Book Review: The V-Word


Book Review: The V-WordThe V-Word: True Stories about First-Time Sex by Amber J. Keyser
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Simon Pulse/Beyond Words
Pages: 208

Losing it. Popping your cherry. Handing in your V-card.

First time sex is a big unknown. Will it be candlelight and rose petals or quick and uncomfortable? Is it about love or about lust? Deciding to have sex for the first time is a choice that’s often fraught with anxiety and joy. But do you have anyone telling you what sex is really like?

In The V-Word seventeen writers (including Christa Desir, Justina Ireland, Sara Ryan, Carrie Mesrobian, Erica Lorraine Scheidt, and Jamia Wilson) pull back the sheets and tell all, covering everything from straight sex to queer sex, diving-in versus waiting, and even the exhilaration and disappointment that blankets it all. Some of their experiences happened too soon, some at just the right time, but all paint a broad picture of what first-time sex is really like.

Funny, hot, meaningful, cringe-worthy, gross, forgettable, magnificent, empowering, and transformative, the stories in The V-Word are never preachy, but provide a map for teens to chart their own course through the steamy waters of sex. With The V-Word girls can finally take control, learn what’s on the horizon, and eliminate the fear and mystery surrounding this important milestone.

Overall, this is a great collection of short stories about first times. The stories run the gamut from super awkward to not-so-bad first experiences. None of them were exactly awesome first experiences, but several came out pretty good. I like the open honesty that all the women shared. Most didn’t pull punches, which was refreshing to see. After all, the biggest problem with sex is that we don’t talk about it openly enough, but we treat it as if it’s something that should be swept under a rug. Our teens need this open honesty to see that they’re not alone and that it’s okay to talk about how they’re feeling.

I truly appreciate that Keyser made sure there were essays from all parts of life, especially when it came to be sexual orientation and identity. I loved that there were stories from lesbian, bisexual, and even a transgendered woman. Not only that, there were varying walks of life. There were people who were religious, who had been sexually abused, who waited for marriage, and who fell into it all by accident. It was also nice to see a range of ages, the youngest being 13 and the oldest at 23.

The best part is that Keyser spends 20 pages or so breaking issues down and giving more resources for teen to follow-up with. She covers topics like knowing your body, masturbation, sexual assault, age of consent, and talking to parents. It’s like a quick mini road map that teens can use to guide them to valid resources both in print and online.

Final Verdict: A solid collection of stories about first experiences that should be put into teen hands. This is easily one I’ll put on my library shelves.

Book Review: Burning Midnight


Book Review: Burning MidnightBurning Midnight by Will McIntosh
Release Date: February 2nd 2016
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 320
Source: Publisher

Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent.

No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the greater the improvement—and the more expensive the sphere.

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them.

There’s no question the Gold is priceless, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.

The start to this one is a bit slow. In fact, it took a good 20-25 pages until I fully understood what spheres were and why they were so important. Admittedly, this was slightly my fault since I didn’t re-read the description to refresh my memory before starting the book, but it also shouldn’t take so long to be introduced to the world. I almost wished that I had a little guide on  spheres, how they worked, and how many there were.

Once I grasped what was happening, I did enjoy the world. I thought it was an interesting concept, especially considering human nature. Who wouldn’t pay a couple hundred here and there for simple things like whiter teeth or ease of sleeping. People pay that now for different medications or gimmicks that aren’t always a sure bet. Of course, the super powerful spheres that increases intelligence or looks are rare and expensive.  Only those with lots of money could afford them. Maybe if you were a lucky hunter, you might who would find a pair to burn, but basically it was the rich get richer situation, which was fully realistic.

I will say the pacing was a bit off for me. There were times where the book moved along at a good speed, but then other times when it dragged. I loved the earlier hunting scenes with Hunter and Sully, but the scenes when they’re searching the water towers felt a bit too slow for me. I understand that McIntosh needed to show that it took a while, but I was quite bored. On the other hand, once they find the Gold, things seems to kick into super high speed. This is also where you have to start suspending belief. Almost nothing that happens after finding the Gold seems truly believable or possible. However, if you allow yourself to just roll with it, it’s a fun adventure.

The only part that I can’t quite get over is the ending. I don’t want to give anything away, but it felt extremely too easy. I could buy into what the spheres actually were, but how they solved it all seemed almost like a cop-out. It tied up way too nicely in a bow for my taste. I guess I wanted more than what I got.

I’m a little torn on how I feel about the love aspect. There is a nice build up between Hunter and Sully, but it also have the feel of insta-love. For most of the book, there a pretty big distrust between them, especially when a deal goes awry. However, they do actually spend a lot of time hunting together, so when you figure in that it’s probably been at least a couple of months it does sort of work. I think it was the out-of the blue declarations that didn’t work for me. Most of the book, Hunter keeps Sully at arm’s length and then suddenly she’s proclaiming how he’s the best thing ever in her life. It was a bit cheesy, but I know know of teens who will probably eat it up.

All that being said, this was a fast sci-fi read. I read it in one day, and while flawed, I couldn’t put it down. I would easily give these to my teens who are just starting in sci-fi or who are looking for an adventure book. It’s a bit on the big side for reluctant readers, but one I do think they’d enjoy.  It would also be a good pairing for 5th Wave, although there aren’t nearly as many mind games or heavy strategy in this one.

Final Verdict: A great new YA sci-fi book. While it does have some flaws, it’s a quick read filled with tons of adventure.

Book Review: Traveler


Book Review: TravelerTraveler by Arwen Elys Dayton
Series: Seeker #2
Release Date: January 12th 2016
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher

Quin Kincaid is a Seeker. Her legacy is an honor, an ancient role passed down for generations. But what she learned on her Oath night changed her world forever.

Quin pledged her life to deception. Her legacy as a Seeker is not noble but savage. Her father, a killer. Her uncle, a liar. Her mother, a casualty. And the boy she once loved is out for vengeance, with her family in his sights.

Yet Quin is not alone. Shinobu, her oldest companion, might now be the only person she can trust. The only one who wants answers as desperately as she does.

But the deeper they dig into the past, the darker things become. There are long-vanished Seeker families, shadowy alliances, and something else: a sinister plan begun generations ago, with the power to destroy them all.

The past is close. And it will destroy them all.

Often times, middle books in a trilogy (at least I’m assuming it’s a trilogy) can be lukewarm, that bridge between book one and three that gives just enough information to move the story along. Thankfully, that is not the case for Traveler. I love how much information we get from this story about Catherine (John’s mom) and the whole seeker history.  

The POV is multiple just like the first book; however, we get a couple of additional character perspectives with Catherine and Nott. While six characters seems overwhelming, the majority of the story is really told by Quinn and Catherine. I was a bit sad that Maud didn’t have as much of a presence in this book, especially since she is one of my favorites. I still don’t really connect to John or Shinobu very much, although Quinn is starting to grow on me. I did love John’s growth as well, even though he is not my favorite. Catherine was a great addition and I was glad that we got to see the story unravel through her eyes, especially since so much of what we know is thanks to her and her detective work.

The setting this time around felt a bit more jarring. I’m really not sure why it bothered me this time and not last time. Maybe because last time I had assumed it was a steampunk world, but I’m not longer sure that’s the case. It felt so more modern this time …  and yet not? I don’t know. I eventually just had to throw the whole setting thing out the window before it annoyed me to no end. I’ll go back to my initial recommendation of just rolling with it.  

The thing I liked the least was the romance between Quinn and Shinobu. Thankfully Dayton did not remind us constantly that they were distantly related; in fact, it may only be mentioned once. However, I just didn’t feel their relationship. I know they’ve known each other their entire lives, but it just felt super fast. While Shinobu has been in love with Quinn forever, she was set on John until just a few months ago. I guess, for the most part, I just didn’t feel the chemistry. Now, this could be that Seeker is a bit hazy in some details, but looking at my review of Seeker, I complained about it then as well. I suppose they’re just not the pairing for me. However, I do think it will be a big part of book three, especially considering how this one ended.

Speaking of how it ended, be ready for a cliff-hanger. Yes, most seeker history related things are answered, but my oh my, Dayton knows how to leave you hanging. I’ll be interested to see where book 3 goes, especially considering most things felt wrapped up in Traveler. I am sure there is a lot more to the story though, and I can’t wait to see it unravel.

Final Verdict: Great second book filled with much needed history and unraveled secrets. I’ll happily pick up book 3, especially considering the huge cliff-hanger.

 

This review is part of the Traveler Blog Tour. See below for other participants.

January 11 – Seeing Double in Neverland
January 11 – The Cover Contessa
January 12 –  Once Upon A Twilight
January 12 – Two Chicks on Books
January 13 – Take Me Away to a Great Read
January 13 – Lytherus
January 14Supernatural Snark
January 15Bookish Lifestyle
January 15The Eater of Books
January 16Adventures in YA Publishing
January 16Page Turners
January 17Winterhaven Books
January 17Black Dog Speaks
January 18A Dream Within A Dream
January 18Sci Fi Fan Letter
January 19Mundie Moms
January 19The Reading Nook Reviews

 

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 4

Well, this week was rough. I only got 3 books read. Admittedly, one of them was over 800 pages though! That puts me at 22 books in 30 days. Not quite the full 30, but I’ll take it.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 4The Looney Experiment by Luke Reynolds
Release Date: August 4th 2015
Publisher: Blink
Pages: 208
Source: Library

Atticus Hobart couldn't feel lower. He's in love with a girl who doesn't know he exists, he is the class bully's personal punching bag, and to top it all off, his dad has just left the family. Into this drama steps Mr. Looney, a 77-year-old substitute English teacher with uncanny insight and a most unconventional approach to teaching. But Atticus soon discovers there's more to Mr. Looney's methods than he'd first thought. And as Atticus begins to unlock the truths within his own name, he finds that his hyper-imagination can help him forge his own voice, and maybe just maybe discover that the power to face his problems was inside him all along.


This was a middle of the road book for me. I can totally see middle school boys liking it, especially those reluctant readers who like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It was a bit predictable and I would have loved a bit more depth to it. An okay read that’s worth checking out.

 


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 4Boys Don't Knit (In Public) Release Date: March 24th 2015
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 272

I’m still not sure how I feel about this one. I was expecting something a little different. It had some funny moments, but nothing that I laughed hard about. (Well, except for the old granny chasing bullies with a giant knitting needle.) Language and  sex chatter move this one to solid high school. I will say that I didn’t like how Ben’s friends treated most women. There one scene, which was the worst, where they watched a girl on crutches putting her groceries into her car because when she bent over you could see under her skirt. The one friend even taped part of it, which ew! However, there was alway the implication/comment that what they were doing was wrong and that Ben needed new friends. Still doesn’t make it 100% better, but at least it’s not being applauded. But I will say they protected their friend when he needed it the most, which helped redeem their uncool behavior a bit as well.

 


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 4Winter by Marissa Meyer
Release Date: November 10th 2015
Publisher: Macmillan
Pages: 832

Aw, man, this book was a beast! Over 800 pages, whew. Main verdict is that I liked it and was happy with how the series wrapped up. The fight scenes with Levana and the ending dragged on a bit, which is probably my biggest complaint. Although, I don’t feel like things were a bit too open ended with Cinder and Kai. It would be years before Lunar would be under control again and it’s hard to believe that he would wait that long. I mean, long distance relationships are hard enough when you’re on the same planet. I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like for them. However, it was fitting at the same time so I can’t complain too much.

As a side note: I listened to about 1/2 of this on audio, which was absolutely fantastic. However, it was 23 hours long! I don’t get a lot of opportunity to listen to audiobooks (mainly in the gym) and simply could not wait to found out how this one ended, which is why I delved into the print book instead of listening it out.

 

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 3

I wasn’t able to make up the books from last week (yet), but I was at least on track this week! Here’s what I read

 


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 3Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
Release Date: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Pages: 192
Source: Library

When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him:
Joseph almost killed a teacher.
He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain.
He has a daughter. Her name is Jupiter. And he has never seen her.

What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl.

Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help.
But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen. The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine.


I don’t want to say a lot about this one here. I’m doing a reader vs. reader feature over at TSU. It’ll be posting the first couple of weeks of Decembers, so I’ll be sure to link back then.

 


This was a rather sweet story for the most part. It does feel a bit weird saying that since it was between a 15 year-old and a 19 year-old, but nothing actually happened and it was portrayed in a kind of innocent/sweet way. It was more about Maggie coming to terms with who she was and how she felt. The art work just didn’t work for me. It’s not horrible, but not a style I really like.

 


This book is…intense. In a very, very good way. It’s timely topic that hits right where it hurts. The amount of passages I have marked is unreal. This is the book for my book club on Tuesday, so, I plan to come back and talk more about my and their thoughts.

 


I guess I decided that this week I didn’t want to hold back any punches. I’m trying to read more non-fiction. Shyima’s story is heart-wrenching, but it wasn’t that engaging. I felt for Shyima, but wasn’t emotionally attached to her or her story. Nonetheless, it was great read to see inside of child slavery and what Shyima had to overcome both in slavery and once she was freed.

 


I know, I know, my manga/anime cred is much lower admitting I haven’t read this series yet. However, I am not and I can see why it’s so popular. I love the cat and mouse game that has started and how smart it is. I’m sure the next couple of volumes will make their way into next week’s read pile.

 


I still have no idea what is happening in this series. I don’t know why, but I’m having a lot of trouble keeping the characters and storyline straight. It’s like there’s just too much going on for me to fully enjoy it. However, I can see the teens liking it, but I don’t think I’ll be continuing on with the series beyond this volume.

 


This manga wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t awesome either. There’s not really any storyline going one, which may be why I’m not completely on board yet. The set-up is intriguing though, so I’ll give it another volume or two before I fully set my opinion in stone.