A Monster Calls | Book Review

Title: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Candlewick
Publish Date: September 27, 2011
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy, Fiction, Horror
Pages: 224
Format: Kindle eBooks

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

This book follows a preteen named Conor during a time when his mother is fighting cancer, and his anger and grief takes the form of a monster that he sees outside of his window one night: an ancient tree that came to life. The tree tells him four stories – well, only three, as Conor has to tell him the fourth – and with each Conor learns something, or something happens in his environment as a result of each story.

I thought that this novel was a great exploration into grief and how it can manifest itself into something entirely different if it’s not dealt with properly. The book didn’t make it something that could easily be covered up, it didn’t make light of it, but rather the story focused on how, over time, grief can become a catalyst for events to happen and take place. It can be dangerous, destructive, wild, or it can be very lonely and heartbreaking. I personally felt a connection to this due to circumstances with my own family and my own grief and how my own grief manifested, but that’s another story for another day. Delving into grief as a topic is one that I don’t often see in the books I read, so it was refreshing to see.

I personally thought that the way the monster was represented by this ancient tree that Conor’s mother always pointed out was clever. The monster would come at the same time every night – 12:06AM – and after every encounter it would leave a mess behind to show that it had, in fact, been there and been real (such as leaves or branches).

I kind of expected Conor to act a bit more…surprised or scared at the fact that, you know, a giant walking tree was at his window, but he wasn’t as wary as I was expecting him to be. Of course, the more the monster came, the less he was afraid, which makes sense.

The relationship between Conor and his mother was super sweet, and I love to see how close a mother and son could be. Even though his parents are divorced (and the interaction between him and his father was awkward), it was nice to see parental units that actually loved and cared for their son. Though, Conor’s relationship with his grandmother was very much strained until the end, I thought that it was all very realistic as far as familial relationships go.

As far as relationships at Conor’s school went, I thought that it was all very interesting to see. If it’s a small school, I could understand why everyone was acting especially careful around Conor, and even the bullies were interesting. By this I mean I found the head bully to be… almost like a monster himself. I don’t know for sure if he was really real or what. But I also think he got what he deserved in the book, so that’s that. I did appreciate the one friend that tried to reconcile and help Conor, but of course, grief can make you say and do things – and avoid things – that may otherwise be of help to you.

The story ended in a way that had me crying at 2AM for several reasons, and I loved it. It was a heart-wrenching dive into what happens when you’re losing someone whom you love more than you could ever express, and how, if handled poorly, grief can manifest into a monster.

★★★★☆

Top 5 Wednesday: Books Outside Our Comfort Zone

Welcome to another Top 5 Wednesday as hosted by Sam @ Thoughts on Tomes. This week’s topic is about the books that we’ve read outside of our comfort zone, or what we usually read. So the types of books I usually read are fantasy – adult and YA – and YA contemporaries. Those are the main types of books in which I read, and of course there are subgenres within those that fall out of what I normally do, but here I’m going to talk about a few books I’ve read (and some I haven’t finished) that fall out of my comfort zone.

5. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

cinder

This YA sci-fi book is very popular with a lot of people, and I thought it was okay at best. I really wanted to get into it because I love the idea of mixing sci-fi with fairytale retellings, but this first book just didn’t really do it for me, but I did still enjoy it. I do enjoy reading sci-fi books, but I don’t do it often and I want to change that.

4. Saga by Brian K Vaughan

sagavol1

This comic book series definitely falls out of my comfort zone because even though I’m a manga fanatic, I’ve never read a comic book series before. I may have dabbled here and there on them before, but this is the only comic book series that I’ve actually invested myself in – and I love it! Comics are very similar to manga in that they tell a story through pictures, but they’re very different because they’re generally smaller volumes, bright, colorful art throughout, and all of the art styles differ in some way. Not to say that manga isn’t the same, but the color aspect is definitely different.

3. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

myladyjane

Now I do enjoy reading historical fiction novels and period pieces, but I’ve never read a YA historical comedy retelling. It’s a mouthful, but it was such a fun book! I felt like the authors did a wonderful job not only retelling the story of Lady Jane, the nine day queen, and then incorporating their own twists and magical elements to the mix. It made for a fascinating, wonderful story about awkward teens in the 1600s.

2. The Deal by Elle Kennedy

thedeal

I’ve never read a New Adult story before, and as this series was my first in that genre, I’m really glad to have picked it up. Sure, it’s got a lot (A LOT) of sex, but it also has a story around it and I felt like I was becoming very invested in the characters. I haven’t really heard much about the NA genre except that it’s college aged kids, lots of sex, and drama. I mean, that does kind of sum it up, but I’m sure that there is more out there that’s different and explores more. This series definitely made me interested to read more in the NA genre.

1 . Asylum by Madeleine Roux

asylum

It’s a horror novel. I hate horror. I haven’t finished reading this book, but I started it a while ago for a readathon and I just… I can’t. I want to finish it, I do, but horror is just not something I’m comfortable with watching or reading (unless I’m in a weird mood). The thing is, I’m really interested to see what happens in the book but the pacing and story are creepy, and then the pictures inside it? Forget, I can’t.

Let’s Chat! ≧◡≦

What kinds of books fall out of your comfort zone? Have you read any that fall into mine? What kinds of books do you want to explore that you don’t normally read? What’s stopping you?

Genrethon Wrap Up

I swear, every time I participate in a readathon something in my personal life drags me down and I find myself struggling to keep up with it all. Ahhhhh. I mean, I still participated and I had fun, but this week was just a load of ups and downs and not a lot of reading time.

So, genrethon is over (sadface) and it was a less than stellar week because I didn’t finish a single book, BUT I still read some things, so here are some stats:

Magical Realism

thenightcircus

The Night Circus: 46 pages

I only read the first chapter of the book because I didn’t have much time, or the time I want to invest and dive into the book. I hope to do so eventually, though, because I know this is a very beloved book.

Horror

asylum

Asylum: 150 pages

WHY MUST THERE BE PICTURES IN HERE? WHY. Other than the unsettling pictures, I’m enjoying what I’m reading so far. It feels like a “classic” kind of school horror story and I really like that feeling about this book.

Memoir

binge

Binge: 12 pages

Oh Tyler.

Total Pages Read: 208 pages

I mean, that’s not horrible. At least I still read a bit from each book I was setting out to read for genrethon. Things just kept getting in the way in my personal life, so there’s that.

Otherwise I had a fun time and I know some people got enjoyment out of my Twitter hashtag #raynareadsasylum. Oh man. Here’s a few:

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 1.55.59 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-16 at 1.56.19 PMScreen Shot 2016-04-16 at 1.56.26 PM

So that was a fun experience. I’ll finish the book, I promise, but I don’t know how I’m going to handle it!

So that’s it for the genrethon! I hope to participate next time and actually try to finish at least one book, hopefully. Until then, I’ll just keep reading.

Did you participate in genrethon? What books did you read? What was your favorite and least favorite? Let me know!

Genrethon TBR

Let’s just participate in all the readathons while you’re doing Camp NaNoWriMo, Rayna. Yes. Brilliant idea.

So I heard about this other cool readathon that’s going on this month from April 10-17 called Genrethon that is hosted by four lovely people on Booktube:

The rules are pretty simple:

  1. Read at least three books.
  2. Read at least three different genres.

Pretty simple, right? I’m actually kind of excited for this one because I have several books on my shelf that I’ve been putting off because it’s not the typical genre that I read, so this is the perfect opportunity to jump on those!

So here is my TBR for this week of madness:

1 . Horror

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

asylum

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it’s a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it’s no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

I try to stay away from horror in every way, shape, and form (unless it’s video games or I’m in a weird mood), so that’s why I’ve put this book off for well over a year and a half now. So I thought that this would be the perfect time to pick it up and see how I like it (and hopefully not be too freaked out by it).

2. Memoir

Binge by Tyler Oakley

binge

Pop culture phenomenon, social rights advocate, and the most prominent LGBTQ+ voice on YouTube, Tyler Oakley brings you his first collection of witty, personal, and hilarious essays written in the voice that’s earned him more than 10 million followers across social media.

I’ve been following Tyler for several months now, and I got his book around the time it came out and started to read it, but I just never finished it. Hopefully I do finish it during this week!

3. Magical Realism

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

thenightcircus

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

I feel like everyone and their mother has read this book because I constantly hear praise about it and so I’m going to read it for this readathon. I don’t know that I’ll get through the whole thing, but I’m going to do my best to read what I can! Plus it just sounds enchanting.

I’m pretty excited to do this readathon because I’m hoping to knock a book off my shelf that’s been there for over a year; a book that I’ve wanted to read for several years; and a book that I started but haven’t finished. I know I most likely won’t finish them all to 100% by the end of the week, but I’m going to do my best to see how much I can get through.

Are you participating in Genrethon? What books and genres do you plan on reading? Let me know!

Alice Book Review

aliceTitle: Alice
Series: The Chronicles of Alice #1
Author: Christina Henry
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Genre: Adult – Fantasy, Fairytale Retelling, Horror
Pages: 291
Format: Borrowed Paperback from Coworker

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

This was a different twist on the original tale of Alice in Wonderland for sure. It was dark, twisted, a little creepy, and full of murder and blood. The book did sound interesting, though, and I liked the voice the author had throughout the story.

The book starts with Alice in an insane asylum when she is sixteen years old and quickly passes time to ten years later when she is still there. One day, her friend in the room next to hers, Hatcher, knows that the Jabberwock will be released and they have to get out.

And things are only just beginning when they do. The world of the Old City is much more twisted than that of the New City, because in the Old City there are prostitutes everywhere, as well as people who just take girls to rape them. I honestly think that this was probably the one detail of the story that kept popping up again and again that I could have done without. It made me angry and made my skin crawl just thinking of it.

When we’re first introduced to Alice, she doesn’t understand the world – at least, not as an adult. She only knows what the world was like as a teenager, and can’t remember all of the events that caused her to end up in the asylum other than her ranting about a Rabbit. I thought that she stayed pretty true to the Alice we know, albeit a confused one who doesn’t know what to think of the world and what’s going on. As time progresses, though, she does become fiercer, braver, sharper, and she knows that the only thing in this Old City is to survive and take down the Rabbit.

I thought that her develop gradually increased, but I wasn’t necessarily blown away by her. She was definitely an Alice I was expecting and I’m kind of glad for that. There were a few other things I wish had been fleshed out for her, such as her family life as a child and why she doesn’t remember what happened to her, about her feelings for Hatcher and where they stemmed from, and what about the necklace she is later gifted – what is its significance?

Hatcher, on the other hand, was very interesting to me. It wasn’t until much, much later in the story that I figured out that he’s based off of the Mad Hatter. He’s in the asylum for a much darker reason than Alice, and the reason why becomes clear as they journey through the Old City to find the Rabbit. I thought that his character stayed true throughout the entire novel, which was reassuring. He seemed like he had the mind of someone much younger, but at the same time of someone who understood the world in a much simpler way. Though he was the one who often had to kill people around them to survive, he had a bit of humanity in him that didn’t make him terrifying, but real.

There were secondary characters, like Cheshire, the Caterpillar, the Walrus, and Dor, who were easy to spot their character equivalent of, and I thought that they were pretty true to their personalities from the original tale: Cheshire was smart and witty, but quick with a temper if crossed; the Caterpillar was cunning and cocky, thinking very highly of himself; the Walrus was just kind of a coward and I didn’t care much for him; and Dor was… well, she was only there briefly, so I can’t really say much about her.

The plot continually moved forward, pushing Alice and Hatcher to find the Rabbit and put a stop to things. In fact, I think the two main plots were to take out the Jabberwock and to find the Rabbit. There were a lot of bumps and blood along the way, though, and many revelations for Alice as they continued. Many parts were dark and twisted, and though I wish there had been less of the girls and sex and rape and stuff mentioned in here, I understand that it is a part of this world (but I don’t have to like it just because of that).

Overall I thought that the story was compelling and was definitely leading to something big, but I think that the last fifty or so pages fell kind of flat. I thought that  after so much mention of the Rabbit and his eyes and more would have lead to this epic battle scene or something – even with the Jabberwock – but it wasn’t and I think that’s where my disappointment crept in. The story felt like it was going in one direction and it ended in a completely different way. That’s honestly the saddest part of it all, plus I have a few unanswered questions like, Where did the love between Alice and Hatcher pop up? Was it because they had known each other from the asylum and therefore only knew what to expect from the other? What about the necklace that Alice wore, what was its significance in the end? Do we get to see what happens next?

I mean, there will be a sequel, but I don’t know if I’ll read it given the deflated ending of this one. The book was good, though darker than I anticipated, but I don’t know if these questions will be answered. Plus, there were a lot of typos that I noticed, and misused pronouns of he and she on occasion, so that was kind of annoying.

If you’re looking for a darker fairytale retelling with a creepy air about it, then check out this book.

I rated it 4/5 stars and recommend it.