Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Love (Play With My Hair, #1) by Douglas R.

This review was written by: B
Received: Free E-book from the author
Publication Date of Book: December 2014
Pages: 192
Stars: 4.5/5

Myla is not like everyone else.  For one, she doesn't live on Earth, she's from Pandor, and secondly, she's a Lebra.  For Myla, yellow means warmth, but the color purple means death.  Being a Lebra is extremely important.  Her prestige leads to many things such as her having to possibly fight for her life!  She can't even see her family, including her little brother whom she has never met in person.  Then there is the fact that she can't have a relationship with anyone of the male species.  All of these things are distractions for her.  Distractions interfere with her training and her focus.  If she loses focus, she may die.  However, these rules do not make or break her.  She still finds ways to communicate on rare occasions with her family, and she might have even found herself a boyfriend!  You see, there's this big evil out in space, almost like a brain, that needs someone like Myla to inhabit so that it can become unstoppable.  Myla has gifts, and she's growing into them everyday.  Perhaps these powers are what led to her finding Blake.

One night, asleep in her bed, Myla dreams of a boy unlike any she has known.  His name's Blake, and he can't be real.  However, they both insist that they are in each others' dreams.  Who's real and who's not?  To settle this once and for all, the two give each other something of their own that have an almost personal value to them.  Myla is given Blake's iPod Touch.  When she wakes up, it's sitting there in her hands.  Now, that's pretty insane!  Falling asleep the next night, they meet again.  Can a relationship like this be possible, star crossed lovers even?  Blake's from Alaska, all the way on Earth while Myla's from Pandor.  It can't happen, but love can do strange things to a person.  If Myla hopes to have a relationship, she must save herself and him at the same time.

Love was a surprisingly captivating read!  I fell into it much harder than I thought I would.  A major reason for this was due to how much music played a part into this book.  Music is a huge part of my life and so many others.  It can influence your mood, sway you to feel a certain way, change the tone, and make emotions surface that you weren't even expecting.  I feel like this book demonstrated these concepts perfectly.  Music is freedom to be whoever you want to be whenever you want to be it.  It's a connection that links us all.  The fact that Blake cared so deeply about music and that Myla changes her outlook on her life, even if it's only to a certain extent due to her first experience with music, is quite powerful.

The relationship between Myla and Blake was also interesting to see unfold.  While she is certain of her feelings towards him, he is more hesitant to recognize what is going on inside of him.  However, the top two most favorite relationships that I read about was between Myla and her trainer Rhiannon along with the friendship between Blake and one of his best friends Sherri.  Each group showed true and tangible emotions towards each other to the point where I didn't feel like I was just reading a book.  They were earnest, and I was really jealous of what they had!  It was an intimacy that wasn't love but rather a desire to make each other happy and to protect what they had, and this was definitely the best part of Love.

Douglas R also wrote about the  issue of wanting to be yourself instead of hiding behind closed doors or trying to please everyone.  Myla was like a caged bird, as noted in the book.  The metaphors with this were really beautiful, and how her character is currently breaking free is wonderfully challenged.  The struggle to shine her true colors is written with perfection and brought to light something that I feel a lot of people struggle with, including myself.

The only reason that I gave it 4.5 stars was because at a couple of scenes, I felt like the wording was slightly awkward.  (For instance, Myla liked to call Blake "Baby" quite a bit more than I thought she would.  I didn't really have a problem with this too much, but maybe that's just me.)  Also, it seemed like it was really easy for Blake to convince his two best friends of this girl in his dreams and how she was real.  However, I believe that the closeness demonstrated between Blake, Sherri, and Matty made up for this because it made me feel like they could tell each other anything.

Overall, I definitely recommend that you give this book a shot.  I really want to read the next one in the series!          

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Beasties by William Sleator

book cover of 

The Beasties 

This review was written by: B
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: October 1997
Pages: 208 (paperback version)
Stars: 2.75/5

Colette had already stepped off the wooden platform and was shining the flashlight down the slightly curving dirt tunnel.  Roots crawled and twisted over the walls and floor.  The tunnel was very narrow and had a low ceiling.  Colette had to crouch, and I had to bend almost double when I followed her off the platform into the tunnel, trying not to trip over the roots.  A full-grown adult would have had to crawl.  This place was not built for people.
-The Beasties

Doug and his family are about to be uprooted from their city life to go and live in the middle of nowhere, smack dab in the center of severe country life where neighbors are few and far between.  Doug's father is a botanist who wants to study a special type of fungus that can only be found in a this particular area, and with the woods being cut down by loggers at an alarming pace, he only has a short window of time to accomplish this.  On the other hand, his mother wants to get into painting new things (in this case that's nature).  However, the children are not too hyped up about this new development, especially after what crazy Al told Doug and his little sister, Colette.  Al said that it was of utmost importance that the family refrains from living in an old home and to steer clear of the woods located behind old homes.  That's where the supposed Beasties live...

Doug doesn't take Al too seriously, but once he nears his new home, he notices strange things.  People are moving about in the area, but they have missing limbs.  A person in Al's family also has a missing arm and leg, just like everyone else there.  What's this mean?  Then, as soon as they arrive at their new house, Doug finds out that it is not only old, but it is also placed by the woods.  Soon enough, Colette and her brother find a baseball bat and a book randomly sitting out in the middle of the yard, just waiting for the siblings to pick them up.  Doug's actually a huge baseball player and Colette is an avid reader who believes that she can learn more from books than she can from real live people.  However, these gifts do not bode well with Doug.  Who could have known about their favorite pastimes?  The bat's brand new.  Why were they left there?  Something's obviously not right here.

Soon Doug discovers that the woman who helps to take care of the house and makes meals for them wears a mask.  She says that she hurt her nose in an accident.  Why does everyone have missing body parts?  To make matters worse, Colette wants to go into the woods behind the old house against Doug's protests.  Not wanting his sister to go alone, he follows her into the darkened forest where they find a mysterious trapdoor that leads down into the ground.  Who would have placed that there?

Going down into it, the siblings discover a deep and dark secret.  They just found the home of the dreaded and rumored Beasties...


I'll be honest, I have very mixed feelings about The Beasties as you can probably guess by my rating. For me it wasn't quite a three star novel, but at the same time, I felt like it deserved a little more than a two star rating.  So, here we have a 2.75 rating rounded to a three for the sake of displaying stars!  Yep.  I'm indecisive.

I really enjoyed the story and the themes within it.  The reader gets to see how it is extremely important to take care of the environment.  I totally agree with this, but I think that the book had a strange way of trying to justify fighting back for nature.  For one, the Beasties are harmed when the surrounding forest, their home, is being destroyed and cut down piece by piece.  These creatures then contract a disease that messes with their body, making some creatures born without an arm, leg, or any other appendage that you can think of.  The Beasties' queen is  also dying.  She is the only one who can have children, and all of her litters are dying along with her.  This obviously presents a problem for their race.

To compensate for the current deforestation and their lost limbs, Beasties raid logging sites and take humans, cutting off various appendages and attaching them to themselves.  Weird, I know.  It's equally creepy and mortifying.  However, this is really what this story is all about: horror.  Colette immediately goes along with the Beasties and fights for them amongst their ranks, but Doug is torn between turning away from their gruesome ways or choosing to support them.  Which way will he choose?  Well, (HUGE SPOILER HERE) he chooses to go along with the Beasties in the end.  In his mind he sees things as if, while they do take body parts from humans, they only take one or two.  This leaves their victims still able to live and function, unlike the Beasties who have to contend with a dying forest and race.  Okay, so what is with that logic?  I don't understand how he could possibly be okay with the Beasties and defend them!  Aren't the lumber jack guys and the Beasties both in the wrong??!!!  I just...I don't...understanding is not going on here.  My brain does not think like that.

Then we have Colette and her admirable love for reading.  She has a deep passion for literature.  However, her father kept talking about how he couldn't fathom how his own daughter could just sit around with her nose stuck in a book.  He kept telling her to close the book and go out into the woods.  Do something, anything but read.  Hmm...discouraging a child from reading?!  Oh, that was the true horror here.  I wanted to rip this man from the pages so I could give him a lecture on how it's okay to let your child read.  Let them be adamant about it and support them!  Oh, my heart just broke.

The Beasties also didn't sit well with me for one more reason.  In the beginning, I was definitely scared and horrified.  That's why I picked up this book from the YA section at the library after all.  However, after they found the trapdoor leading down to the Beasties' home and explored it, I felt like it lost its fear factor rather fast.  One minute there's YA horror going down and then a little more of a Middle Grade feeling set in for the rest of the novel.  Maybe this was just me.  I lost a tad bit of interest in it.  So, I would recommend this to higher Middle Grade or lower YA readers because there is some violence, but there is also a MG vibe to it.

Overall, it was a nice, quick, and easy read, but I think that the length was what created the problem for me.  I was not convinced at all in Doug's choice or that the Beasties were less in the wrong.  There were some great themes in here, though.  It gives the book a tone of what it means to take a step back and realize what you are doing to the earth.  We have to think of the bigger picture.  So, there was a great message, a nice splash of horror, but problems that kept me from totally enjoying The Beasties.

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