Review: Cane and Able by Jonathan Matos // The Deadly Sin of Envy

cane and ableSeries: Seven Deadly Sins #1

Publication: October 23rd 2016 (Self-published)

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Christian

Source: I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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Dennis Caine knows what it’s like to be different. Born with a rare muscle disorder, he is no stranger to surgeries as he goes through his childhood. After a near-death experience during a scoliosis treatment surgery, Dennis’s life is changed and he strives to find purpose in his life. When Dennis reaches high school, his life seems to improve greatly as he retains his first female friend and dives more into chemistry in an ambition to discover a cure for his disorder. But as his life starts to take some bad turns with his newfound friend rejecting him and his increasing rivalry with Jason Bell, the star of the football team, Dennis’s chemistry interest starts to become an obsession. As unfortunate events continue to pile up in his life, the sweet purpose-driven Dennis descends into darker and darker thoughts causing him to act out in devastating ways—including the ultimate crime which changes his life forever. Told in multiple points of view with some interesting twists thrown in, Cane and Able is a well-written debut to Matos’s Seven Deadly Sins series.

With this being a somewhat historical fiction book with it taking place in the 90s, I enjoyed reading about how life was like for teenagers then and comparing it to my own experience in the mid-to-late 00s. When I first started reading this book, I had no idea that there were alternating points of view and I feel that it really added depth to the book. Each of the characters’ points of view had a unique voice which is always something I pay attention to because it is so common for authors to make every character sound the same.

The book did start off slowly for me and I personally don’t feel that the amount of detail given into Dennis’s life before high school was really that necessary. I would’ve been fine with a few pages of explanations with his health hardships and moved on to his current life where the book picked up speed. However, I do really like Matos’s writing style. It is well-written and filled with metaphors that add color to the writing without being irritating in any way which is a difficult balance. Along with that, one of the best things in this book for me was how realistic it was. I am always a fan of raw emotionality in books and this one definitely had it without becoming melodramatic or over-the-top in any way. Reading Dennis’s descent into semi-madness kept me intrigued and had just the right amount of unease and suspense thrown in.

If you’re a fan of complex, YA/A contemporary reads that make you think, this would be a good book to look into. Even with some difficult themes, the writing and emotionality is accessible for all readers. With the next book in the series diving into the 1950s with themes of racism and censorship, this series continues to show promise in producing thought-provoking books.

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What do YOU think? If you were afflicted with chronic health problems, would you seek to find a cure yourself? If someone bullied you constantly, would you seek revenge? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

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Review: The Things They’ve Taken by Katie McElhenney // When the “What Else” Stares Back at You

the things the've taken graphic


the things they've taken

Series: The Things They’ve Taken #1

Publication: May 1st 2017 by Entangled Teen

Source: I received an ARC copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

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Dolores is used to her mother searching, always looking for that greater purpose in life. Jumping from one faith to another and subsequently from one state to another has become commonplace in Lo’s life. But she’s had about as much as she can handle by the time her mother joins up with some witches in Kentucky. Lo convinces her mother to stay so she can have more of a normal life and actually make some friends. When her mother agrees, Lo decides to focus on her own life for a change instead of constantly pulling her mom back from the brink when she goes too far in her search. As the months go by, Lo’s relationship with her mother becomes more and more strained as her mother becomes more deeply involved in her new faith and Lo wants nothing to do with it. But when her mother messes with something far more dangerous than she should have and is taken by a supernatural being, Lo is pulled headfirst into the deep end in this new side of life that she never wanted to know about. After enlisting the help of a gorgeous Tracker named Shaw, Lo departs on an adventure to find her mother—and discovers just how much actually goes bump in the night.

I really wanted to love this book. It sounded really cool and I am always down for an adventure with a cute guy. But for many reasons, I just didn’t really care for this.

Firstly, I found the world building to be a bit lacking. While Shaw chooses not to share much information with Lo, it was still difficult to really grasp how big the supernatural world was and how many creatures lurk in it. The creatures we do get to meet were vividly described and, quite frankly, terrifying, but I wish I’d have been able to get a bigger picture of the world.

The characters were okay. I did like Lo, especially her sense of humor. Her sarcasm and jabs added a lot of color to the dialogue and made the book more fun to read. Her determination and bravery were proved over and over again in the book and I like that she chose not to adopt the victim persona. Shaw, however, was hard to get on with for me. He has no personality. He never jokes, never laughs or smiles, and barely speaks. Shaw’s dialogue is probably under 200 words if we’re going to be honest here. I like that he did finally open up a bit about his past and how he became a Tracker, but instead of seeing him as the tragic, brooding hero, I just saw him as a flat, boring character. (I would totally steal his dog though.)

Which brings me to the fact that the main characters had no chemistry. I am totally down for the “I’m just drawn to you and I’m not quite sure why” trope. I normally don’t mind insta-love honestly. But this isn’t really even insta-love, it’s just unbelievable love. Shaw barely speaks. Lo never talks about feeling a connection to him at all, let alone on a deeper level. She basically falls all over Shaw because he is pretty. There are so many awkward encounters between them that I just couldn’t buy in to the progression of their relationship.

Lastly, I felt the book was just too predictable. It’s not stated but this book is obviously the first part in a trilogy. With how slow the plot progression was, I knew we weren’t going to get a real ending to the book and we didn’t. From the first occasion of Shaw disappearing to do things on his own, I knew where the plot twist was going to go. Honestly, this is just a story that I’ve read a dozen times before with different characters. If the romance had been amazing, I may have rated this higher in stars but even that was lacking for me. If you are a very forgiving reader who likes the adventure aspect more than the world building or characters, this may be a book you want to pick up. But it’s not a series that I will personally continue when the second book is released.

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What do YOU think? Would you hire someone to help you rescue a family member? Have you jumped from faith to faith, looking for the “what else”? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.

Review: Edge of Glory by Magan Vernon // Falling in Love with an Olympian

edge of glorySeries: Friendship, Texas #1

Publication: July 12th 2016, Self-published

Source: I received an ARC copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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Imagine if you actually got to meet your idol. The person you have posters on your wall of. The person that you follow religiously on social media and can recite their favorite color, every award they’ve ever won, and maybe even the size of their shoe when they were thirteen, if you’re a super stalker—I mean fan, that is. Well that’s exactly what happens in Edge of Glory. We follow twenty-year-old Lia Conti, the only daughter in a very protective Italian family. And like a lot of young adults, Lia has a fandom: she’s obsessed with the Olympic team of men swimmers, and one swimmer in particular Jay Morningstar. With Morningstar recently getting into a lot of trouble that has affected his career, his coach brings him and his teammates to a tiny Texan town to refocus them; a neighboring town to Lia’s own. When Lia actually comes face to face with her idol in her father’s Italian restaurant, she feels like she has died and gone to heaven, especially when Jay actually shows interest in her. As Jay’s and Lia’s relationship develops, Lia is faced with much more than she anticipated in dating her idol including being thrown into reality TV, dealing with his famous ex-girlfriend, and feeling out-of-place in his rich, polished family compared to her crazy, over-protective one. With all the drama that comes with dating the gorgeous, talented swimmer, Lia has to decide if her heart can keep up or if she will have to go her own way.

Surprisingly I really liked this. Don’t get me wrong, this is full of cheese. But I anticipate a certain level of cheesiness with every new adult romance novel. I normally need to be in a certain mindset to enjoy them and I certainly was when reading this book.

I think I enjoyed this so much because of Lia. She was so incredibly relatable to me, regardless of the fact that I am not Italian in any way. I really enjoy reading about large families, like the ones you get to see in My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the like. Perhaps it’s because they are so vastly different from my own but I really, really loved Lia’s family dynamic and felt it brought a lot of fun and character to the book. Lia herself has so many aspects that I feel a lot of readers will be able to relate to. She’s wanting to go to college out of state but her parents want her to stay home; she’s constantly using humor as a defense mechanism; she often doesn’t see her own worth or beauty and puts herself down more often than not. Some of these things may be annoying for some if they are more mature than the average new adult reader, but for someone like me, I found a lot of common ground with Lia. Jay was okay as a love interest. He’s definitely not going down in any book boyfriend list of mine but he was at least real and not one of those ridiculously perfect love interests. I did find the characterization of his Olympic swimmer friends a little cringey to be honest. They’re both so clearly a girl’s attempt at writing typical guy behavior that I got secondhand embarrassment from it.

The plot was okay. Most of what happened was fairly predictable and a little overdramatic. I do wish that we would’ve gotten to see Jay in a competition sooner than we did and with more detail than what was given since his being a swimmer was such a giant part of the book. It was fast-paced enough to keep my interest however and it was a quick read for me. This is definitely more of a character-driven book than plot-driven if that is something that you like in books.

Overall this was just a fun, easy new adult read for me. I did find it a bit cringey knowing that this is basically glorified fan fiction, but I did appreciate the author’s note in the beginning and it was nice to know where the story originated from. I probably will not pick up the other companion novels in this series but I’m glad I finally got around to reading this.

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What do YOU think? Would you ever want to date an Olympian? Do you have a thing for the American Men’s Swimming Team? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you.