“That Time I Joined the Circus”—A Book Review

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That Time I Joined the Circus by J.J. Howard was a thoughtful tale that makes you take stock of the things around you.

Left with nothing, her father recently dead, her runaway mother being who-knows-where, Lexi is left with nothing but a bus ticket out of New York, a duffle bag’s worth of belongings, and word-of-mouth-hunch that her mother may or may not be with a traveling circus in Florida.

  When Lexi arrives at the Europa Circus in Florida and discovers her mother is not there, she is out of options. She has no money, no food, and no place to sleep. Taking pity on her, the Ringmaster offers Lexi a job, and crew quarters to sleep in.

Having no one in the world to count on or talk to (her old best friends in New York abandoned her), Lexi has no choice but to make the best out of a completely crappy situation. Learning to break out of her shell , Lexi makes true friends, has a shot at love, and learns that the word “home” doesn’t necessarily mean a building or a particular place, but rather, it can mean being with the people you love, no matter where you are geographically.

Told in back and forth present and past tense, this novel really makes you take a look at how you view and live life. Sometimes life is crappy, merely because we don’t have the guts to do anything to change it. And sometimes crappy things just happen, but how you react to it is entirely up to you.

I give this insightful story four out of five stars.

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“The Sweet Dead Life”—A Book Review

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The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble is a “YA mystery,” but I definitely feel this one is geared more toward middle schoolers (even if it does drop the “F Bomb” a few times).

Jenna’s dad disappeared when she was nine, her brother smokes too much pot, and her mom has basically checked out. But what’s even worse? Jenna is pretty sure that she is dying. She pukes too much, has weird headaches, passes out at random, and has bright green pee.

One fateful night, as Jenna’s brother Casey rushes her to the ER after she collapses, he ends up crashing their tiny Prius. When Jenna finally comes to in the hospital, she discovers two things: 1) Someone has been poisoning her beloved boots that she wears every single day. 2) Her brother looks good. Too good. The stoner gut and greasy hair have miraculously been replaced by rock hard abs and perfect movie star waves. 

With Jenna’s brother sent back to Earth to be her guardian angel, the sibling duo band together to solve not one, but two mysteries: who has been poisoning Jenna (and possibly her mother, too) and what happened to her dad all those years ago? Did he really leave them, or was something more sinister at play?

This book definitely had some great snark, but all in all I feel it was a little lack luster. Perhaps this is because the main character is in eighth grade, but the whole time I just kept thinking what idiots they were. The mystery really wasn’t all that mysterious, and the book read really slow. It took me a week to finish, because I just wasn’t interested :\

I give this tale 2 out of 5 stars.

“Being Henry David”—A Book Review

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Being Henry David by Cal Armistead is a remarkable tale, to say the least! This coming-of-age novel asks the difficult question most of us have trouble answering:  Who am I?

“Hank” is a teenage boy that wakes up at Penn Station with no recollection of who he is or how he got there. He has absolutely no memories from his past—his mind a completely blank slate. Hanks only possessions are the clothes he is wearing, a crumpled up ten dollar bill in his pocket, and a beat up copy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.

“Absolutely nothing in my life is familiar, and it’s like standing on the edge of a cliff every damn minute, rocks crumbling under my feet.”

With the worn out paperback as his only lead, Hank heads out for the most sensible destination, Walden Pond in Concord Massachusetts. Hopefully the serenity and simplicity of “going back to the basics” will help jog his memory of who he is and where he comes from. But the question is, does he really want to know about his past demons?   

“There’s a black beast inside me that doesn’t want me to know stuff. It guards my memory, clawing at my insides and going for my throat if I get too close.”

Finding friends and a sense of safety in the most unlikely places and faces, Henry must learn to face his past and unlock his memories without shattering himself in the process.

All I can say about Being Henry David is “wow”.  I literally could not put this book down. Though provoking and insightful, this novel challenges you to look inside yourself and challenge yourself to face your own demons.

Five out of five stars! I look forward to any future novels from Cal Armistead

“Gameboard of the Gods”—A Book Review

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I have to say, I was super excited for Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead to come out, seeing as I am obsessed with her teen Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series. But sadly, the start of her new adult “Age of X” series just didn’t do it for me, and I can’t help but feel disappointed. I pretty much had to make myself finish this book 😦

Set in the future the RUNA is basically the only government sanctioned area, which resides in the Vancouver area. All throughout the United States lays “provinces,” which are basically areas that the government keeps tabs on, but doesn’t necessarily reside in.

Justin March used to be a servitor (government official who goes around making sure religious organizations have a license for their establishment and are abiding by the government’s rules for religious practice). Justin was exiled four years ago for mentioning “the supernatural” in an incident report and was exiled to Panama City. You see, the government is big on trying to quell out any “nonsense” of supernatural happenings and trying to get people to stop believing in any kind of religious entity.

The thing is…Justin has been target by a god that is trying to get him to follow him.

“The truth is, when you banish the gods from the world, they eventually come back—with a vengeance. Humans can’t stay away from gods, and gods can’t stay away from humans. It’s the natural order of things. Our country’s treatment of the divine was too harsh after the Decline. Our people have pushed the gods away for too long, and now the divine is pushing back. That’s why these forces are stirring around us. There’s a vacuum here, and entities we haven’t seen for a very long time are rushing in, seeking followers. Belief is what powers the gods, and they’re picking out their elect to conduct their earthly business.”

Mae is a praetorian—basically a supped up solider for the aid of the government. All praetorians receive an implant when they sign on with the military that amps up their body’s natural defenses (insane amounts of adrenaline kick in during a fight, they no longer need to sleep, the implant quickly recognizes and dissolves any kind of poisonous toxins that enter the body—alcohol included).

Well, Mae got into a fight at the funeral of her deceased lover and ended up hospitalizing another praetorian. Her punishment: Justin March’s new bodyguard.

A string of unexplained murders have been going on in the provinces. A security camera from one of the victims shows a smoke/shadow intruder killing the victim and no forced entry is apparent. Thus, the government calls upon the aid of Justin March (seeing as he kicked ass at his job and seems to believe in supernatural weirdness). The government believes some kind of unorganized religious zealot is responsible for the string of murders, and wants Justin to find the unsanctioned organization, find the murderer, and have the religion stopped.

And so, Mae is to follow Justin around to make sure he doesn’t die while raiding sketchy “underground religious groups”, shutting them down in hopes of drawing out the one that may be responsible for the bizarre murders.

Oh yeah, and Mae has some “dark” goddess following her around, trying to get her to swear fealty. BUT, Mae can’t see it, even though she feels it sometimes when she gets in fights. Justin on the other hand knows that a god is after him because he has two ravens in his head that converse with him, telling him when he is being an idiot, and try their damndest to get him to give in and swear full devotion to their god. And yes, these ravens have names: Horatio and Magnus.

“Gods consolidate their power in places and people. Breaking belief is the biggest way to hurt one. You do that by disbanding their followers. Gods need people to believe in them. Could be as simple as someone like you revoking a license. Or it may take more drastic means. Destroy their place of worship. Take out some of their leaders. Once the followers start to stray, the god weakens. It’s why their all scrambling right now to build their power—and followers.”

So that’s basically the sum of the book. Justin and may going to different places of worship, checking for licenses and looking for the “mysterious murderer” while a whole lot of sexual tension hangs out (because naturally there are reasons Justin and Mae can’t be together).

I kind of felt like this book tried too much to be political and send “a message.” I found it really boring and it took forever for them to actually find out anything useful. I didn’t even find the “futuristic” world remotely intriguing.

Sadly, I can only give this book two out of five stars 😥 I will not be reading the sequel.

 

I do want to add that regardless of how let down I felt by this book, I am very eagerly awaiting the next installment in the Bloodlines series, The Fiery Heart, which is scheduled to hit bookshelves this November!