Amber Morrell

writer, reader, librarian

Category: Uncategorized

REVIEW: THE GIRL IN THE WELL IS ME by Karen Rivers

51gubUXsmpL._SX372_BO1,204,203,200_THE GIRL IN THE WELL IS ME by Karen Rivers
Release Date: March 15th, 2016
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Format: Ebook ARC from NetGalley
Purchase: Amazon

The Girl in the Well is Me is one of those books that has you laughing and crying at the same time. I absolutely adored Karen Rivers’ unique and funny voice, and her ability to really bring you in to Kammie’s head even as she loses coherency.

Kammie is smart and funny, if a bit naïve about certain things. It seems at first that she is just an average girl subjected to bullying while trying to fit in at her new school. But as the novel goes on it’s revealed that Kammie is anything but average; and discovering (as she suffers in a claustrophobic abandoned well) her troubled past is half the fun.

I really enjoy Kammie’s character because she seems like the type of character that’s usually on the other side of the coin. Wealthy, smart, good at ice skating and horseback riding—she is the kind of girl that might be the antagonist of the story, not usually the on you root for. And in a lot of ways, I did dislike her–but her self-realization that she was not the best person is part of why I like her. She starts to realize that personal identity is not linked to personal wealth, and that she can be who she wants to be without being a wealthy, popular girl.

While the voice of this novel is definitely where it shines most, I’m also really fond of the overall structure of how the story is told. Kammie spends most of the book inside a well. The action comes from the things she hallucinates, her interactions with the people outside of the well, and the slow revelations of her past. Despite the main character’s relative immobility, this book is still a page-turner. I found myself desperate to learn more about Kammie and her past life, but also anxious for her to escape her current predicament. Rivers is good at creating atmosphere and really making me feel claustrophobic right alongside Kammie. The unique voice and premise of this novel make it a winner for me.

five-star

#DiverseReads2016

logo_WNDB_300pwxI’m excited to join my first ever themed reading challenge, #DiverseReads2016. This challenge is hosted by Mishma of Chasing Faerytales and Shelly of Read.Sleep.Repeat. You can read more about the challenge here. The purpose of the Diverse Reads challenge is to read and talk about books that are written by diverse authors and feature diverse protagonists.

Personally, I think it is important to go out of my way to find these books and actively engage with them. I am a very privileged, middle-class white woman. Often I feel out of touch with people from different backgrounds and experiences that do not have the same opportunities that I have. One of the things I want to do in 2016 is to talk less and listen more. By reading diverse books (especially ones by diverse authors) and actively discussing them, promoting them, and engaging with them, I’ll gain more empathy and understanding and also elevate the voices that need to be elevated. This isn’t just with books, either–this is with bloggers and activists as well. In our current media climate, where hatred is spewed based on stereotypes, it’s important to listen, to seek understanding, and to find common ground.

 

As I said, I want to focus not just on books featuring diverse characters, but on ones written by diverse authors. These will be marked with the #OwnVoices hashtag.

I’m still building my TBR list, but look out for coming reviews that feature #DiverseReads2016!

 

REVIEW: QUEEN OF SHADOWS by Sarah J. Maas

18006496

QUEEN OF SHADOWS by Sarah J. Maas
Release Date: Sep 1, 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Purchased
Purchase: Amazon

I recently finished Queen of Shadows and I wanted to share some thoughts on it. I read the first three books at the beginning of 2015 and I fell in love with them, even though some aspects of them were problematic, and I eagerly awaited the release of Queen of Shadows. Of course between school and life I wasn’t able to finish it until recently even though it was released several months ago–and for many reasons, I was ultimately underwhelmed. I know that Queen of Shadows is a few months old at this point and that it’s already been reviewed to death, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts on it.

My first issue is more with Maas’ plotting technique. I think she does a great job keeping readers in suspense by hiding information that the characters know but don’t divulge. This is what made learning Celaena/Aelin’s secrets so fun, because even though we were in her head, we didn’t know the whole story. She creates really complex strategies and plans for the characters in this novel, and I love how cunning they are when they try to figure out how to solve their problems. BUT. Everything always works out for them without a hitch. Even in situations where they are going against all odds, where failure seems certain, they succeed–and they don’t just succeed, but they do it with minimal losses and setbacks. I found myself rolling my eyes whenever characters talked about how they couldn’t believe this plan or that really worked, or when they were being all angsty about the possibility that they would die, because their plans ALWAYS work out. I wish Maas would throw a wrench in things every once in a while to make things interesting. And while she does have some interesting plot twists, everything just fits together much too simply.

That was my biggest problem with the book. My second issue is the direction Rowan and Aelin’s relationship goes in this novel. One of the things I loved about the two of them in Heir of Fire was that they counted on each other and trusted each other wholly and completely, but it didn’t need to be romantic to be such a deep bond. Well, all that character building goes up in flames in this novel, because the two of them finally take the plunge. And it’s… cringey. Maas tries to make it sexy, but it’s just awkward.

Now, all of these problems together would have made this a two star book, if it weren’t for… the WITCHES. Manon Blackbeak is by far the best part of the novel. She develops as a character more than any of the other characters do, and her development is awesome. Every time I reached a Manon or Elide chapter I got excited; yes, even Elide, the new character, who at first made me groan because I thought it was going to be another boring, dumb Sorscha, is totally awesome. There’s a point in the novel where Asterin, Manon’s second, divulges a dark secret to Manon, and I CRIED. Another moment of note was when Manon and Aelin have the best most epic and badass fight scene of the entire series. It was probably my favorite part of this book.

I love the witches so much, and they are the whole reason this book has three stars. If it weren’t for the witches, I probably wouldn’t continue reading this series. I mean, I do want to find out how it all ties together, but… mostly I just want more witch action.

three-star

REVIEW: THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US by EMILY SKRUTSKIE

b543a9505294c4760bcdf8f782e273e4THE ABYSS SURROUNDS US by Emily Skrutskie
Release Date: Feb 8, 2016
Publisher: Flux
Format: ARC Ebook from NetGalley
Purchase: Paperback (Amazon)

 

This book is pure girl power. Sometime in the future, the world has fragmented into smaller nations, and the rise of cities floating in the ocean has created a booming piracy industry. In order to combat this, many ships hire giant, genetically-engineered sea monsters called Reckoners to protect them. From the beginning, Cas is a girl that’s driven to succeed and prove herself as a Reckoner trainer, no matter what it takes. When she’s captured by pirates, rather than give up or give in, she takes matters into her own hands in order to do what’s right. Rather than just let the pirates get away with having their own terrifying monster of the deep, she’s determined to discover just who enabled them to get their hands on such technology, even though doing so comes at a high personal cost. Cas is not physically strong, but her inner-strength and determination are admirable.

And then there’s Swift. Oh man, I am 100% straight but let me tell you, Swift could convince me otherwise. She’s totally kick-ass, doesn’t take crap from anybody, and even though she’s kept on a short leash by the captain she has her own set of morals and obligations. You can tell that Swift, though extremely loyal to Santa Elena, faces a lot of internal conflict—and not just romantic—once Cas arrives, and that tension is fantastic.

Santa Elena, though very important in her actions, doesn’t make a super in-depth appearance in this book, but since it’s a series I’m seriously hoping to see more of her. She herself is a badass in her own right, and though I downright hate her at times for the things she does, I can’t help but admire her strength and fortitude. She took charge of a ship with a baby strapped to her back, and as a mom myself I always appreciate them getting some screen time. Even though she’s pretty much the antagonist, I loved that there was a strong woman that could kick ass, take charge, and be a loving mother at the same time. (Not to mention all the sexy outfits she wears—seriously, #goals.)

From the outset this story seems like a simple swashbuckling adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean style, but it actually poses some interesting questions about morality, in particular the morality of counter-terrorism. Until she was captured by pirates, Cas was basically on the side of the law—but in the NeoPacific, certain systematic factors drive people inevitably to piracy for their own survival. Is utter destruction a fair punishment for scavenging the seas to survive? These are questions that Cas battles with, and can’t really answer by the end. But as a reader, it’s apparent that underneath the action and adventure and sexual tension, there are some really deep themes being explored.

Before I read it I did have some doubts. A friend I was describing it to asked me if it was like Pokemon. To set the record straight: it’s nothing like Pokemon (even though Pokemon is totally awesome). It’s a wonderfully diverse, girl-powered adventure, and it’s written in a delightful voice that’s quite funny at times. It’s definitely a page-turner, because I couldn’t put it down! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Cas and Swift in the next installment.

This is my first every book review. Sorrynotsorry if it sucks.

five-star

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén