Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Girlgoyle (Hollow Mountain Butterfly, Book 1) by Better Hero Army

25629504This review was written by: B and C
Received: Author
Publication Date of Book: July 15, 2015
Pages: 300
Stars: 5/5

"You have to know the difference between what you truly know, and what seems real.  You have to harden your mind to resist them.  A heart and will of stone.  That's our way."

Book Description:
Tiffany Noboru is your typical determined, family loving, yet insecure girl with the usual ups and downs . . . except for the fact that she's dead. That's right!  Tiffany was unjustly murdered by a sinister ghost by the name of Bones.  Stripped from our world one night in a sudden act of malice, Tiffany awakens from death in a new world where all is like nothing she has ever seen before.  To make matters even more confusing for Tiffany, massive wings have sprouted from her back.  People around her are just as peculiar.  Some individuals have wings, some have tails, some have both wings and tails, and some have neither of these assets.  Certain individuals have skin like marble, as well, in all different types of colors.  Welcome to the land of the gargoyles!

Now the clumsy Tiffany must learn how to fly, fit in with those her own age in her appointed housing unit, deal with the loss of never getting to see her family again, and come to terms with her own tragic demise.  Then, Franklin comes into the picture.  Franklin is Tiffany's instructor who is to help her learn the ways of the gargoyles, their history, and how to fight.  Oh, and now she's being drafted into the Gargoyle Ghost Hunter Corps. The gargoyles have been given the duty to protect the human world by hunting the ghosts who terrorize it, which they have been doing dutifully for years. Franklin is one of the best of the best at hunting ghosts, and when Bones is the new target for him, things get a little chaotic.  This ancient ghost has a driving desire to destroy the gargoyle world.  

Tiffany thought her old life could be complicated!  Will she find a way to fit in with her new peers?  Can this young girl ever find a way to contact her loving parents on the other side?  Is Bones going to destroy the gargoyles forever?  Or is someone going to step up to the plate and destroy him once and for all?  Tiffany has lots on her mind, and one of these many thoughts is figuring out how to keep Bones from killing her again.  So, if you want to figure out what happens, pick up a copy of Girlgoyle and find out!

Our Thoughts:
Together, C and I have read several books by Better Hero Army, and we have two things to say about him.  The first being that this book proves he is easily competent of being a diverse writer who can pen for all different ages, as well as explore all different genres with great detail and description.  Secondly, he never disappoints us!  Each and every one of his novels is a work of art that we love to delve into, exploring every little detail.  

Girlgoyle was an original, fantasy/paranormal read that was chock-full of fascinating characters, possessing various, defining personalities and backgrounds, especially Tiffany who was of Japanese descent.  On top of this, the world building was absolutely beautiful.  The settings in this book, particularly where the gargoyles live, were skillfully portrayed.  (Our favorite was the secret garden!)  His fluid writing allowed us to easily depict and portray scenes in our mind's eye without confusion.  

Tiffany, the main protagonist, was a delight to read about.  We both connected with her in a special way for several reasons.  To start off with, she was clumsy and awkward but still strong-willed which we could easily identify with.  It's the story of our lives, in fact!  Also, while it was not an entirely huge part of the novel, the sense of family/friendship between Tiffany and her parents and eventually Tiffany and Franklin, was extremely touching.  Family comes in all different shapes and sizes, and Better Hero Army did an excellent job of painting that.

Also, we were interested to see just how the gargoyle universe differed from our own world, and we were happy to see that there was an equal balance between the supernatural elements unknown to Tiffany and yet a norm that could be translated between her old life and her new one.  For example, the girls that Tiffany had to room with are just like the ones you'd meet in any other setting.  Some are rude, judgmental, meddlesome, and cruel while others are caring, shy, and friendly.  It definitely felt like something that was universal for teens, something that everyone could understand or relate too, especially because of high school.

Several other notable qualities incorporated into this novel were determination, courage, and dedication, all simulated by Tiffany herself.  Yes, she was not the most coordinated individual, but she still practiced her flying even when people called her out on how horrible she was at it.  It's true that she was small and awkward, but her bravery made her seem larger than life.  It's also undeniable that she was forever separated from her family, but she still stayed dedicated to them and thought about them often.  

Of course, we can't leave you without mentioning the twenty wonderful illustrations by Miimork.  They expressed a manga-like feel that the two of us absolutely fell in love with!  There's no denying how much Christian and I are obsessed with manga and anime.  Miimork, to us at least, was slightly reminiscent of the exquisite Kazue Kato (Blue Exorcist).  Miimork's illustrations presented a spectacular opportunity for us, as readers, to see the story come to life on an entirely different level!  

The action and adventure packed into this book is plentiful and sure to keep MG and YA readers satisfied as they rip right through it.  We hope that everyone can see what a crowd-pleaser that this book actually is.  Better Hero Army wowed us yet again!  This author has promising talent that you just have to check out!  He set up Gargoyle so that it could open up an entire world of possibilities for sequels that we can't wait to hear about. 

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Being by Kevin Brooks

636199This review was written by: C
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: February 2007
Pages: 336
Stars: 3/5

Summary of the story:

Robert Smith once believed that he was a normal sixteen-year-old boy . . . and human. However, one single event changes his life forever. Robert arrives at the hospital to undergo a routine endoscopy to confirm suspicions of possible stomach ulcers. Of course, the teen is nervous, anxious, and uncertain about what is about to happen. After being injected with an anesthetic, the doctors place the telescopic tube down Robert's throat and come across a shocking discovery.... what lies within Robert is definitely not normal. Robert begins to hear snippets of conversation and the fact that what is inside of him is completely unnatural. He possesses silvery filaments and strange colored liquids that none of the medical staff have ever seen before. Robert can't move or speak as he is poked, prodded, and sliced into. He must escape at all costs and retrieve his files and the video that shows what was found within him. Somehow Robert forces himself to wake up right after his stomach is ripped open and explored by the medical staff. Robert only has one prominent thought: He must escape.

After running from the hospital with a stolen pistol, clothing, his medical files, his endoscopy video, and a hostage (who happens to be the anesthesiologist), Robert heads for the train station. He has no idea where he's going from there, what he is, or how he will escape those who will soon be coming after him. He abandons the hostage, hops on a train, and formulates a plan. He will have to reach Eddi, a girl he once met long ago while he was staying at one of many homes for orphans. Eddi is a dangerous thief that makes a living creating fake IDs. Robert desperately needs a new identity and Eddi is his only hope. Robert can't go home, the people who want him back have framed him for murder, and thus his old life is completely destroyed.

Eddi has seen the papers and knows that Robert is wanted for murder and helps him nonetheless. With a new look, credit cards, and identity, Robert wants to prove his innocence to her. They soon arrive back at the hospital searching for the hostage/anesthesiologist that helped Robert get away, however, they soon discover that he never made it back and was killed in a car accident. Robert can't believe this and knows that his former hostage was murdered by those who want him back. Then one of the guards recognizes Robert, placing him on the run yet again. After the guard is killed and Eddi and Robert escape, they must somehow determine what to do to outrun those who will stop at nothing to discover what Robert is and retrieve him as soon as possible. Eddi and Robert must trust one another if they both want to survive.

My thoughts:

When I heard about this book, I absolutely knew that I had to read it. The story seemed extremely interesting and the mystery of what Robert was intrigued me. The novel automatically delved  into Robert's situation, beginning immediately with his arrival at the hospital and his endoscopy. Brooks used some powerful descriptions to convey all that Robert was feeling as he lied unconscious on the medical table. I felt like I really was Robert and definitely felt a little queasy while reading what was going on. I'm not sure if anyone else who read this book felt this way or if I just have a very overactive imagination, but I definitely connected with Robert and experienced his fear, pain, and frustration. 

This connection with the character was strong throughout the first half of the novel. I rooted for Robert and hoped that he would escape those pursuing him. I was also super excited to find out what Robert was. With what was found inside him, he could have been any number of things: an alien, cyborg, android, some government experiment, etc. The interesting part was that Robert didn't even know himself. He is an orphan, unaware of who his biological parents are, or how to find/contact them. He also can't distinctly remember any of his early childhood memories, they all mix together and become a jumbled blur, therefore what he is could be the result of something that was done to him. All of these events felt like they were building up to some grand finale, but the final half involved Eddi and Robert living a life that almost felt like a fantasy that couldn't last. As a result, I felt a disconnect and a bit let down by the last half of the story.

--- Spoiler Alert! ---
With all the build-up and uncertainty about what Robert could be, I was extremely disappointed that you NEVER get to find out what Robert is! You get brief descriptions of what is inside him, find out that he heals quickly, and that he never ever has been seriously sick in his life. These aren't definitive clues that can lead to a concrete conclusion of what Robert is. Those who are after him also definitely want to find out what Robert is and why he exists. Robert also fears what he might be, but by the end of the book he doesn't seem to care at all. He's been through hell but then suddenly is content with not knowing what he is or why he exists. 

--- Major Spoiler Alert! ---
With this kind of story, there is usually a formula. The character finds out that he's different and the government or some shady organization discovers that this person is unique, and they want to capture them. Eventually, at some point in the book, the character is captured by these individuals, experimented on, they find out what the character is, the character escapes, etc. There may even be a love interest involved and they may ride happily off into the sunset at the end or face a terrible tragedy that they have to overcome, or perhaps the final tragedy may lead into a second book. Brooks threw out all of what would be expected. The entire book is Robert running and falling in love with Eddi. They finally reach a country where they live happily for a very short time and then the organization looking of Robert finds them. Their happy little world shatters completely. Eddi is killed, Robert fights those who have come after him, and leaves one of the bad guys close to death. This particular bad guy is the one that really wants to know what Robert is, and Robert punishes him by stating that they will never find Robert again and they must live never knowing. 

While reading this book I felt it was five star material, but the story began to disappoint me, especially at the end. Eddi and Robert were such a cute couple and even though you knew they probably wouldn't have a happy ending, I didn't expect Eddi to be killed off (especially since the author hinted that she was pregnant with Robert's child).  Due to the last half of the book I finally concluded to give the book a total of three stars. I do have to give the author props though, for detouring from the set norm. He didn't follow the expected formula for this kind of story, but his deviation choices didn't exactly make me happy. I was super excited to find out what Robert was. Heck, the summary on the inside jacket seemed to hint at the fact that the story was Robert's journey to discovering who and what he was.

I also would like to quickly discuss the fact that Brooks explored what it meant to be human. At the end Robert doesn't care what he is, but he had a deep internal conflict at the beginning of his story. He was conflicted with the fact that he may or may not be human. He knew that he felt emotion, experienced everything that a normal human did, including pain, suffering, and sadness. The only thing that he couldn't do was shed a single tear. He loved Eddi more than anything and her death was terrible. He felt loss and then he felt a deep resolve to end it all. He would not allow those after him to destroy his life any longer. Overall, I would read this book if you enjoy a good twisting tale and don't fear the fact that it deviates from the norm.

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