Book Review: On Writing, and No Plot? No Problem!

Today I’m doing something a little different. I’m reviewing two books in one go. There are certain books that are more difficult to give a longer review to. I find that books on writing are among these.  On Writing by Stephen King is one of my favorite non-fiction books, and it just doesn’t seem right to not review No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo, during November. So while these reviews are shorter, the books are still wonderful writing resources and lovely reads!

On Writing

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Author: Stephen King

Genre: Memoir, reference

Summary: Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

My Opinion: While I don’t agree with everything in this book, Stephen King is a brilliant teacher. I really do love this book and will gladly give it five stars.

The first part of the book is mostly dedicated to King’s writing journey, how he started writing and how he got to where he is today. This is filled with humor and interesting life and writing advice. The second half is more focused on exactly what it takes to be a writer. For example, you must be a reader. You must have an interest in writing in the first place. King goes on to set up the writer’s tool-box. Here he covers everything from tricky grammar rules to how to make the most out of descriptions while staying true to your voice. All the while King makes the book feel personal. His humor shines through and there’s plenty of parts in it that challenge you not only as a writer, but as a person. True, this book is a memoir, but it’s also a guide to the writing life and a friendly pat on the shoulder. If you’re interested in writing or a fan of Stephen King, I strongly recommend this book.

 

No Plot? No Problem!

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Author: Chris Baty

Genre: Non-fiction, reference

Summary: You’ve always wanted to write, but . . . just haven’t gotten around to it. No Plot? No Problem! is the kick in the pants you’ve been waiting for.

Let Chris Baty, founder of the rockin’ literary marathon National Novel Writing Month (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo), guide you through four exciting weeks of hard-core noveling. Baty’s pep talks and essential survival strategies cover the initial momentum and energy of Week One, the critical “plot flashes” of Week Two, the “Can I quit now?” impulses of Week Three, and the champagne and roar of the crowd during Week Four. Whether you’re a first-time novelist who just can’t seem to get pen to paper or a results-oriented writer seeking a creative on-ramp into the world of publishing, this is the adventure for you.

So what are you waiting for? The No Plot? approach worked for the thousands of people who’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, and it can work for you! Let No Plot? No Problem! help you get fired up and on the right track.

My Opinion: YOU DO NOT NEED TO WRITE YOUR NOVEL IN 30 DAYS TO GET SOMETHING OUT OF THIS BOOK. Ok there, now that we have that out of the way, let’s continue shall we?

The latter part of the book is for if you’re going to go through with the “write a novel in 30 days” challenge. For some people that’s just not their thing, and the advice changes more into encouragement in this section. If you’ve done NaNoWriMo before (as I have), most of the stuff in the later section of the book will be familiar to you. Also Baty’s writing style was a little off for me at times. But that’s just personal preference. Because of that I rated this book four stars.

This book is funny. It’s got silly ideas, funny metaphors, and yet somehow it all comes together to make sense and give some practical writing advice. Some of this advice I wouldn’t have thought of on my own but it makes a great deal of sense. It’s writing advice that you can use for planning out a novel you’ll write over the course of a year or for your history paper due in 3 days. It was those nuggets of advice that really endeared the book to me. It also gave tips on how to keep yourself organized as a writer, how gather ideas, and how to make your dialogue and character interactions sound genuine. This book lacked depth, but it made up for that with a plethora of encouragement and good ideas to get you started on your own writing journey. Even if you know NaNoWriMo isn’t your thing, I think this is still a good book to read simply because of the good ideas. Even the sheets in the back, typically used for NaNoWriMo, can be made useful. This book isn’t about writing yours in 30 days as much as it is about giving yourself a strict timeline, giving yourself motivation to stick to that timeline, and then giving yourself rewards for meeting your goals. It’s a fun and quick read that’s quite handy.

Book Review: Cuckoo Song

|+| Warnings: Unreliable narrator |+|

“Everything on one side or the other, and nothing in between.” ~Shrike (Cuckoo Song)

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Author: Frances Hardinge

Genre: YA Horror, Historical fiction, Paranormal

Summary: When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry, her sister seems scared of her, and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out. Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest to find the truth she must travel into the terrifying underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family—before it’s too late . . .

My Opinion: I live for atmospheric books. The stranger the better. Cuckoo Song delivered. I picked it up ages ago, almost finished it, then had to return it to the library (ah, the curse of exams). It was great to finish it this time. Everything I loved was still there and it’s a satisfying story. A historical fiction that couldn’t quite seem to get across to the reader when it was taking place, Cuckoo Song was wonderfully atmospheric, interesting, and creepy. Due to a few lacking things, but plenty of strong elements, I gave the book four stars.

What stood out to me from the start was the atmosphere of the story. It comes in many forms, from the language used to describe things, pacing, and the increasingly strange happenings. In parts it’s so bizarre it’s disturbing. Dolls were terrifying, birds were unusual and not to be trusted, and I will never look at scissors the same way again. And that’s why I think this book really does stand on its own as a horror book, especially in the YA field. While none of the scares lasted off the page, there’s a few household objects I’m still giving the side-eye to.

The characters were unique and for the most part well developed although there was little diversity. Triss was interesting and I enjoyed being in her head. I have a thing for unreliable narrators and this one showed huge growth. Violet and Pen are close seconds in favorite characters. Watching the three of them grow was wonderful. Perhaps my biggest complaint with the book is that the secondary characters don’t get any character development until about 200 pages in. We’re consistently shown that there’s potential but it’s not set into motion until half way through the book. I felt there was way too much hint dropping about what characters could be instead of getting a move on with that development. But Triss’ parents and their characterization was phenomenal. I applaud Hardinge for tackling such an overlooked issue when it comes to bad parenting. Triss’ parents are despicable.  Yet the parents are loving. They want what’s best for their daughter, they’re older and wiser and know best. But the book makes clear that they are stifling not only Triss but the whole family. Their obsession with control is causing cracks in the family and possibly putting them in danger. Sometimes reading about the parents’ choices was more frightening than screaming dolls. Screaming dolls are not real, but parents like Triss’ are. And that’s terrifying.

I also was frustrated with the setting. No doubt of it, Hardinge has a wonderful writing style that reminds me of Stiefvater. Both writers are very whimsical and metaphorical. But with Hardinge, I had no idea when this story was taking place. I knew it was after a war, but which war? It never was clearly established. Turns out that the story takes place after World War I, but with such weak timeline establishment, the book felt like it was trying for something steampunk.

Flaws aside, I really did enjoy this book. It’s perfect for October, especially if you’re going to read under the covers with a flashlight or around a bonfire. Creepy, moody, and filled with uncertainties, Cuckoo Song is a top pick for those looking for something out of the ordinary.

TL;DR: Despite little diversity, sluggish character development, and sometimes veering into formulaic territory, Cuckoo Song has promise and delivers on it. A dark and unsettling atmosphere is established from the start. Mundane items become frightening and the book tackles one of the most challenging family issues. While I wouldn’t recommend this to those who are unsettled by dolls, for those of you looking for a creepy read that puts a new spin on old things, read Cuckoo Song. It’s seriously the perfect October read.

Nine Candles of the Deepest Black (Book Tour!)

Nine Candles of the Deepest Black (Book Tour!)

If you’re looking for a book to read this October, Nine Candles of the Deepest Black is your bet! Below you can find my review of the book as well as a bit about the author and an international giveaway (Amazon gift card as well as a signed copy of the book). Be sure to check out the rest of the tour here!

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Author: Matthew S. Cox

Genre: Mature YA Horror, Paranormal

Summary: She saw it coming. She knew it would happen―but no one believed her.

Almost a year after tragedy shattered her family, sixteen-year-old Paige Thomas can’t break free from her guilt. Her mother ignores her, doting on her annoying little sister, while her father is a barely-functioning shell. He hopes a move to the quiet little town of Shadesboro PA will help them heal, but Paige doesn’t believe in happiness anymore.

On her first day at school, a chance encounter with a bullied eighth grader reawakens a gift Paige had forgotten, and ingratiates her into a pack of local outcasts. For weeks, they’ve been trying to cast a ritual to fulfill their innermost desires, but all they’ve done is waste time. After witnessing Paige touch the Ouija board and trigger a paranormal event, the girls are convinced another try with their new fifth member will finally work.

Once the darkness is unleashed, it’s not long before they learn it will give them exactly what they asked for―whether they want it or not.

My Opinion: There’s something to be said for classic horror. It touches on our base fears the most. Taking the tropes of demons, occult magic, and paranormal events and forming them into something is great fun if done right. Nine Candles of Deepest Black does it right. It’s a lovely homage to classical horror tropes while upgrading it all to something diverse, interesting, and unusual. There were just one or two things that rubbed me the wrong way, but regardless this was a fun read that fully earned 4 stars.

Most of the time in paranormal horror the ghost comes in after an introduction. Not so here. Almost immediately we discover that Paige is haunted by her dead sister. The death of Amber hit the family hard, and it seems like the only person who’s coping in a remotely healthy way is the annoying little sister. This is where the book stands out. We have multiple points of tension throughout. First we have Paige and her family, then the relationships with her new-found friends, and the tension the magic brings. Cox does a wonderful job of having these separate sources of tension feed into each other and move the book forward.

At times though I was taken out of this tension due to a couple of things. Cox has a wonderful writing style and is very descriptive. It’s easy to picture what’s going on, but sometimes things were just a little too metaphorical. Frequently we’re told about Paige’s black cloud and it took me a couple of times reading that to realize it was metaphorical. I think. Considering all the other things going on, it wouldn’t have surprised me if it was actually real. This was never really cleared up, but considering everyone’s non-reaction to it, I’m assuming it was metaphorical. This kind of seemed to be a thing though, some things were just over-described which caused confusion. The descriptions of clothing were great…but sometimes the focus was a bit too heavy on what each girl was wearing which needlessly slowed down things. Also, sometimes the gore felt less necessary and more like the trope where people assume horror has a ton of blood and gore in it. These issues took me out of the book and the reading experience. The book is also incredibly heavy and at times the book felt a little too dark to be full on enjoyable for me. Ultimately  despite having gore, nudity, detailed talk of suicide, and forced sexual situations, for the most part all of it was handled very well.

Now for my favorite part of any review, and my favorite element of Nine Candles of Deepest Black: the characters. The characters are diverse, and the WoC, Santana and Renne, are fleshed out and the focus is not solely on their skin color. They have interests and personality while embracing their culture which is always refreshing. Horror tends to have a lot of tokenism in this area, and I was pleased to find this wasn’t the case for this book. These girls have their own hopes and dreams and are stuck in the same fear boat as Paige our heroine. Overall, all characters were well rounded and believable. There’s a variety of ages as well. We see how the supernatural (and death in general) impacts everyone from 8 years old to adults. I also really enjoyed seeing how Paige grew as a person and how her growth impacted those around her. Again this is another element that makes the book stand out from typical horror.

If the characters weren’t going to win me over the hat-tips to classic horror and weird fiction would have. I loved how Cox alluded to the greats such as Stephen King and Niel Gaiman. Even if this wasn’t intentional, it was there and added a lovely mood to the story.  Classic tropes such as girls trying a ritual, demons running crazy and being unstoppable, nightmare sequences that may or may not be real, were all done superbly. Overused tropes are a grantee to bore the reader, but here they’re reborn with eeriness and tension. True, you can find a ton of books and movies with those elements in it, but the book takes these things and makes them fresh.

Nine Candles of Deepest Black is a great bet if you want dark and creepy. It’s a solid read and does a lovely job weaving the old with the new. If you’re looking for something to creep you out this coming October, here’s your book. It’s darker than night, suspenseful, and fresh.

TL;DR: Despite being incredibly dark, and having a little bit too much focus on descriptions at times, Nine Candles of Deepest Black is a lovely homage to classical horror tropes while upgrading it all to something diverse, interesting, and unusual. If horror is your thing and you’re looking for a fresh spin on classical horror, this is your book.

About the Author:

matthew

Author Website, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter

Born in a little town known as South Amboy NJ in 1973, Matthew has been creating science fiction and fantasy worlds for most of his reasoning life. Somewhere between fifteen to eighteen of them spent developing the world in which Division Zero, Virtual Immortality, and The Awakened Series take place. He has several other projects in the works as well as a collaborative science fiction endeavor with author Tony Healey.

Hobbies and Interests:

Matthew is an avid gamer, a recovered WoW addict, Gamemaster for two custom systems (Chronicles of Eldrinaath [Fantasy] and Divergent Fates [Sci Fi], and a fan of anime, British humour (<- deliberate), and intellectual science fiction that questions the nature of reality, life, and what happens after it.

He is also fond of cats.

Book Review: Sun and Moon

|+|Warnings: Slavery, mentions of attempted sexual assault, some intense violence|+|

“Fear is a liar. Don’t listen to the venom it spews, for it seeks only to destroy your light.” ~Essie (Sun and Moon)

SunMoon

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Author: Desiree Williams

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Romance

Summary: There is nothing in life that eighteen year old Zara craves more than her freedom. Stolen from her home in Cadrebia at the age of eight, Zara has spent more years than she cared to admit as a slave to the Tankadesh courts. Her days are filled with protecting the princess, while she spends nights entertaining the king and his officials with her mastery of weapons. Any spare moment in between, she plots escape.

Yet her hopes for freedom come to a crashing halt when a stranger arrives bearing the mark of her assigned lifemate, and he threatens war if she isn’t turned over into his care. But a lifemate is not part of the plan. Her dreams, of choosing her own path and being the master of her own will, weaken as her Moon seeks to claim his Sun.

Is it possible that this stranger, with gentle blue eyes and a ready smile, didn’t come to be her new master? That there could be more to his tale?

Zara soon finds that neither her captivity nor her parents’ deaths were mere random attacks. And by returning to Cadrebia, she may have put the future of the royal line—and her Moon—in jeopardy. While Zara breathes in her first taste of freedom, her enemies move in, seeking to rob Cadrebia of its blessed prophecy.

To keep what she holds dear, Zara must rise above the pain and uncertainty to claim the lifemate assigned to her, or more than her freedom will be stolen this time.

My Opinion: I am a sucker for lifemate/soulmate stories and this seemed like it would cover all the bases with a fair bit of politics in a high fantasy setting. Sign me up. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I was approved for a review copy. Due to the strong start, but weak finish and a few unanswered questions I gave this book 3 stars. 

The romance in this story was exactly as promised. Zara is the sun to her lifemate’s moon, and as someone who has been enslaved for nearly all her life, Zara has some reasonable doubts about this whole lifemate thing. Zara and her lifemate are adorable and the natural progression that Zara goes through in learning to trust is believable. The two of them are my favorite characters in the book. At first their pet-names for one another were cute, but then they were used so often that at times I forgot the character names. But the love was so believable and so natural that it was a joy to read. The book also showed the characters outside of that love, and showed different kinds of love. Love for family, love for friends, and love for self as well as romantic love. I think what I appreciate most about Sun and Moon is the fact that while Zara falls in love she discovers more about herself. She becomes more of an individual through love, and makes the choice of returning the love given to her. There’s not enough of that in YA lit, so that makes Sun and Moon incredibly refreshing.

I felt a bit let down by the lack of politics. It seemed like this world was well thought out overall but some things could have been expanded upon. I would have loved to have more details on politics as that was a key but off screen element. Details about how the lifemating works would have been great too. Why is it just Cadrebia that has this magical blessing? Can you be mated to someone in a different kingdom? What happens if someone converts to following the deity of Cadrebia? Those questions along with the ambiguous PoC (the descriptions said there were PoC but then the descriptions sometimes contradicted each other), left me scratching my head from time to time and took me out of the story.

I also found the plot twist to be predictable. It was a little too easy to see the set up of what was coming making the plot twist satisfying but predictable. Although predictable, the way the heroes handled the problem was well done and quite fun to read. The issue also brought some characters together in unique ways. This added a refreshing and enjoyable element to the story.

While there were some predictable and confusing elements, I really did enjoy reading Zara’s adventure and her discovery of the different kinds of love. Sun and Moon promised to be a warm and fuzzy romantic read, and that’s exactly what I got.

TL; DR: Overall this is was the warm, fuzzy, romantic read it promised to be and I enjoyed it. There were parts that felt a bit lacking, but there was a lot more good than bad in the story which kept me reading. If you’re looking for a quick romantic read this is a good bet.

Book Review: The Maze Runner

|+| Warnings: Violence, language |+|

“Holy crap, you’re human. You should be scared.” ~Tommy (Maze Runner)

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Author: James Dashner

Genre: Dystopian YA, Survival

Summary: “If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.”

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

My Opinion: My nephew fan-boys so hard over this book that I just couldn’t say no when he told me to read it. I told him that because he’s so into it, I’d read the books and then together we could read books three and four and finish out the series. Reading together as a family is a big thing for us, and I would never do anything to damper someone’s love for a book.

While I can see why my nephew (and so many others) love this book, oh boy was it a fight for me to get through. I loved the characters, but that was overshadowed by poor foreshadowing. I loved the world building and over all concept, but that was weakened by certain elements that showed the book was trying too hard to be cool. I swear I feel like I’m missing something here cause I think I’m one of the few people who’s not head over heals in love with this. Luckily, there was enough good in it for me to give this book three stars.

I’m going to get all the bad stuff out of my system first. I like to try to end things on a positive note.

First things first. Foreshadowing is not a game of “HEY KIDS! DID YOU SEE THE FORESHADOWING RIGHT HERE?” yet that’s exactly what it felt like to me. Foreshadowing should be subtle. You should barely notice it until you’re slammed in the face with the big event which makes the foreshadowing click. The foreshadowing is to keep readers guessing. And because it was shoved in my face the whole book I was just so bored by it all that when the big reveals came, I had either guessed it or I just didn’t care.

Now let’s get to that cursing.  This book tries to score cool points by saying thinks like “shuck” and variations which is so obviously code for the f-word and other swears. It’s so obvious it’s painful. I’ve been a kid and we thrived on that kind of thing. And trust me, as someone who hangs out around a lot of kids, that has not changed. Everyone picks up on it. And in this day in age, you’d be surprised how young kids are when they start using the f-word (or maybe you wouldn’t be). While cursing and strong language can certainly have its place and create a more realistic atmosphere, if overdone it’s just dull and crass. Guess what’s overdone in The Maze Runner? Yep. The fake swears. I get it, it was used to try to establish a dialect and enhance the world building. If Dashner had cut back on that, it would have worked beautifully.

Now for what I liked. Cause this book did earn its three stars from me and I feel comfortable in going ahead with the series. I loved these characters. Even the ones I didn’t like, I really enjoyed disliking them. There was genuine diversity and while some felt a little underdeveloped, all were interesting and important. Newt and Minho are hands down my fave with Chuck and Thomas coming in at a close second. The monsters were really well done too. Dashner has a great ability to help the reader visualize everything, from the maze to the people, to the monsters. I feel like the monsters were such a core element that they really did help with the world building and character development. They added flavor to the Maze. I also really liked the ending. The story promised suspense from the get go and never really delivered for me until the end. But that end was worth it.  While my nephew says he didn’t like the second book as much, I think the second book might be more of my jam and help me appreciate The Maze Runner more. I certainly want to read it thanks to the end events (although I wouldn’t call it a cliff hanger).

Ultimately The Maze Runner tries to give the grit and depth of Hunger Games but only is able to deliver on the grit aspect. The foreshadowing is done in such a way that I felt insulted as a reader, and the uniqueness of the world was hidden by the poorly disguised foul language. Despite that, there’s some unique and interesting elements as well as wonderful characters. The characters are well done and are truly the driving force of the story.  If you’re a fan of dystopian, read it, it’s got some good stuff in it. If you’re not into dystopian, pass on this one.

TL;DR: The Maze Runner is an original concept that tries too hard to be cool. Fake curse-words that are easily seen for what they’re substituting, and foreshadowing is shoved in the readers face instead of being a quiet shadow, put a damper on the story. On the up side, the characters are great and the world is unique. The end of the book is startling and amps up the suspense to what the book promised in the beginning. If you’re a fan of dystopian, read it, it’s got some strong stuff in it. If you’re not into dystopian, pass on this one.

Book Review: #GIRLBOSS

|+| Warning: Strong language throughout |+|

“Failure is your invention.” ~ Sophia Amoruso (#GIRLBOSS)

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Author: Sophia Amoruso

Genre: Business/Memoir

Summary: At seventeen, Sophia Amoruso decided to forgo continuing education to pursue a life of hitchhiking, dumpster diving, and petty thievery. Now, at twenty-nine, she is the Founder, CEO, and Creative Director of Nasty Gal, a $100+ million e-tailer that draws A-list publicity and rabid fans for its leading-edge fashion and provocative online persona. Her story is extraordinary—and only part of the appeal of #GIRLBOSS.

This aspirational book doesn’t patronize young women the way many business experts do. Amoruso shows readers how to channel their passion and hard work, while keeping their insecurities from getting in the way. She offers straight talk about making your voice heard and doing meaningful work.

She’s proof that you can be a huge success without giving up your spirit of adventure or distinctive style. As she writes, “I have three pieces of advice I want you to remember: Don’t ever grow up. Don’t become a bore. Don’t let The Man get to you. OK? Cool. Then let’s do this.”

My Opinion: I’ve must have done something right at one point because lately I’ve really been lucking out with my non-fiction. Usually I’m deeply unsatisfied with my non-fiction, but #GIRLBOSS promised a lot and delivered more. I really think for any woman interested in business this should be mandatory reading.  There were just one or two things that bugged me though so I gave it 4.5 stars.

I’ll start with what bugged me first. Amoruso gives it to you like it is, which is great and very needed. Many a times I read a book (especially a business book) that does more coddling than helping. There’s no coddling here which is fantastic, but sometimes it felt like Amoruso was a bit too blunt. There’s a fine line between giving it to you like it is and being outright mean and once or twice for me Amoruso crossed it. That is my only complaint though.

Otherwise I think this book is fantastic. Amoruso does an excellent job combining her life experiences with how she made it in the business world. She gives tips that she used and uses to not only help women become #GIRLBOSSes like herself, but also to just live better lives. A great example is her tip about putting 10% of all earnings into savings and use it as an emergency fund. Most people don’t put nearly that much in if they do that at all. That’s just one of the tips and the great thing about it is that her tips are quite practical and easy to implement.

I think the beauty of this book is that because Amoruso holds nothing back, you realize that being a boss (or in this case #GIRLBOSS) isn’t just about being a CEO or manager, it’s about taking control of your life and keeping your cool in the uncontrollable situations. She shares her bizarre life and business experiences and owns up to her mistakes-but also to her successes. There’s a lot of details I could go into, but for me the most powerful part of the book was when she was growing Nasty Gal from her home, and her home was just being overtaken by everything. While she was nailing her business, she was also so in over her head. Yet she never gave up and took that as a sign to enlist some help. And there’s some pretty great stories with that too (not everyone sticks around). Just like Amoruso takes responsibility when she hires someone, she makes you take responsibility from the get go by always referring to the reader not as “reader,” but as “#GIRLBOSS.” By the end of the book, that phrase kind of gets ingrained in your head. Frankly, it makes me really want to live up to it.

It gets even cooler from here because when you talk about the book, the title of the book isn’t Girl Boss, it’s #GIRLBOSS. So when you use that hashtag, you’re making yourself a part of a community of women who have also read the book and are taking control of their lives and businesses. I noticed this when I posted a picture of the book on Instagram. Which is insanely cool to me because throughout the book Amoruso talks about how important it is for women to support each other and not to start fights. And just through the title of the book she helped build a community of women who are willing to work together.

If that’s not a boss move I don’t know what is.

TL;DR: This book should be mandatory reading for women who want to go into business. Not only does Amoruso show the behind the scenes of building Nasty Gal from the ground up, she adds in personal details that shows that  no matter how rich and cool you are, you’re still human. And humans are bound to make mistakes. But as she shows us, every mistake comes with a lesson and taking control of those learning experiences is what makes a woman not only a better business leader, but a better person in general.

Book Review: Painted Spider

|+| Warnings: Multiple suicide attempts, sexual content, violence/mild gore throughout |+|

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Author: Katheryn A. Williamson

Genre: Science Fiction; Romance (adult)

Summary: Smart. Beautiful. Sexy. Deadly.

One scratch and the murderous venom in her fingernails will kill. Painfully…hideously. A perfect weapon for someone with power…and the knowledge to know when to use it.

Nika Hollister is an alien. Abandoned on Earth as an infant, she desperately searches for her family and a way home. Protected by two men from NALE, a secret government agency which raised her, she battles an evil man wanting her powers for his own corrupt use. Lead by strange, horrific clues that leaves the trio of agents frightened and confused, they blindly stumble into a trap. Only Nika’s alien powers can save them and ultimately save the world from the sinister madman who wants to make it his own. Will they prevail? Only time will tell.

My Opinion: Well…that was a thing. It had some good parts and some bad parts but mostly “what the heck parts” that never really meshed together to me. By the end of the book I wasn’t really sure what I read. I felt like I read three different stories that weren’t actually related yet the author was trying to push them all together. The writing style didn’t blow me away either. It was an interesting read for sure, and I’m glad I gave it a go, but still I can’t get myself to give it more than 2.5 stars.

I think the hardest part for me was the fact I couldn’t get behind Nika or her love interest. Although we’re told they’ve met 10 years before the book starts and had major crushes on each other, when they meet again it reads just like insta-love. I felt like there was no character development. Which is strange as Nika is constantly lamenting how much Cliff has changed, and Cliff keeps commenting the same of Nika. This is where you just kind of have to go with the book and assume it’s true because over the course of the book, there’s no character changes in these two. It’s a very hot and cold relationship where they keep wanting to have sex and love each other, and then they spend the next page yelling at one another. It just felt strange, and while I personally see it as an attempt to show character development, that’s just not how it worked.

I also was super confused with the religion aspect. Now I am all for respectfully writing about religions of all kinds in books. It’s how we learn about each other and I love it. But I’m not sure what the author was trying to do with the religion aspect here. There are multiple facets, one is the cult which was obviously a group of bad guys. Then after a life altering event, one of the characters becomes a Christian. And suddenly Christianity becomes a huge element in the book for characters that have shown disdain towards it previously. If this book had started off with some religious elements and evenly built up to that change, I would have been 100% behind it. Instead it was one of the many elements that came out of the blue with little to no build up.

I feel like I could go on for ages about what didn’t work for me with this book; from the lack of diversity, to the insta-love that apparently wasn’t, and the multiple plot lines that felt like they were forced together when they really could have been expanded on in separate yet equally entertaining books. So I’ll move on to the stuff I liked.

This book was weird and I liked that. I liked how there were multiple sequences of dream like events that you never really knew if they were dreams or not. Those were creepy and highly entertaining. I liked the unique powers that Nika and a few others had. I’ve seen a lot but never acid coming from the fingernails. Also this element was introduced pretty quickly so there wasn’t a huge wait on that. The action was well done for the most part too. At times even when I re-read the page(s) the action made no sense but for the most part the action was well done and evenly spread out.

TL;DR: This book just wasn’t for me. There was no diversity, a large dose of insta-love, and a series of plots that really would have worked better as their own separate books in my opinion. Overall I liked the idea, but because I couldn’t get behind the majority of the characters, this book fell flat for me. It was an interesting read at the very least so I’m not sorry I read it, it’s just not the kind of book I was looking for.