Review: Thin Space by Jody Casella

Title: Thin Space
Author: Jody Casella
Pages: 256
Genre: YA, paranormal, contemporary
Series? No
Publisher: Beyond Words Publishing
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Rating: 4/6 – I really liked it

Synopsis from NetGalley: Ever since the car accident that killed his twin brother, Marshall Windsor has been consumed with guilt and crippled by secrets of that fateful night.

He has only one chance to make amends, to right his wrongs and set things right. He must find a Thin Space—a mythical point where the barrier between this world and the next is thin enough for a person to step through to the other side.

But, when a new girl moves into the house next door, the same house Marsh is sure holds a thin space, she may be the key—or the unraveling of all his secrets.

As they get closer to finding a thin space—and closer to each other—Marsh must decide once and for all how far he’s willing to go to right the wrongs of the living…and the dead.

My Initial Thoughts/Rambling: I classified this one as a contemporary paranormal, since it’s really like contemporary fiction with a smattering of paranormal elements. The paranormal isn’t the main focus, so I felt the contemporary title was needed. Anyway, I started this one a bit skeptical, since Ner from A Cup of Coffee and a Book (I love this woman and her coffee cups – go check out her blog!) wasn’t wowed by it. Check out her review here. Usually she and I have similar opinions, but I actually found that I enjoyed this one a lot more than she did!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Thin Space from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What did I think about the characters? Marsh, the main character, isn’t so much emotionless as he is empty, which I find is one of the strongest emotions out there. Casella does a great job of conveying that feeling of hollowness – the suctioning black hole that sits right in your chest and sucks every good thing out of the world. I really felt that aching loss inside Marsh as he tries to move on from his brother Austin’s death. He spends most of the book trying (and miserably failing) to carry on in life, even if his only purpose is to find a thin space where he plans to enter the afterlife to be with Austin again. The character development wasn’t really there till the end, but that was okay for me since Marsh’s narration was so raw and emotional that I really felt his utter confusion and sense of disconnection at being the surviving twin.

I really liked Maddie too – she was sweet, if a bit too naive, and her gentle influence on Marsh was my favorite part of the book. Plus, her dedication to his search for a thin space was touching – while everyone else considered Marsh crazy, she reached for him where he was at and helped him recover.

And the concept and plot? The concept is great! It wasn’t too much paranormal, which for me can sometimes be an iffy subject, but just enough to add a twist to the story. The plot – oh my wow. That plot twist! My jaw literally dropped – I did not see that coming at all. The one thing I would have liked to see is less of an abrupt ending – I was so emotionally attached that when it ended I felt kind of let down. 

What about the writing style? I think my favorite part, like I said above, was how Casella presents Marsh’s struggle to recover. His physical scars were healing, but the emotional ones were still raw and throbbing. Maybe it’s a function of my personal experiences, but it was really easy to connect to Marsh. The forgetfulness and inability to remember even walking home, the looming panic attacks, the sense of inability to emotionally connect with another human or even maintain a conversation: all of it was presented so well, and my heart ached for Marsh. And the way Casella shows that sense of missing identity – flawless. Especially between twin brothers, and how people mix them up all the time. It kind of makes me think of the twins I know at my youth group – I’m really going to make an effort to get to know them and tell them apart without their name tags. 

Anything else you’d like to add? Sorry Ner – I disagree with you on this one! I really do recommend it, but just know that it’s very character driven, with the narrator being a mostly-directionless, borderline suicidal, guilt-ridden teen boy working towards healing and forgiveness.

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ARC Review: Note to Self by Peter Ward

Title: Note To Self
Author: Peter Ward
Genre: Science fiction, futuristic, dystopian
Series? No
Publisher: Diversion Books (September 17, 2013)
Rating: 4/6 – It was pretty good!

Synopsis from NetGalley: In a world where technology controls everything, sometimes your own handwriting is the only thing you can trust.

Richard Henley is an ordinary man leading an ordinary life, but when he finds strange notes in his own handwriting warning that someone is trying to kill him, he is sent on a journey to places he never knew existed. With an ominous and all-powerful organisation on his trail, his only hope is to trust unexpected allies, take control of his life, and uncover the truth about what happened to the girl he loved twenty years ago. A darkly humorous commentary on our app-obsessed culture, if Richard can stay alive, his world will never be the same again.

My Initial Thoughts/Rambling: Now that I actually look at the cover in a bit more detail, I realize that those dangly things aren’t the jangles you hang in your door way, but actually binary code. Now it makes a lot more sense – and the cover is a perfect representation of the core theme of the book! Possible Spoilers Ahead.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Note to Self from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What did I think about the characters? This isn’t a YA book like I usually review, but rather told from the perspective of a middle-aged man. So that was a bit of a switch for me, and it made connecting to Richard a bit more difficult. Nevertheless, I found myself getting sucked into his story, and wondering what was going to happen to him next! He’s a solid blend of confused-man-thrown-into-wacky-situation and strong-character-who-takes-charge-in-wacky-situation, and turns out to be very well balanced and likeable.

Cassandra, another one of the characters, though secondary, was my favorite. She has the mouth of a sailor, knows how to drive a flying car, and is sassy as all get-out. My personal favorite line is one I can’t share due to huge spoiler reasons, but just know that she’s awesome.

And the concept and plot? The concept was great, if a bit mind-bending at first. Parallel worlds and quantum physics are still a bit hard for me to wrap my brain around – still haven’t watched enough Doctor Who to get it all. Some of the moral and ethical dilemmas brought up were great to consider for myself, and it made me think as to where I stood on the spectrum of agree/disagree with the statements the characters made. Plus, it really hit home with the idea that as a society we’re too plugged in to our tech and it could easily become a danger to us.

The plot was perfectly paced, up until the very end where I felt like it was wrapped up a bit too quickly. The dystopian elements of the book were great, but the “let’s overthrow the government” aspect was resolved within a few pages, so it was a bit of a let down in terms of suspense.

What about the writing style? This was what really sold the book for me. It was well written, descriptive without overdoing it, and engaging. And for a galley, well edited, which was a plus for me.

Anything else you’d like to add? Despite not having too much to complain about, I still give this one a 4 instead of a 5. For some reason, I just couldn’t get over that hump of really like to love. Maybe it’s because of Richard’s age? Nevertheless, I did enjoy this book for the incredible writing and themes.

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Review: Water by Terra Harmony

Title: Water
Author: Terra Harmony
Pages: 279
Genre: New Adult, Sci-fi, fantasy
Series? Yes, #1 in the Akasha Series
Publisher: Patchwork Press (20110
Rating: 4/6 – I really liked it!

Synopsis from NetGalley: Elemental powers in the palm of her hand, and it won’t be enough to save her. Involuntarily introduced to a life of magic, Kaitlyn becomes part of an organization hell-bent on saving the Earth. Just as she starts to adjust, the organization divides and a rogue member holds Kaitlyn hostage. Now one of the most terrifying men the human race has to offer stands between her and Earth’s survival.

My Initial Thoughts/Rambling: I’ve been a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender since it first premiered in 2005 (and subsequently an impatiently-waiting-for-season-two fan of its sequel, the Legend of Korra), so a book about people controlling the four elements is right up my alley. And I’m super happy to say that not only was the concept pleasing, but the actual story and writing was great too! Possible Spoilers Ahead.

Disclaimer: I received a free ebook of Water from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What did I think about the characters? Ohhh the love abounds! All of the characters were pretty distinct in their personalities, and it didn’t take the entire book to flesh them out either. Kaitlyn was reliable as a narrator, and I found her to be very believable in her reaction to everything. She had the right balance of “What the heck is going on” and “Okay, this is my new life, let’s roll with it.” We didn’t have to read through a hundred pages of indecision and moping, which was a welcome change of pace from what I expected.

The supporting characters were surprisingly three-dimensional as well. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Alex, the only human of the group and a combination of fun, sarcasm, and protectiveness. Susan was more of a motherly character, and she added the needed maturity and warmth that the cast of characters needed. Shawn was adequately creepy, and he’s one of those characters that I hate unequivocally – like Umbridge.

And then there’s Micah. I’m really torn on him, and he was really the main point of the book that rubbed me wrong. He started out incredibly perfect, but halfway through the book he turned into Edward Cullen levels of “protectiveness.” It was pretty creepy at times, and he became really controlling and borderline abusive towards Kaitlyn at the end. I really hope it evens out in the later books, because I genuinely did like Micah’s character before he went bonkers.

And the concept and plot? Anything to do with elemental powers, I’m in. It’s like… a book kink, to put it bluntly. Just like dark-haired, light eyed angels. Hopefully I didn’t just creep you all out. Moving on!

The plot was well-paced, and it felt evenly balanced before and after the climax. The world-building was quickly yet efficiently done, and I didn’t feel like I was speeding through anything. It didn’t feel cliche either! All in all, a genuinely good concept and a solid plot.

What about the writing style? Ah, I love me some descriptions. It wasn’t overly filled with adjectives, but just enough that I knew how I should be picturing it, and I filled in the rest. Harmony writes in an engaging and gripping fashion, and oh my wow that cliffhanger left my jaw on the floor! Well, the couch, since that’s my reading place. 

Anything else you’d like to add? The only thing I’m conflicted about is whether I want to buy the boxed set on Kindle, saving $6, or buy them individually so I can have the separate files. I have a feeling I’ll end up buying them one by one, because I really hate boxed sets for Kindle.

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Revew: Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton

Title: Some Quiet Place
Author: Kelsey Sutton
Pages: 331
Genre: Paranormal, romance, YA, supernatural
Series? No
Publisher: Flux (2013)
Rating: 4/6 – I really liked it

Synopsis from cover: I can’t feel sadness, anger, or fear. I can’t feel anything. I’ve grown talented at pretending.

Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions… she sees them in human form. Longing hovers around the shy, adoring boy at school. Courage materializes beside her dying friend. Fury and Resentment visit her abusive home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, except beautiful Fear, who sometimes torments her and other times plays her compassionate savior. He’s obsessed with finding the answer to one question: What happened to Elizabeth to make her this way?

They both sense that the key to Elizabeth’s condition is somehow connected to the paintings of her dreams, which show visions of death and grief that raise more questions than answers. But as a shadowy menace begins to stalk her, Elizabeth’s very survival depends on discovering the truth about herself. When it matters most, she may not be able to rely on Fear to save her.

My Initial Thoughts/Rambling: This book should be proof that you always need to walk at least twice through the YA section before leaving the store. I went through Barnes and Noble once, then something pulled me back to look just once more. Lo and behold, I spotted this one on the very bottom shelf, tucked away in the paranormal section (which I usually skip over). The Lesson: Never Leave Without Checking Twice. BE SANTA. 

Possible Spoilers Ahead.

What did I think about the characters? Elizabeth was really hard to connect to, at least for the first half of the story, before she started to open up a little bit, but in this case it was a job well done on Sutton’s part. A girl with no emotions should be hard to empathize with, right? In the second half, though, everything started to pick up, and I latched onto Elizabeth’s new found emotion like a barnacle.

Then we have the two love interests. When I bought the book, I didn’t know there was a love triangle, so it was a bit of a surprise. BUT, it was actually pretty well done! There wasn’t any angst, at least related to the triangle. Elizabeth came to a very clear realization, and it was refreshing to see a YA protagonist make her mind up for once.

So we have Fear, and then we have Joshua. Joshua is the sweet, compassionate, boy-next-door type. So, he is a bit flat, because he relies a lot on that archetype. In addition, he serves more as a plot piece rather than a love interest, but he plays that role well. He was sweet, and definitely a guy you’d want as your best friend.

But I’ll also be honest and say that I preferred Fear, hands down. He was enigmatic and powerful, so he had that whole vibe going, but he showed pretty quickly how intensely passionate and protective he is for Elizabeth. She may not show emotion, but he certainly does, and he carried the emotional story for me for the first half of the book. Plus, he rocks a black trenchcoat, white hair, and electric blue eyes. Now tell me that’s not hot.
Lady with squirt bottleAnd the concept and plot? The concept is thrilling. Being able to see emotions? That’s the main reason I picked up this book. And it was well executed too! It actually reminded me of this tumblr post I saw ages ago. 

And the plot… well I can’t say quite as much about it. It was a good story, and I liked the twists and turns in the second half, but the pacing was a bit off for me. It was like the first three quarters was the long uphill climb on a roller coaster, and the last quarter was the downhill at eighty miles an hour. This was a good and a bad thing: good because I felt the urgency of the situation, but bad because I felt like everything was wrapped up a bit too quickly. Like there was all this suspense and build up, but then it fell a little bit flat. Not to say that it wasn’t a solid plot, but I think if we had hit the climax a bit earlier, I would have given it a 5 instead of a 4.

What about the writing style? Ugh, gorgeous. Can I marry prose? Is that a thing? It should be a thing. Just look at this clip (my favorite): 

Fear has a bright facade and dark insides; he’s horror and a windy recklessness that carries millions over the plains with no hope of ever stopping. And Courage… he’s dark on the outside but carries a light within: he’s calm and encouraging and his very breath is a soothing dash of water on a hot, hot day.

Simply breathtaking.

Anything else you’d like to add? While I think there were a few plotting/pacing issues, overall I really enjoyed the book. It took a few chapters to really get into, but I’m glad I stuck with it, because this is one hidden gem I’m glad I found!

Oh, and I finally decided to brave emotional trauma and read The Fault In Our Stars. We’ll see how that goes.

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