Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Forgive Me, Leonard PeacockForgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

I don’t know how helpful this review will be because I read most of the book through a film of tears. Which is an embarrassingly melodramatic statement to make after this book managed to be so dark and sad without feeling forced or manipulative like my words. But it’s true. Some of the tears were laughter, most of them were sadness. I just… I don’t know how to review books like this. I want to string together a list of beautiful, funny or sad quotes from the book when what I’m really saying is: “Just read it. Don’t take my word for it. Look, it’s there. Go love it.” Most of the book’s strengths can’t be talked about without spoilers and one of the main issues targeted in the story is very much needed; there’s not nearly enough books out there about it. But I can’t tell you what it is.

I’m tempted to say “I wish all books were like this” but that would totally defeat the point of what I’m saying. Because Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock felt so different to everything else out there and that’s partly why I loved it so much. Some of Leonard’s problems have been explored in other young adult novels, but none of them do it in quite the same way. I especially liked the creative use of letters Leonard wrote to himself from the future (this makes a lot more sense when you read the book, I swear). But, as with Sorta Like a Rock Star, the real strength lies with the vibrant, full-of-life protagonist himself. He takes center stage and captures your attention for the whole book, dragging you into his life until you find it hard to put down the novel and convince yourself he isn’t real.

Sorta Like a Rock Star is a darker book than the cover would have you think but it looks a bit like sunshine and rainbows when compared to this. And yet, somehow, Quick manages to make the dark story of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock work by mixing in some scenes of humour and, ultimately, hope. I can handle dark and depressing stories just fine, but a light at the end of the tunnel to balance out a story where I care so much about the main character is essential. And in this book, I cared so much I couldn’t look away from the sad story of Leonard and how he decided his eighteenth birthday would be his last. Taking his grandfather’s P-38 pistol in his backpack, he sets out to kill his former best friend and himself. Over the course of the day, we slowly learn the reasons behind Leonard’s decision and are forced to sit on the edge of our seats, hoping one of the people in his life breaks the pattern and stops letting him down.

Leonard Peacock has to be one of the loneliest characters I’ve ever encountered. He’s weird. He’s confused. Part of him wants to die but most of him just wants to be saved. There’s a sad honesty to his voice that makes the story so convincing and that much more effective. I also love books that weave in questions about morality that actually make the reader stop and think for a while. There’s plenty of questions being asked here about life, death, parental responsibility, the way we view others and religion. The last of which, in my opinion, gives us some of the funniest moments of the whole novel (though perhaps not if you’re particularly devout). There is some mockery of the whole “believe or be damned to hell” aspect of religion but, let’s be honest, that is hilarious.

All I can say now is: read this. But be prepared for sadness. There’s a sad tone to the novel that goes beyond the “issues” targeted. And I think the reason is Leonard Peacock. Because the author makes you love him from afar and you just want to hug him and solve his problems, knowing that you can’t. That’s the only reason I can think of to explain why this book was so sad even in the happier bits. And why I was tearing up even when Leonard said “the world would be a better place if they gave medals to great teachers rather than just soldiers.” Jesus, I’m going to cry again if I don’t stop talking about this book. So, get out of here. Go READ IT.

Shooting Scars by Karina Halle

Shooting Scars (The Artists Trilogy, #2)Shooting Scars by Karina Halle
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

Do the words “sexy”, “dark” and “twisted” pique your interest?
Do you secretly love romance but find yourself steering clear of it because of the cheese, the cliches and the recycled characters?
Have you been immersing yourself in the current New Adult trend only to keep meeting with disappointment after disappointment?
Do you wish you could read a book about a hot, sweet and complicated relationship (or two) without the usual misogyny or annoyances?

Well, have no fear, for Karina Halle is here.
I normally avoid contemporary romance like the plague because of the reasons stated above. Especially ones with a love triangle. But this series just proves that any reader’s rule can be broken in the hands of a talented author. That any number of utterly depraved characters can capture your heart with the right amount of skilled character development, touches of humour, and a dark, multi-layered complexity that makes Ellie, Camden and Javier more than simply good or bad. Let’s meet our morally questionable cast.

Her name is Ellie Watt.

Badass. Conwoman. Damaged. Resourceful. Sad. Angry. Confused. Likeable. Unlikeable. Totally screwed up. Today she may be Ellie Watt, but yesterday she was Eden White, and tomorrow she could be Eleanor Willis. Who is she really? The young woman who fell in love with a bad man? The teenager who turned her back on her only friend? A damaged girl torn apart by a lust for vengeance? Only time will tell.

Now meet the two men who love her.

Camden McQueen – “She took a piece of me I was unable to get back until I was inside her, feeling her heart and her sins in my hands.” Camden is the tattoo artist who has been in love with Ellie Watt for as long as he can remember. But as soon as things looked like they might be going right for once, circumstances have swept Ellie away from him yet again. This time, however, he isn’t going to let her go so easily. This time, he’ll start World War III if he has to.

Javier Bernal – “What Javier and I shared was a deadly cocktail of intense hormones and lies. People who burn that brightly still get burned in the end.” Dangerous. Exciting. Volatile. So wrong but so… right? Javier is now the drug lord of a huge empire and he has big plans for Ellie Watt. She’s been on the run from him for six years and now he’s finally caught up with the only woman he ever loved. What does he want from her? Will Ellie Watt be as willing to give in as Eden White was? And how much danger will she be in if she does?

Oh no, the decisions we must make!

The reason, I think, this love triangle works so damn well and very few others do, is because the two contenders for Ellie’s heart are both on equal footing. As soon as you think you’ve worked out who you want Ellie to be with, the other one does something to make you question your decision. The characters and relationships are so complicated (in a good way) that reading these books is a journey through so many different thoughts and emotions. Make no mistake, the characters in this book are all pretty despicable on some level or other, burning up in the flames of their own anger, hatred and insecurity, but it sure makes this book all the more fun to read. Only a few authors can take some truly bad individuals and make you mesmerised by their stories – Gillian Flynn is the example that first comes to mind.

What can I say? I love baaaad people.

There’s one thing I love that Karina Halle manages to do so well and very few authors can manage: she shows the gradual progression of characters and relationships over time. Camden and Gus, for an unexpected example, start out as reluctant partners trading jibes, but their experiences together turn them into friends. It’s natural for people to grow and change and develop as they go through more experiences and Halle never neglects to show it. Her characters always feel a little older, a little more experienced at the end of each book than they did at the beginning.

In short: this sequel was absolutely delicious. More sexiness, more nastiness, more depravity. Halle really knows how to take you on a journey and have you change your mind a million times before it’s over. It’s a wickedly fun, exciting read, but tinged with bittersweet sadness. I now know who Ellie should probably be with for the sake of her own sanity. But, then again, Ms Halle is the queen of making me change my mind. One mild criticism I have is the non-ending of this book, it left me incredibly frustrated, but I feel Moning’s Fever series has prepared me somewhat for endings of this kind. I only hope the third book makes the pulse-pounding feeling of tension I have right now completely worth it. I’m sure it will.

Are you excited about this series yet? You should be.

Acid by Emma Pass

AcidAcid by Emma Pass
My rating: 2 of 5 teacups

Oh my word, this ended up being one big disappointment. At first I thought for sure I had another winner, and was planning on giving it five stars, but then I got to the second half of the book and almost rage quit. I’ll be discussing the plot in depth (though I wouldn’t consider it too spoilerish), and any spoiler tags will true spoilers, so don’t open the tags if you don’t want to know what they say.

The first part

The book opens with our protagonist as an inmate in prison, and one thing that I can’t get enough of, is some hard-as-nails women. I just love those kinds of characters. I want to be them, and if I can’t be them, I want them to be my best friend. Jenna impressed me from the first page and it just kept getting better. One of the first lines: “I curl my lip into a snarl, half tempted to go over there and introduce him to my fists.” And this one: “Hopefully he’s got a good view of the tattoo on the back of my neck, the one I did myself last year using ink from a pen I found in the laundry and a shard of metal, telling him and anyone else who cares to read it to FUCK OFF.”

Give me moar!!! I caught my face moving into that impressed grin that I have when I come across a chick like that, and I’m telling you, I was excited to see what happened next.

The story is about our girl’s journey from hard inmate, to…pudding soft girl in love? Yeah. But I’ll get to that in the second half of this review. Back to the girl that I couldn’t get enough of! She ends up being broken out of prison by the prison’s doctor, and though she has no idea why, she ends up–actually, she doesn’t end up finding out why until nearly the end. But her annoyance with that was perfectly matched to my own, so I applaud the author for putting that in there.

Jenna goes through so much that I really felt bad for her for most of the book, but she doesn’t wallow and complain, nope! She’s gets pissed off!! (view spoiler)[When she finds out that her memories have been tampered with I was expecting her to have a bit of a breakdown, but no, she was livid. Not only that, but she was all about vengeance, and that’s something I like in my main characters. (hide spoiler)] The dark tones of this book were just superb! Everything was fabulously done.

Until she met a boy.

The second part

Now it all goes very wrong for me. After seeing Jenna be such a badass for so long, seeing her become so…obsessed…with Max really pissed me off. I can understand her having some feelings for a boy since she is still a teenager, but it just didn’t mesh with the character I’d been reading about. She meets him after he tries to mug her, and then he goes through withdrawals in her flat. He’s wanted by ACID too, and is the son of the prison doctor who broke her out of prison, and somehow she thinks that she owes him. Mind you, she’s basically in witness protection, and the charade she’s trying really hard to maintain is getting all kinds of jacked up, but no matter, he’s got pretty eyes and a nice smile. There’s this horrible woman in her apartment building that she knows will alert ACID if anything seems suspicious, and guess what happens? Yep. She does just that and then Jenna and Max make a run for it.

As they’re running from the agents, they somehow find this underground hiding spot for other people who are bucking the laws set down by the evil ACID regime. ACID really was a good evil, just to be clear, and I can’t even imagine what living in a world like that would be like. If some nosy person wanted to fucking spy on me daily I’d likely lose my mind. Mind your own business! Anyway, they’re suddenly surrounded by these other people, and Jenna decided that they’d pretend to be a couple. Since the other people seemed to be all couples. Yeah. I can get past that though I suppose. Max is really sick though, and they end up staying there for several days while he recovers from his fever, and during this time I guess they fall in love. There’s not much to go on here, other than that they’re both on the run, and they’re both in close confines together, but Max doesn’t even know who she is really, and Jenna makes no move to enlighten him and try to make him understand what all happened to her. (view spoiler)[ACID put it out that she was the one responsible for his dad dying, but it wasn’t her, it was the agents on the roof. (hide spoiler)]

The haven turns out to be not such a safe place after all when they learn the leader is actually a crazy man who amounts to a domestic terrorist. The, six?, other people there apparently frighten Jenna so much that she makes no attempt to break free. Our badass girl who is more than capable of holding her own as the only female in a high security prison, is intimidated by a few teenagers. Max in turn seems to be incapable of really defending himself, aside from being ill of course, because not one time does he attempt to break free either. I get that the leader was a better fighter than Jenna, but there’s two of them, and all they had to do was disable the fragile looking girl, and get the gun back, and then they could have left. But whatever.

As they get roped into this terrorist plot, they manage to run for it, and try to let ACID know that there’s a bunch of bad about to happen. What actually happens though is that Jenna gets herself sent back to prison!!! And Max finds out who she is and declares his hatred for her. That doesn’t matter to Jenna though because, no shit, (this is a memory of him that tries to surface later) “I can’t make out his face but I feel an inexplicable pull towards him, a rush of intense love mixed with sadness and guilt.” The only thing she thinks about after her return to prison is Max, and how he must be feeling/holding up/thinking/being treated.

No. Joke.

Then, our brilliant girl is given a ‘get out of jail free’ pass, and after she’s once again rescued, she decides to fuck up years worth of planning so she can go save poor Max from prison. I swear this whole fucking line of bullshit made me so pissed that I was thisclose to quitting. Gone is the girl that I was totally loving, and in her place was this obsessive little BRAT who didn’t care about anything but her love and her revenge. Never mind the FACT that if the general saw her he would recognize her on the spot, NO, she must save Max!! SHE MUST! She’s also told how she is to be a legit ACID officer, but fuck that, there’s suffering people in this prison! She had no idea!! Not like she fucking spent two years in a prison herself, NO! She ignores all the orders and helps herself into cells to give food, water, and just fucking companionship to a prisoner, and some-fucking-how she’s never caught. Even though the place is supposed to be under video surveillance like no other, NO, IT DOESN’T MATTER! SHE MUST HELP THIS GIRL!

The ending (view spoiler)[Then the goddamn general shows up, and the first night he’s there she punches the guard outside his door, and stuffs him in the bathroom, just fucking HOPING he wouldn’t come to before she was done with her plan. Then she goes into the general’s room and wakes him up, cuffs him to a chair, and makes him confess that she didn’t kill her parents, but rather it was ACID. He does so, but tells her that the whole jail is about to be blown up…because he’s always known about the resistance, and HAHA the jokes on you Jenna. So she fucking leave
s him, and goes to tell the others, because nobody else in the world but Jenna would have been able to find this out, and when they start evacuation they discover that the big bad general has, GASP, escaped! Oh, that’s right, because she didn’t fucking restrain that fucking guard! No shit Sherlock!!! And then we’re led on a merry chase where the general takes on a cartoonish persona with his life’s mission being to END JENNA STRONG, and blah blah, he’s caught. Crisis averted. All very fucking neat, and unbelievable. I was so angry.

But what I thought was a real kicker was in the end there’s a news clipping of how ACID was found guilty of a plethora of human rights violations, but and I fucking quote, “Perhaps the biggest shock of all was the evidence that proved Jenna Strong was indeed innocent, and that her parents were in fact killed by ACID on the orders of General Harvey.” Tell me how in the FUCK that’s going to be the biggest shock when this massive corrupt organization, that is truly evil, is finally toppled for massive human rights atrocities! Who fucking cares that Jenna went through that in the big picture!!!!!!!!!!! She was not the only one who suffered under ACID’s regime! (hide spoiler)] @#$#$^^^&*%^#@$@!#$#$^%^*^&* RAAAAAGE!!!!!!

JUST FUCKING UGH. I’m done. This review is out of control long, and I’m just fucking done. Oh, but real quick. This bugs me so much. When telling military time, use numbers, NEVER letters. It’s NEVER OH-whatever time, it’s ALWAYS zero-whatever time. It’s not oh-eight hundred, it’s zero eight hundred, or just zero-eight. I fucking hate that. Unless it’s different for the British, and then disregard.

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

All Our YesterdaysAll Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

I’m still reeling from this book. I finished it with that sad, hollow feeling that makes it impossible to read anything else for a while because you’re still living in the book’s world and still caught up in the adventures of those characters. And I didn’t expect to like this book anywhere near as much as I did. It’s a science-fiction book with a romance that is central to the story and we all know how well those go. But it’s well-written and compelling with a very interesting and seemingly original (to me) take on the concept and science behind time travel. It took me longer than usual to read this book; but sometimes it does take me more time to read books I really loved because I tend to savour them a bit more. I find myself pausing to read sentences again because I liked them so much, or because the emotions I feel are too much to process in one reading.

Some people might be tempted to call this book a dystopia, which is fair enough because it is about a future world gone horribly wrong, but I view books about time travel (especially ones as scientifically detailed as this) to be the more traditional brand of sci-fi. Though, for me, it still carries that key ingredient that I look for in a dystopia, that key ingredient that has had me spending many disappointed hours searching through the dystopian craze for a book that holds it. It’s an element I’ve been addicted to for a very long time. When I was eleven I read Nineteen Eighty-Four and then when I was fourteen I read The Handmaid’s Tale – these two readings sparked a thus-far lifelong interest in a future world that, no matter how realistic or unrealistic, is so well-crafted and well-explained that it’s impossible to not believe in it. A world that you can see happening because the author shows how we got from here to there. They base it in science and facts and politics to make it seem like a very real possibility and to make you absolutely terrified from start to finish.

This book scared me. Ms Terrill managed to convince me completely that time travel was not only real, but a very real threat to the life we know. Think about it. What could a government do with time travel? What alliances could they break apart before they ever happened? What foreign powers could they destroy before they ever rose up against them? And I know what people will think – there’s a time paradox, right? You change the past and then you change the future. But Terrill also offers a very interesting and convincing explanation for that. I’ve always been a bit of a nerd, but not so much a science nerd until I read the scientific foundations of this story with wide-eyed awe. Maybe it couldn’t really work like that. No, probably it couldn’t really work like that. But isn’t that the definition of good science fiction? To take the impossible or the improbable and convince the reader that it’s real?

Let’s move onto the characters. They are so multi-layered and complex that they jump off the page. One of the things I loved the most was seeing Em as she is now, Marina as she was then and seeing how one could grow into the other. The growth of her character felt realistic, you could easily see how her experiences had changed her and the book touches upon the question of how much people can really change. How much of our adult selves lurks beneath the surface when we are children? If we do bad things, when did we become a person capable of doing bad things? Was it always there? This is such a fascinating book on so many levels – the science-y world-building aspect, the political aspect and the characters’ struggles. But, above all, I adored Finn. And maybe that’s why I don’t care that the romance played quite a big part in this book, because Finn is fantastic. And funny. And wonderful. And I want a Finn too!

The main questions this book asks are: if you could go back and kill a man who would do terrible things before he had the power to do so, would you? What if that person was one you loved? How easy would it be to look into the eyes of an innocent who couldn’t believe they’d ever hurt anyone… and pull the trigger? Is that person even the same as the one they’ll become? This book not only scared me, it broke my heart too.

And that ending, oh god, that ending. Perfect bittersweetness.

All Our YesterdaysAll Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
My rating: 5 of 5 teacups

“”You have to kill him.” Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America�s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James�s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina�s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.”

I think that the synopsis is perfect and have nothing to add to it, which is why I’ve decided to use it in my review. I loved this book! The writing is wonderful; full of tension, some mystery, angst, humor, and pain. I wasn’t even five chapters into the story before I could tell it would be a book that I’d love; it didn’t have to grow on me or require me to be forgiving to enjoy it. I plan on reading whatever Cristin Terrill puts out next, because she knows how to write a spectacular character driven story!!

It didn’t take long to realize who the Doctor was that Em is so afraid of, but it did take me a minute to realize who Em was, lol. It isn’t a secret that Em is going back in time to stop the creation of that time machine (it’s the only one in the world as far as we know), and what I thought were two characters are actually just one. This was so horrible to experience with Em because really, what would you do to protect a younger version of yourself from such horrible events?! I teared up a few times while reading this late into the night, and though the ending was slightly too perfect for my tastes, I still wish it had been longer just so that I didn’t have to let go.

Finn is on my list as one of my favorite males, and he kind of reminded me of Roar, though less platonic, lol. Marina was wonderfully realistic, and it was interesting to see how she and Em compared to each other. James…James is harder for me. On one hand I really liked his shy nerdiness, and on the other I found his evolution to be slightly hard to believe. Not that I didn’t believe almost all of what he became, but the part where he keeps insisting that Em ‘betrayed’ him, referred to the paper she had as ‘documents’ that I didn’t understand why he would need considering he completed his research, and what he was doing during the climax of the story…was a little much I guess. Not bad, just a little much.

If you’re like me and a well written character driven story is what makes you happiest, then I can’t recommend this book highly enough for you! If you like a wonderfully tense and layered plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat, then I can’t recommend this book highly enough for you! If you just like good stories, then–well you get the idea.

Read this.