Saturday, December 27, 2014


3.5 out of 5 Stars

Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.  

Handpicked to host the first-ever L’eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she’ll have inside information about the mysterious L’eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara’s blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn’t sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L’eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn’t seem more alien. She’s certain about one thing, though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class. 

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn’t just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life—not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet. (from

I just read a scathing review of this book on Goodreads. Was it flawless? No. Were the characters in-depth and multi-dimensional? Not in the slightest. Was it entertaining? It was decent. 

I wouldn't say this book was awful, but I wouldn't say it was amazing either. It's right there in the middle for me. Mediocre. The writing isn't terrible. There was humor which I enjoyed. The premise was interesting. The scathing review said it wasn't creative but I beg to differ. The idea of an alien exchange program is pretty inventive. 

Let's talk about the characters for a bit, first. 

Cara starts out smart and savvy, a fiery redhead with determination. But as the story goes along she becomes more and more of a victim. She lets things happen to her and I didn't like that. For someone who was supposed to be so determined, stubborn, and headstrong, she was sure a pushover. She runs a blog that's pretty witty at first. Her journalistic need to find the truth is pretty much nonexistent once she decides she is in love with the alien boy. All of her friends abandon her, yet she still chooses Aelyx. Now what teenage girl who is even remotely popular at school do you know that would throw all of her friends and her ranking away for a boy everyone else hates? Especially as her life gets threatened. Cara seems to have a whole different moral set than most girls her age. I kinda wish there was more fight in her. That she would have started blaming Aelyx and searching for the truth behind some of his sketchy ways rather than becoming a milk-toast and sappy girl who falls for the mysterious bad-boy. Landers could/should have really honed in on Cara's journalist traits, have her discover the truth herself, and then have to decide if she would expose him or if she would keep his secret simply because somewhere in the ride she had fallen in love with him. That is the true conflict, to me, but it gets glossed over. Or something. I'm not even sure. 

There's a part when she is confronting Aelyx and wants the truth. How does he get away with not telling her? He starts touching her. Instead of seeing through it, Cara gets all weak in the knees for him. What is that teaching girls? That their man can do anything he wants as long as he kisses her and swoons her just right. Ugh. 

And Aelyx. The alien boy. I'm not sure why he suddenly falls for Cara. It seems to come out of nowhere especially after how much he supposedly hates Earth and humans. He obviously hates Earth enough to come up with a plot with his friends to destroy Earth. Even after discovering said plot, Cara is angry but eventually takes him back because he's misunderstood? What? And what's with the aliens looking just like humans? Landers could have had some sort of Beauty and the Beast thing going where Cara sees past an intimidating, otherworldly exterior and falls in love with him. 

Tori. I enjoyed her spunk. But then she becomes stereotypical and betrays Cara for what? No good reason. For someone who was supposed to be even more fiery and stubborn than Cara, she sure turned her back quickly. While we later find that she wasn't entirely a traitor, it still just plays off as too convenient and dramatic for the plot. 

Eric. Stereotypical jock. I'm not sure where the attraction is with Cara and him or how they became involved. I think it would have been better if they were just platonic friends that grew apart and Cara sees him and Tori hooking up as an extra stab in the back. 

The parents. So goody-goody for their own good. Always making out which is gross. I'm not sure why that needed to be in the story. And they let their daughter get away with murder. And they hold their ground even as their jobs and social lives are at stake. I'm not sure I know of any parent who would actually do that. You would think at least one of them would start thinking "Hey maybe we should send the alien back before the town decides to tar and feather us." 

The ambassador. Aelyx's ambassador or whatever is supposed to look old but not really be old. He's also monotone. I understand why Landers has him that way and it gets explained, but he's supposed to be a somewhat antagonist yet he ends up being forgettable because he's so drab. Speaking of antagonist...I'm not really sure who the actual antagonist is in this book. Was it Aelyx? Is it The Way? Is it Cara? There's just no telling. 

Syrene and Eron. Aelyx's friends are alright. They serve as points to help move the story along but Syrene is too angry all the time to relate to. Eron doesn't get enough stage time to really be significant. 

Despite the flaws in the character building, I didn't mind it. There are other YA books I've read where I have been frustrated with the characters all the way through reading. That wasn't the case with this. I just wish, for once, authors would create a love story that wasn't perfect, where the characters made stupid decisions and lived with those choices, where the headstrong girl stayed true to her character and didn't get swayed by some handsome stranger. 

That brings me to the themes in the book. This is where I think Landers did a good job. She shows that tolerance and discrimination are real human acts. Cara does serve as the ideal in this aspect. She sees how her classmates and people in her town treat Aelyx and she sees a problem with it. Her parents stand up for Aelyx constantly. Looking at Alienated as a lesson in acceptance and overcoming differences sheds a whole new light on it. Beyond the obligatory romance (really, I don't understand the attraction just like with most YA novels out there) we find a story of how humans treat those who are different which is a theme that is entirely relevant in our time (Ferguson riots ring any bells?). 

While I didn't hate this book, I also don't think it was my favorite. Now, that being said, I didn't like Divergent when I first read it also. It took reading the second and third books and watching the movie for me to really fall in love with that story. I will continue to read what Landers has to offer with this series. Hopefully she can add some elements and depth that will catapult it from mediocre to outstanding. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bodies of Water

4.5 of 5 Stars

In 1960, Billie Valentine is a young housewife living in a sleepy Massachusetts suburb, treading water in a dull marriage and caring for two adopted daughters. Summers spent with the girls at their lakeside camp in Vermont are her one escape - from her husband's demands, from days consumed by household drudgery, and from the nagging suspicion that life was supposed to hold something different. Then a new family moves in across the street. Ted and Eva Wilson have three children and a fourth on the way, and their arrival reignites long-buried feelings in Billie. The affair that follows offers a solace Billie has never known, until her secret is revealed and both families are wrenched apart in the tragic aftermath. Fifty years later, Ted and Eva's son, Johnny, contacts an elderly but still spry Billie, entreating her to return east to meet with him. Once there, Billie finally learns the surprising truth about what was lost, and what still remains, of those joyful, momentous summers. (from

I will admit I set this one on my shelf for a long time and it wasn't because I didn't want to read it. Any time Miss Greenwood releases a new book I am ready to devour it. She is one of my absolute favorite authors and I still pride myself in finding her book, by sheer luck, at a Barnes and Noble a few years ago. That being said, she's got a new book coming out, The Forever Bridge, and I'm ecstatic for its release. 

Bodies of Water does not disappoint. Greenwood treats the story with her signature pizazz and knack for capturing the right words. I was constantly impressed with the imagery of water throughout. Water becomes an extended metaphor throughout the entire novel. The story is captivating. A gift of Miss Greenwood's is to take a story that may seem predictable at face value but she captures the reader with her distinct prose. The character of Ted Wilson seems a little stereotypical, for example, but Miss Greenwood still manages to make it interesting. 

If homosexual romances offend you in any way, but you have read Miss Greenwood before and loved it, still give this one a chance. It may just alter your view of homosexual men and women. I think it was meant to be a twist in the plot, or at least a secret, since the synopsis on the back of the book doesn't really say anything about it. Whatever your response is to it I certainly hope it doesn't force you away from finishing the book. This is one book that explores the nature of love. What it really means to love and how freeing it is to follow your heart. Billie and Eva are a believable couple and their story is something that gives hope to any who long for love. 

I highly recommend this novel and any other work by Miss Greenwood. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I'm Not Dead

Hello, my few and loyal followers and friends!

Just so you know. I'm not dead. Here's a quick update since last I posted.

  • Still living in San Diego
  • Still in the Navy
  • I made Second Class Petty Officer. It's kind of a funny story as to how I found out. I'll share another time/another post. 
  • I've got a town home in the center of Mission Valley with my cousin. It's a great setup and awesome to have family in the city with me. 
  • I don't get to go home for the holidays.
  • I am a sexual assault victim advocate, nationally certified. I went through 40 hours of rigorous training to be able to help victims of sexual assault. It has already been a very rewarding experience. 
  • No romance/love interests. For the first time in, well, ever...I have no crushes, nobody I'm talking to, and I'm fine with that. I've said I've "given up" before but this time seems to be real.
  • Work is insanely busy. My ship is going through intense training and inspection. We are almost done with it though. 
  • Because work is so busy I don't read near as much as I used to. I've been trying to get through Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin. It's good but the story has taken a huge diversion from the other plots so it has been hard to adjust. I also just devoured over half of T. Greenwood's Bodies of Water yesterday. She is fantastic. You will most likely see a book review for it soon. 
That pretty much sums up everything going on with me. I wish I had more exciting things to share. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

North of Boston


Elisabeth Elo’s debut novel introduces Pirio Kasparov, a Boston-bred tough-talking girl with an acerbic wit and a moral compass that points due north.

When the fishing boat Pirio is on is rammed by a freighter, she finds herself abandoned in the North Atlantic. Somehow, she survives nearly four hours in the water before being rescued by the Coast Guard. But the boat’s owner and her professional fisherman friend, Ned, is not so lucky.

Compelled to look after Noah, the son of the late Ned and her alcoholic prep school friend, Thomasina, Pirio can’t shake the lurking suspicion that the boat’s sinking—and Ned’s death—was no accident. It’s a suspicion seconded by her deeply cynical, autocratic Russian father, who tells her that nothing is ever what it seems. Then the navy reaches out to her to participate in research on human survival in dangerously cold temperatures.

With the help of a curious journalist named Russell Parnell, Pirio begins unraveling a lethal plot involving the glacial whaling grounds off Baffin Island. In a narrow inlet in the arctic tundra, Pirio confronts her ultimate challenge: to trust herself. 

A gripping literary thriller, North of Boston combines the atmospheric chills of Jussi Adler-Olsen with the gritty mystery of Laura Lippman. And Pirio Kasparov is a gutsy, compellingly damaged heroine with many adventures ahead. (From

I had high hopes for this book. So much so that I made it the book of the month in the book club I run online. I'm not saying it was disappointing, just that I expected more. 

First, the good points.

Pirio is a great heroine. She's flawed but strong. She's witty, compassionate, a little stubborn, free-willed. All those good things that people love in a female lead. Her quips are fun. She's emotional when she needs to be and doesn't come off as spoiled or whiny. 

The storyline is interesting. I love a good mystery and this one seemed to be different than the rest. Which is true. It definitely stands out and I give Elo kudos for trying to break the formula. This book is often compared, in other reviews, to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl but I don't really see it. 

I'm writing this review after a few months of reading it, but I do remember that the writing was quite excellent. She has a knack for atmosphere and detail. At times, though, I felt it was too weighed down with prose for there to be excitement. I liked the feel of Boston for this book. 

And now the bad news. 

I'm in the navy, and this book deals with some of the navy culture. I'm sorry, but the navy I know wouldn't give two hoots about a woman who survived a cold dive in the water. Least of all a captain in the navy. It felt like that part of it wasn't researched well. That is, in fact, where I began to lose interest. 

The storyline with her annoying, drunkard friend got to be too much. Her friend was someone I wanted to reach into the book and strangle. That's not a bad thing. In fact, that's a sign of a good writer who can create such an emotion in the reader. However, it didn't feel like it served a purpose other than to create depth in Pirio. 

A sure sign of a book I'm not terribly fond of is when I decide it is better to just start skimming. I'm usually pretty persistent and will and have suffered from terrible story lines, just to say I got to the end without skimming. I don't have time for that anymore. I wanted to know what happened, though, so I skimmed enough to know the gist of the ending. 

Perhaps I am too harsh. I would read more of Elo's work in the future. However, if the next project she puts out garners the same result, I'd think twice before reading more. 



Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most. (From

I devoured this book. Oliver is a constant favorite of mine in the YA genre. She has a knack for capturing imagery and emotion. This book was interesting because it felt dystopian but it was set in present day America. The characters are believable and developed well. The romance between Bishop and Heather doesn't seem forced in any way. All in all an excellent read and another gold star for Miss Oliver. Fans of her Delirium trilogy won't be disappointed, however, it takes some adjusting because it isn't as fast-paced and breathtaking as those books. I do like, though, that Oliver has managed to create a world like the Hunger Games set in our own present-day life. That, in itself, is a statement. 

Red Rising

Woot! Woot!

I devoured the beginning of this book. The different landscape and futuristic world on Mars was intriguing to me. Darrow is an awesome protagonist because he has flaws of a godlike superhero. Rage, vengeance, pride drive him to carve away his low Red upbringing and become a Gold to take down the unjust caste system of which he and his family have suffered from for years. He loses his wife which is the driving force behind what he does. It is all very creative and grandiose. Pierce Brown has created a world unlike any other I have ever read. 

It has hints of Hunger Games influence as Darrow is forced to compete against other Golds to be the greatest and be picked to lead fleets and armies of Mars. It is much more gruesome and graphic than Hunger Games but the story is geared more toward a mature audience. 

There is a lull in the story about three quarters of the way in where Brown almost lost me but I pushed through and the pay off was great. The ending has a few twists and it ends with a thrilling call for him to Rise, marking his first move in his rebellion. The battle has only just begun and Darrow has shown himself to be a threat to be reckoned with. 

I look forward to the next installment, Golden Son, in this exciting series. Highly recommended for sci-fi and adventure readers. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars


Every once in awhile a book comes along that changes you. When you find that book you find yourself thinking about it well after you've finished it. You set it down regretfully while you're reading it because you don't want to put it down. Once it is finished you are sad that it is over. The Fault in Our Stars was one of these books for me. 

For a brief synopsis: The narrator is Hazel, a sixteen-year-old girl who has dealt with cancer all her life. Her form of cancer, once it was eradicated from her body, left her with fluid in her lungs and the fear that she could get it all again. She meets a boy, Augustus Waters, who is another cancer patient. His cancer left him with an amputated leg. An unlikely and, seemingly, doomed romance ensues between the two. 

I loved the symbolism in this book. It's something you don't see very much in popular literature these days. People are up for instant gratification and no longer like to delve into the deeper meaning of what they read. 

John Green said he wanted to create  a story that showed a less glamorous look at the life of cancer. Throughout the story Hazel demeans this when someone from her support group dies and their Facebook wall lights up with posts about how wonderful, brave, and perfect that person was when, in reality, these people never knew the real person. Being a victim of cancer or a cancer survivor or a cancer patient, in and of itself, is enough to raise you to sainthood. This is one of the ideals Hazel remains constant about and I think it's because Green is trying to tell us that it is ok to humanize the dead, the cancer patient, and the victim. Celebrate that they were human and they lived a life that wasn't altogether perfect but they made the most of it. 

Hazel is very grim at first. She goes around thinking she's a walking time bomb. I loved her voice through Green's writing. She is a smart, intelligible and reliable narrator. There are moments of great insight and others of entertaining humor that all make Green's novel entertaining and valuable to any library. 

Augustus is a strong hero. I was uncomfortable when his illness started making him into a whiny, gloomy child, but Green explained that he did that on purpose. He wanted to show that death is not a pretty thing. Cancer is not pretty. 

I cannot gush on enough about this book. It has humor, romance, history, symbolism, allusion, great dialogue, awesome writing, and a fine attention to detail. You can tell the author has worked hard to create a story that is both entertaining and affective. I highly recommend it to anyone, but I also recommend that you have a tissue or two handy for the ending.