A meth dealer. A prostitute. A serial killer.

Anywhere else, they’d be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they’re called prodigies. The most exclusive school in New York City has been training young criminals for over a century. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to graduate. The rest disappear.

Flick, a teenage pickpocket, has risen to the top of his class. But then Mandel recruits a fierce new competitor who also happens to be Flick’s old flame. They’ve been told only one of them will make it out of the Mandel Academy. Will they find a way to save each other—or will the school destroy them both?

My Thoughts: 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from the first chapter to the last. I would even say that I love this book in the way I would love a (fictional) bad boy. There’s priceless dark humor, good ol’ snark, thievery, trickery, flawlessly made characters, a well-planned conspiracy, and a heart-pounding story filled with danger. How to Lead a Life of Crime is a novel that stuck to my hands until I finished. And after I finished the novel, I was whispering to the little hardcover these words:

Nobody stared at me strangely at all awhile I said it, either.

Looking at the synopsis, it’s not hard to get the wrong idea. I myself thought that this was going to be one of those stories that can be compared to a teen graphic novel or movie. But what I thought that this book was going to be like was completely wrong. How to Lead a Life of Crime doesn’t kid around. The Mandel Academy is ruthless and dangerous. Most of the students of the academy have lost hope, and some of them are just crazy. There is definitely that anybody can die atmosphere. And the villain, well, he seems to know exactly what the protagonist are planning at all times.

The carefully planned conspiracy that is happening behind the locked doors of Mandel Academy is perfectly executed. And really, I had a hard time not believing it. Kirsten Miller blends the Mandel Academy so well into the contemporary world of How to Lead a Life of Crime that it actually started to blend into what is happening in reality.

The idea of an academy that takes in kids from the streets, turns them into unfeeling people only after their own desires, and setting them out into the world as powerful people to manipulate the lesser powerful might be hard to believe at first. But if you think about it, it’s kind of not. How many times have people with power or fame been accused of having a hidden agenda that could have negative affects on the population as a whole? Definitely not just a few times.

White did an amazing job writing an authentic male character and voice. In fact, Flick is the best well-written character I ever had the pleasure of encountering. His character is wholly unpredictable. I do remember being shocked by his decisions many times awhile reading this book. And his flaws are brilliantly written in a way that makes the reader look past them and look for the good person behind them all, which isn’t hard to do as the story progresses.

Joi is just as great as Flick. My jaw dropped when she returned. She kicked so much butt with the way she lead and conquered. She is confident in her peer’s skills and invested trust when she knew she could, unlike Flick who tries to go solo. Seriously, this girl is amazing.

How to Lead a Life of Crime also features side characters that play roles that are almost as important as Flick and Joi’s roles in the story. If characters like Ella, Violet, or Aubrey weren’t in the book, I’m pretty sure that everyone would be dead in a puddle of blood or completely brainwashed.

The emotion that the author was able to pull from me was surprising. I don’t think I have worried for a character’s life that much. And don’t even get me started on all the thrill and excitement I went through.

The prose comes with an abundance of clear descriptive writing and sensory, as well as doses of ultra-awesome snark and dark humor that had me laughing out loud. Never had I read a novel with such great snark in the prose.

“’See? You’re the crazy one, you redheaded freak.’

I’ve been attempting to translate the phrase into Latin. If I ever succeed, I shall make it my personal motto.”

The only flaw that I can find in How to Lead a Life of Crime is the censoring of ‘fuck.’ Instead of being written as a complete word, the word is written as ‘f—-.’ I didn’t find any point of doing that. The reader knows what word is being used, so the censoring just becomes an annoyance. But that’s only a itty bitty, tiny flaw that flew right over my head once I got sucked in by the story.

I have nothing but praise for How to Lead a Life of Crime. The plot is incredible, the characters make White worthy of an award, the writing is amazing, and the conspiracy is believable. My only regret about reading this book is that I’m going to be wanting more for the rest of my life. Why must this be a stand alone?

Note: There are also many references to Peter Pan, so if you are a fan of the classic, then you might love this book, also!

In The Path Of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith: review

In the Path of Falling ObjectsIn The Path Of Falling Objects by Andrew Smith

Stand Alone 

My Rating:  4.5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Young Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Publisher: Square Fish

Release Date: October 12th 2010

Synopsis: Jonah and his younger brother, Simon, are on their own. They set out to find what’s left of their family, carrying between them ten dollars, a backpack full of dirty clothes, a notebook, and a stack of letters from their brother, who is serving a tour in Vietnam. And soon into their journey, they have a ride. With a man and a beautiful girl who may be in love with Jonah. Or Simon. Or both of them.

The man is crazy. The girl is desperate. This violent ride is only just beginning. And it will leave the brothers taking cover from hard truths about loyalty, love, and survival that crash into their lives. 

One more thing: The brothers have a gun. They’re going to need it.

My Thoughts:

In the Path of Falling Objects made me feel, in a word, dusty. Not the itchy-dust kind of dusty, but the kind of dusty where one feels like they are in a desert, in the presence of miles and miles of sand. With the hot, burning sun on their back. That’s the kind of dusty I felt when I was reading this. The genuine, realistic kind of dusty. Does that make sense? I hope so.

This is a story following the journey of Jonah and his younger brother, Simon. The boys are on their own and had run away from a home they are no longer wanted in. After only a bit of time into their journey they find a car with a man and a beautiful girl driving inside. They are invited to ride with them. And thus began the two brother’s long, hard journey.

Andrew Smith seemed to put his whole heart and soul into writing this story. As I read this book I couldn’t help but marvel the obvious effort the author put into every page of In the Path of Falling Objects. It really shows. The story radiates excellence, rawness, and power.

The characters in In The Path of Falling Objects are very well rendered. I thought that I could feel them at times. It was as if they had their own heartbeats. I could feel the insanity and evil that Mitch contained. I could feel Simon’s anger and his strength. I could feel Jonah’s love for his brother, his determination, and his need to protect Simon. I could feel Lilly’s desperation. I could feel everything about these characters. They were powerful, tangible.

Smith’s prose gets the job done well and I really don’t have anything to complain about it. He writes the point of view of a male character realistically and Jonah never sounded feminine. I really wouldn’t expect Jonah to sound femimine since Andrew Smith is a dude, but I thought I needed to compliment him on writing a good male POV.

The sandy atmosphere is also crafted wonderfully well. I could vividly imagine the sand beneath my feet, finding its way between my toes. I could also vividly imagine the thirst that the dryness of the desert would cause and had to get up and grab a cup of water a couple of times. If that doesn’t convince you that the atmosphere is good then I don’t know what will.

I will also applaud Smith for writing one of the best sibling relationships I have ever read in a YA novel. Jonah and Simon’s sibling relationship isn’t laid back and happy. It is actually filled with angry looks, irritation, punches, and arguments. But these two brothers love each other and when they need to show it they do. They had each other’s backs.

I feel that I should warn readers that this book is considerably violent. There is  a lot of death. There will be flying bullets, bloody bullet-holes, and the occasion metallic flash of a knife. If you can’t handle the thought of that than I really can’t recommend this to you as much as I would want to.

Trigger pulling. Those two words could describe this book perfectly now that I think about it…

I adore In the Path of Falling Objects. It was dusty. Sometimes it felt so dusty that I had to take a break from it every ounce in a while, but that shouldn’t keep you away from this book. This is a great thriller and one of my favorite books that I will definitely keep on my shelf and treasure. I haven’t read any of Smith’s other novels but if the others are as good as this one than I think I might have found a new favorite author. I am now eagerly looking out for Stick which is by him.

Future Diary Vol.3 by Sakae Esuno: review

Future Diary, Volume 3Future Diary Vol.3 by Sakae Esuno

Series: Future Diary #3

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Genre: Mystery, Psychological, Thriller, Paranormal, Shounen

Publisher: TokyoPop

Release Date: September 1st 2009

Synopsis: Yukiteru Amano, a junior high student, has trouble making friends. He views himself as a spectator from the sidelines and often writes down what he sees in a cell phone diary. Tormented by solitude, Yukiteru interacts with his imaginary friends Deus Ex Machina, the God of Time and Space, and Muru Muru, Deus’s servant. One day, Deus grants Yukiteru’s cell phone the ability to record the future for the next 90 days. Yukiteru is then forced to participate in a battle royale with eleven other people, each of whom also have a diary that can predict the future in some unique way. The rules of the game are simple: before the world ends on day 90, the contestants must find and kill all the other contestants, and the last one standing will become Deus’s successor.

Note: This manga is aimed at an older audience.

My thoughts: There are moments in Future Diary that are unintentionally laughable. Well, this volume is different. The whole thing is unintentionally laughable.

The story in each volume of Future Diary is pretty much all the same. A new diary holder is introduced and Yuki and Yuno must defeat that certain diary holder in an epic battle of wits and future telling. This time the villain is a sociopathic six year-old obsessed with poison. Yuki and Yuno must defeat this dangerous child or else!

Reisuke Houjou (the dangerous six year-old) is a character that is hard to hate. Awhile he is the villain and does get close to killing Yuno and Yuki he does provide some laughs-mostly from the fact that he is a six year-old obsessed with poison. He is kind of cute in a morbid way. I am starting to like Minene, the cosplaying bomber, more and more. She is becoming a more important character and unlike most of the diary holders she is still alive after the volume she is introduced in. Minene is currently in an alliance with Keigo who is also becoming more important.

Yuki also manages to do his part in this game of survival. He helps keep Yuno alive quite a few times. This might cause Yuno to get more obsessed with him as time goes on even though she is pretty darn obsessed with him as it is now.

My only issue with this volume is the fact that the villain is a child. I rather not see a six year-old die in a game of survival. I will still continue this manga as it seems that Rei is the only child-villain in the series.

This manga never fails to be fast paced and exciting no matter how unrealistic it gets. The unintentional laughs* are pretty entertaining. Sakae’s art is not mind blowing but it is able to tell the story clearly and it seems to be getting better 🙂

*or maybe they are not unintentional?

Hysteria by Megan Miranda: review

Hysteria Hysteria by Megan Miranda

Standalone

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Young Adult

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary, Romance

Publisher: Walker Childrens

Release date: February 5th 2013

Synopsis: Mallory killed her boyfriend, Brian. She can’t remember the details of that night but everyone knows it was self-defense, so she isn’t charged. But Mallory still feels Brian’s presence in her life. Is it all in her head? Or is it something more? In desperate need of a fresh start, Mallory is sent to Monroe, a fancy prep school where no one knows her . . . or anything about her past. But the feeling follows her, as do her secrets. Then, one of her new classmates turns up dead. As suspicion falls on Mallory, she must find a way to remember the details of both deadly nights so she can prove her innocence-to herself and others.

My thoughts: My thoughts about this book can be described with only one word: boring. Hysteria had a great premise but it was not executed well. Awhile reading this book I kept drifting off and then after realizing that I was bored out of my mind I would put the book down and do something else.

I found Mallory to be a boring and often times annoying character. She never did anything to help herself and I didn’t find much personality to her. I want to at least like the main character of a book and not just tolerate them. The other characters did not redeem the book in any way either. I didn’t like Mallory’s family, Jason, Colleen, Reid(I only slightly liked him), or any other characters this book had. They were either boring or had not purpose in the story whatsoever. If I don’t like the characters than something else has to be done really well in order for me to like a book. Unfortunately, this book didn’t have any other redeemable qualities.

This book could have had a great eerie atmosphere and mystery but two things got in the way with that. I didn’t find the writing to be very engaging. I was not able to feel any atmosphere or emotion through the writing. I read books like this because I like a creepy atmosphere but this book disappointed me greatly. I also thought that the mystery was boring. The whole book was just Mallory remembering things about the night she killed her boyfriend. There was not investigating at all.

The ending did not impress me either. Everything was really rushed and I didn’t enjoy it at all. I did enjoy the last sentence of the book because then I knew that the book had ended. I am not saying that nobody will enjoy this book. If you liked Megan Miranda’s other book, Fracture then you might like this book as well. Hysteria was just not my cup of tea 🙂

*An advanced copy was given to me by the publisher via Netgalley

Future Diary Vol.2 by Sakae Esuno: review

Future Diary, Volume 2Future Diary Vol.2 by Sakae Esuno

Series: Future Diary #2

My rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Genre: Mystery, Psychological, Thriller, Paranormal, Shounen

Publisher: TokyoPop

Synopsis: Yukiteru Amano, a junior high student, has trouble making friends. He views himself as a spectator from the sidelines and often writes down what he sees in a cell phone diary. Tormented by solitude, Yukiteru interacts with his imaginary friends Deus Ex Machina, the God of Time and Space, and Muru Muru, Deus’s servant. One day, Deus grants Yukiteru’s cell phone the ability to record the future for the next 90 days. Yukiteru is then forced to participate in a battle royale with eleven other people, each of whom also have a diary that can predict the future in some unique way. The rules of the game are simple: before the world ends on day 90, the contestants must find and kill all the other contestants, and the last one standing will become Deus’s successor.

Note: This series is for an older audience

*My manga reviews may contain spoilers

My thoughts: Volume two impressed me. It completely surpasses my expectations. I did like the first volume even though it was pretty average. The second volume ,though had great pacing and a plot twist that I didn’t expect at all!

The beginning is very light-hearted. Yuno and Yuki are going on a date at an amusement park(although Yuki is very reluctant). Yuno is pretty darn cute when she is not being a super stalker. This all ends rather quickly when Yuki goes into Yuno’s house and discovers a secret that Yuno does not want him to know. The rest of the volume Yuki is wondering if he can trust Yuno or not.

After this certain event Keigo(who is currently in an alliance with Yuki and Yuno) finds out that the terrorist from volume one, Minene has been captured by a cult group that goes by the name Church of the Seer. The Church of the Seer also happens to worship a girl who can tell the future and she just might be another diary holder. Things don’t go as planned when a person who calls himself the Hero of Justice enters the church and it is revealed that he is also a diary holder. Yuno and Yuki have to fight to survive the chaos and be careful not to reach a “dead end”.

I love the characters in this series even though some of them might not be the most realistic. I find it interesting that Yuno can switch from being a sweet and cute girl to a dangerous psychopath in a matter of moments. Tsubaski is a character that I feel really sorry for. The way she grew up caused her to be a bitter and unpleasant person. She made my heart ache. Then there is the Hero of Justice: the guy in a power ranger suit. He made me laugh at the oddest times… I believe that Minene will have a bigger role as the story progresses. I like her character and want to know more about her.

I love the fact that in this manga, survival is all about making the right choices. One choice can change the future completely and effect the game in a way nobody expects.

The suspense kept me on the edge of my seat. I never know what exactly is going to happen. I hope that more unexpected plot twist come later!

There are some moments that unintentionally cause laughter. I like that about this series. It is mostly serious but there are some times where something can happen that is so random or strange that it can make me laugh. Those moments are a good break from all the blood and suspense.

This mystery manga series is impressing and I will definitely finish it to see how it ends.

The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle: review

The Hallowed Ones (The Hallowed Ones, #1)The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

Series: The Hallowed Ones #1

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Age Group: Young Adult

Genre: Paranormal, Thriller, Horror

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Release Date: September 25th 2012

Synopsis: Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community?

My thoughts: I read The Hallowed Ones for one reason: I was promised Amish vampires. I did indeed get Amish vampires but I also got a well written story, a great female protagonist, a great male protagonist, a good look into how the Amish live, classic vampires, gore, and a whole lot of suspense.

I don’t have much knowledge about the Plain Folk and their way of life but the good amount of information this novel contains seems very accurate. I at first thought that book would be a bit overly preachy but I found that the religious tone in this book is anything but that. It was very interesting to learn more about the Plain Folk’s religion. I think that the creepy atmosphere mostly comes from how the book mixes a supposedly very peaceful and conservative way of life with something as dangerous and ugly as vampires.

I loved the vampires. The vampires in The Hallowed Ones are the classic vampires. They have fangs, a thirst for blood,  a weakness to garlic, and glowing red eyes. You will find no Edwards in this book. Although the first half of the book is pretty peaceful with almost no gore the second half has a lot of it: torn up dead bodies, staking through the heart, and decapitation. The horror, gore, and classic vampires were able to scare me and that was really refreshing.

Katie was my favorite part of the book.I was completely emotionally invested in her. She is not at all weak and submissive but rather courageous, fearless, strong, kind, and kick butt. She has her flaws and struggles with the problems many teenagers go through but she perseveres. Katie is able to question other people and do what she thinks is right even if it means standing up to the Elders and going against what her family wishes. She is simply an inspiring character. Alex was also able to win my heart. His slow developing romance with Katie was unexpected but they were very well suited for each other. I liked how the romance only plays a small part of the story letting the vampires take the stage.

The story was very well written and gripping. The Hallowed Ones was suspenseful and I was constantly on the edge of my seat. This book was clearly written by an experienced writer. The ending wrapped up the story nicely but also leaves a promise of future books which I am very, very excited for.

Future Diary Vol.1 by Sakae Esuno: review

Future Diary, Volume 1Future Diary Vol.1 by Sakae Esuno

Series: Future Diary #1

My rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

Genre: Mystery, Psychological, Thriller, Paranormal, Shounen

Publisher: TokyoPop

Synopsis: Yukiteru Amano, a junior high student, has trouble making friends. He views himself as a spectator from the sidelines and often writes down what he sees in a cell phone diary. Tormented by solitude, Yukiteru interacts with his imaginary friends Deus Ex Machina, the God of Time and Space, and Muru Muru, Deus’s servant. One day, Deus grants Yukiteru’s cell phone the ability to record the future for the next 90 days. Yukiteru is then forced to participate in a battle royale with eleven other people, each of whom also have a diary that can predict the future in some unique way. The rules of the game are simple: before the world ends on day 90, the contestants must find and kill all the other contestants, and the last one standing will become Deus’s successor.

*My manga reviews may contain spoilers

My thoughts: Future Diary is a manga that I doubt I will be forgetting anytime soon. The combination of future telling, cellphones, and death is an unforgettable one. The idea of the story is original and a breath of fresh air. The first volume of Future Diary is definitely not perfect but I enjoyed reading it.

Volume one is an introduction to the game and the two main characters Yukiteru “Yuki” Amano and Yuno Gasai. Yuki is not an impressive character. He can not fight, he is not smart, and he is not brave either. He is a normal young boy and the way he is acting is understandable. I am sure that Yuki will annoy some readers but I think the way he is reacting to the things around him is quite realistic. Yuno is a very…strange character.

She is obsessively in love with Yuki. She will do anything for her love for him without hesitation. Even if it means killing someone. These two are Future Diary‘s main characters and they make a very interesting pair. There are some other characters introduced that are participants in the game: Minene Uryu (a terroist), Keigo Kurusu (a detective), and another guy who is unnamed that gets killed almost immediately. I really want to learn more about the characters- expecially Yuno. They all have something about them that makes you want to know more about their personalities and past.

There is plenty of action and things happening in this volume. There is also a lot of suspense. I was never bored. In fact, I couldn’t stop reading. I just had to know what would happen next. I should also warn you that if you decide to read this manga you are going to need to suspend your beliefs a bit. There was one instance where a person escapes on a motorcycle that just popped out of nowhere.

The art is very clean and nice to look at. The actions scenes were decently drawn and the character designs were nice to. I have also noticed that Future Diary is the only manga that I have read where the students do not wear uniforms at school…

The first volume of Future Diary was good but it was a set up for the next volumes so I believe that the story will get better. I will definitely be reading next volumes of Future Diary.