Vengeful by VE Schwab

Summary:

Sydney once had Serena—beloved sister, betrayed enemy, powerful ally. But now she is alone, except for her thrice-dead dog, Dol, and then there’s Victor, who thinks Sydney doesn’t know about his most recent act of vengeance.

Victor himself is under the radar these days—being buried and re-animated can strike concern even if one has superhuman powers. But despite his own worries, his anger remains. And Eli Ever still has yet to pay for the evil he has done.

The Review:

Vicious was one of my favorite books that I read in 2018, so of course I was excited about a sequel that was being written. This was also the book that made me fall in love with VE Schwab and her writing.

The book picks up a little after the events of Vicious and the sort of battle between Victor and Eli, two people who started off as friends, but then grew into bitter enemies. With Victor sort of living and dying back to living again, and Eli being in jail for his crimes in Vicious.

This book was very character driven, and Eli was the character I thought was a lot more fleshed out. You see a lot of backstory with him going from foster home to foster home without anything close to coming to a real home. Even though it seems pretty much like a super villain origin story, it makes him a very complex character.

Sydney and Mitch also returned for Vengeful, and Mitch’s backstory was definitely a lot more fleshed out, and he had some great bits of character development.

Then there is Marcella. Oh boy, Marcella. I feel in love with her from the very first page. She is a mob wife, who was “killed” by her husband and then starts to come into her power. She was one of my favorite characters of the book. She kinda has the sort of “evil is sexy” trope and I love how after her “death” she begins to take control of her own situation, and basically being a mob wife with super powers.

I also liked how in Marcella’s story she recruits sort of her own band of lieutenants. There is June who is a shapeshifter and could transform herself into anyone she comes across. She was also another badass character.

While I wouldn’t say this is plot driven like her other works. This book is very character driven in every way possible. All of the characters are all complex in their own way, and I like that the title of the series, is called Villains. Because it is very hard to pin point who are the villains of this story. It made me hard to choose sides between Victor and Eli because they are both such great and compelling characters.

This book also plays a lot with time. It uses flashbacks, to further flesh out the characters of the book, mainly Eli and Marcella. It may have been a bit confusing at first to figure out where in the timeline you are, but it is very worth it and has a lot of good build up, especially towards the end.

She also took a story about people with super powers and made it very exciting, and took full advantage of its premise. Some books dealing with super powers that I have read never really ran with the powers concept, but VE Schwab, took that concept and ran for a 100 yard touchdown.

In the end, Vengful, solidified why VE Schwab is one of my favorite authors. Her characters are rich,vibrant and complex. It was such a page turner that I was captivated from the first page. I know its  suppose to be a duology, but I just want more.

Grade: 5/5

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Big Little Lies (Book/Adaptation Review) By: Liane Moriarty-Also spoilers

This is something that I always kinda wanted to do for quite sometime now, in which I discuss both the book and its adaptation in the same review.

Also this will contain spoilers for both the show and the book.

For Big Little Lies I watched the show first last year when it was on HBO. I always would see the book at stores but never really would pick it up because it was never really a genre that I would grab towards which is mystery novels. My girlfriend would sometimes read mystery novels and they could either be really good or really bad. I also borrowed this book from my girlfriend for almost a year before reading it (sorry Julie).

I am first going to review the show.

Big Little Lies

Image result for big little lies show

The show premiered on HBO last spring in 2017. It starred Nicole Kidman as Celeste, Reese Witherspoon as Madeline, and Shailine Woodly as Jane.

It started with a mystery of what happened on a school’s trivia night and a dead body that came with it. Was in an accident or murder? That is what the book is trying to figure out.

It felt as if I was watching a very long movie, with nice and solid pacing. It was written by David E. Kelly who I have been following since his legal dramas, The Practice and Boston Legal, and it really paced out the book well.

What they left out/Changed

Since it is an adaptation, there will always be changes to fit the narrative. A major change is the setting. While the book took place in Australia, the show took place in California.

Also Madeline had another son, and so did Reneta who weren’t in the adaptation. It wasn’t a big change since those characters didn’t really add a lot to the plot.

Also there was an affair that Madeline had with her musical director in which she worked at, that wasn’t in the book, and I sort of didn’t like the subplot in the show. But it did give Madeline more to do.

There is also the character of Bonnie. Who in the end, was the one that pushed Perry during the trivia night. Her character was a lot more fleshed out in the book, and it actually gave reason as to why she pushed Perry off.

How it is as an adaptation

I watched the show, before I read the book, and I had the book for months because I borrowed it from my girlfriend. The show did follow a lot of the beats as the books.

It starts with the trivia night, and is told mostly through interviews of the other parents and teachers who were there, and starts from the first day of school. In which an incident occurred involving two of the children and Ziggy the son of Jane is accused on bullying, and from there it deals with the fallout from, party invitations, to wars between parties and gossiping moms all around.

It also deals with a semi civil war between the career moms and the stay at home moms. Especially with Renata and Madeline. The book dived more deeper into that situation.

It also dealt with the issue of domestic violence and how while Celeste and her husband Perry seem like an happy normal couple, who goes away on extravagant vacations all the time, but underneath there is violence among the marriage and Celeste tries to hide under all of that.

The show did a good job at highlighting the various degrees of a domestic violence perpetrator in which there are scenes of Perry being a loving and caring Husband and father, and then becomes the monster that he is.

I also liked how both the show and the book, had the same twist in which Perry was Ziggys father. The book was Jane saying his fake name and revealing that he was her rapist, was very chilling in both the show and the book.

As an adaptation I thought the show did an amazing job with the characters, and most of it lies in its performances especially by Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailine Woodley. Aleksander Skardgard and Laura Dern. Those performances elevated the characters and its now suprise that Nicole, Laura and Aleks all won Emmys for their peromances.

Image result for big little lies show emmy

Both the show and the book was amazing. I usually don’t read contemporary books and especially mysteries for that matter but loved it any way. I may read more of Lianne Moriarty’s work.

 

 

Wildcard by Marie Lu

Summary:

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo’s new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she’s always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo’s grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone’s put a bounty on Emika’s head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn’t all that he seems–and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

The Review:

This book, just proved why Marie Lu, is one of my favorite authors. I was also lucky to get an ARC of this book, while at a Sabaa Tahir event.

Wildcard picks up pretty much where Warcross left off. In which Emika found out about Hideo’s plan to use the Neurolink to basically control the population. What made it great was the act that it was one of those things that really makes you think whether or not that Hideo was right.

Emilka also joins Zero’s gang in order to take down Hideo, while also simultaneously trying to avoid Hideo at all costs, because some tried to kill her, and that’s where the plot gets moving. A major strength is how fast paced this book was, and I felt that there was never a dull moment in the book.

Also there is Zero’s story. His story arc was amazing, while in the Wildcard he was mainly a background character who speaks to Emika secretly, he really has some great development, and you find out about his backstory and all that has happened to him. I also loved seeing some Black coats especially Jax, who was one of my favorite characters.

Also Hideo’s story arc was great as well. He was a very complex character, and while he wants to use the Neurolink to basically control the population and destroy the notion of freewill. What made it great was how what he believed what he was doing was right, and was driven my the kidnapping of his brother. I always feel that best antagonists believe that they are the protagonists of their stories.

Also like a Marie Lu book, there is some twists and turns that I did not see coming. There is also the fact that the Neurolink was a small part of a bigger issue. That is all I am going to say because I do not want to spoil anything.

If there was a negative, I felt that I wish I saw more of the Phoenix Riders because I loved those characters so much in Warcross, and I wished they were more fleshed out in this book.

In the end, I loved Wildcard. It has everything that I love about Marie Lu’s books. With its amazing characters and a non stop plot. It takes some great twists and turns with a an amazing story to go with it.

Grade: 5/5

Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killen

Summary:

After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah–blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish–finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead. Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He’s a spy, and he needs Sarah to become one, too, to pull off a mission he can’t attempt on his own: infiltrate a boarding school attended by the daughters of top Nazi brass, befriend the daughter of a key scientist, and steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe. With years of training from her actress mother in the art of impersonation, Sarah thinks she’s ready. But nothing prepares her for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she finds herself in a battle for survival unlike any she’d ever imagined. 

The Review:

I remember seeing this book at a lot of book stores. The cover, first of all really intrigued me because it looked liked a great spy novel dealing with Nazis in WWII, and I always love a good undercover story.

The WWII setting within Nazi Germany, and with a Jewish protagonist going undercover at a boarding school in Germany with children of SS officers was a nice touch. Sarah, who was trained as an actress so she was able to infiltrate the school.

Sarah was a nice main character to follow, with her trying to hide her Jewish heritage, I also like that there was times she completely had to improvise her situation in fear that they may find out who she really is.

The boarding school was a very torturous school, with teachers who would beat their students for misbehavior, and with the worship of Hitler or the Fuhrer. It also sort of had what I almost wanted to call Mean Girls, the Nazi version. With the Ice Queen sort of ruling the school. Sarah would have to spend most of her time trying to beat in races and also in school in order to get close to her because her father was a scientist working on the bomb.

A negative I would have for this book, is that it kinda lacked the espionage that I was hoping for. Most of the book was Sarah going undercover at the school, while her handler did most of the heavy lifting. While it wasn’t a bad thing because I got to see Nazi Germany from the Nazis point of view. I also feel that the ending was very rushed, and it almost felt random. I think a sequel may be in the works in which we could see a lot more espionage because the ending left it open for that.

In the end, I enjoyed Orphan Monster Spy. I always like undercover stories set within the history, and WWII was a good setting. It should how dark Nazi Germany was and why Sarah wanted to follow her cause. I hope if a sequel was made it would have a lot more espionage.

Grade: 3.5/5

Star Wars Darth Bane: Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn

Summary:

Since childhood, Dessel has known only the abuse of his hateful father and the dangerous, soul-crushing labor of a cortosis miner. Deep in the tunnels of the desolate planet Apatros, endlessly excavating the rare mineral valued throughout the galaxy, Dessel dreams of the day he can escape—a day he fears may never come. But when a high-stakes card game ends in deadly violence, Dessel suddenly finds himself a wanted man.

On the run from vengeful Republic forces, Dessel vanishes into the ranks of the Sith army, and ships out to join the bloody war against the Republic and its Jedi champions. There, Dessel’s brutality, cunning, and exceptional command of the Force swiftly win him renown as a warrior. But in the eyes of his watchful masters, he is destined for a far greater role in the ultimate Sith plan for the galaxy—if he can prove himself truly worthy.

As an acolyte in the Sith academy, studying the secrets and skills of the dark side at the feet of its greatest masters, Dessel embraces his new Sith identity: Bane. However the true test is yet to come. In order to gain acceptance into the Brotherhood of Darkness one must fully surrender to the dark side through a trial by fire that Bane, for all his unquenchable fury and lust for power, may not be strong enough to endure . . . especially since deception, treachery, and murder run rampant among the Sith disciples, and utter ruthlessness alone is the key to survival. Only by defying the most sacred traditions, rejecting all he has been taught, and drawing upon the long-forgotten wisdom of the very first Sith can Bane hope to triumph–and forge from the ashes of that which he must destroy a new era of absolute dark power.

The Review:

I picked up this book on a whim, mainly because I always wanted to read more of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, especially from the Old Republic because it always fascinated me especially within the Star Wars lore.

This book sort of gives the origin story of Darth Bane, who started off as a miner named Dressel from one of the Outer Rim planets in which he works long hours and has to pay off a debt to gangsters. As he becomes a wanted man from the Republic and sneaks aboard a Sith ship and joins the Sith army and starts to become force sensitive.

What I like about the book, is that it really taps into the Dark side of the force and how the Sith operates.

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me

Seeing a lot of how the Sith operates really makes them more complex. From their point of they see that the Jedi are evil, and it could be true from a certain point of view. You also see how the Sith Academy at Korriban operates. They believe in competition among their students and Bane has to sort of outwit and outmatch all of the other students in order to rise through the ranks.

A lot of his strength comes with his anger at the past. He was basically abused for most of his life and that’s where the strength of his power comes from. His anger basically becomes a gift through the dark side. As he rises through the ranks he wants to know more about the Sith, and the history how it ties in with Darth Revan.

Darth Bane is also an extremely complex character. His story arc and why he turns to the dark side makes sense. His turn was brought on my at first a need for survival and then for a lust for power, and he even turns on the Sith lords in order to get his goal.

As he is in the Sith Academy he deals with a lot of betrayal, and his relationship with Githany, a former Jedi who turns to the Dark Side. Her character was also very complex and really give how both sides of the war.

As this was written by Drew Karpyshan, he was the senior writer for Knight of the Old Republic and it really shows. There was a lot of references to the game and with it being one of my favorite Star Wars games that showed a lot of complexities with the force and how it is not always black and white.

In the end, Path of Destruction was a great introduction to the story of Darth Bane. It was dark, twisted and I loved everything about it. If you are a fan of Star Wars, I would highly recommend that you pick it up.

Grade: 4.5/5

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Summary:

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep

The Review:

This was another book that was on my TBR for a long time, along with the author, and it is a lovely book that was such a fun read.

The writing was magnificent, it felt as if every word as magical and poetry. The writing style with is lyrical prose just made the story just as strong as it already was.

The world building was outstanding, and it takes you on a journey through the world and through the dreams of Lazlo, who is an orphan and a librarian who is always fascinated by the history of the world especially trying to find the lost city of Weep, which is always have been told to be legend. It really does a good job at tying in the lore within the world.

Sarai, is the blue skinned girl who communicates with Lazlo through his dreams and they both form a connection with one another. She is trying to get out of the influence of who her mother was and a world who basically wants her dead. She is very wide eyed and outgoing. As a godspawn she is made of light and darkness and is always at a constant struggle with what to do and it makes her a fantastic character.

The Sarai and Lazlo connection is one of the highlights of the book for me. They form such a good relationship with one another and its a love story that you want to root for. While it does sort of come across as insta-love especially when they first meet each other through Lazlo’s dream, it really helps that both of their characters are well developed.

In the end, Strange the Dreamer was a great first book that introduces you to a great world. Laini Taylor’s lyrical prose made this book truly amazing, and I cannot wait to read Muse of Nightmares.

Grade: 5/5

One of Us is Lying by: Karen M. McManus

Summary:
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. 
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. 
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? 
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.”

The Review:

This is a book sort outside of what I usually read because I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary, but I do like a good mystery book, and this book had it.

It started with five students in detention, all of whom look straight out of The Breakfast Club coming from all different walks of life, and while at first they seem like the cardboard cutouts of those characters as the book went on they started to become more fleshed out.

The “death” happens rather quickly with Simon, having an allergic reaction and dying, while it does start as an accident there is people who believe that he was poisoned. Since all of them were in the room, they all became suspects. As the book goes on, you begin to believe that all of them has a reason to kill Simon, mainly because he posts on a sort of Gossip-Girl type website spilling all of the students dirty laundry, and it revealed a lot of their deepest darkest secrets.

I liked that the book was told through all of their POVs, it really fleshed out a lot of their characters, and you begin to realize that they are more than just a Brain, a Jock, a Princess or a criminal.

I also liked how it talked a lot about the age of social media, and how the story became a national news scandal. It actually had some commentary about news media in general and how it affects those who are involved in the story.

Also with the mystery itself, it actually keeps you guessing with a whodunit, but it also evolves into a whydonit mystery, and a how. Because even with the reveal of the killer you still want to know, how and why.

In the end, I really enjoyed One of Us is Lying. It was a good YA mystery, that kept you guessing throughout the book. The characters were very fleshed out and you wanted to root for. It was takes a lot of good twist and turns.

Grade: 4/5