Vicious

Vicious is the first adult novel written by Victoria Schwab under the pen name V.E. Schwab. It follows two friends turned enemies over a 10 year period.


Victor Vale has recently broken out of prison. Placed there by his college roommate and best friend for a murder he didn’t commit – well, he did but it wasn’t intentional – Victor has now escaped and is looking for revenge. Armed with a supernatural power to control pain (his own and others), he seeks out Eli for crimes Eli did commit intentionally.

Eli Ever – once Eli Cardale – is hunting ExtraOrdinaries, people with unique abilities that came after a near death experience. Eli is one such EO after an experiment in college, but unlike his victims Eli believes his supernatural healing abilities was gifted to him by God. All other EO abilities are abnormally and should be eliminated. The only two EOs Eli has been unsuccessful with is Victor and Serena, a woman who has the ability to make people do whatever she wants.

Well, Serena’s sister Sydney should also be Eli’s victim, but luck has been on her side. Sydney has escaped Eli and is now protected by Victor, if only for her EO gift. Along with Victor’s escaped cellmate Mitch, the trio must find out where Eli is, who his next victim will be, and stop him before he kills any other EOs.

Easier said than done.

Vicious is the first of a series (with no set number of volumes) and introduces the idea of ExtraOrdinaries and their abilities. But it’s more than that as it involves the dynamics of two friends turned enemies over a battle of intelligence and wits. It also twists the typical superhero trope on it’s head; neither Victor nor Eli is the traditional hero nor are they the traditional villain. This makes their story an interesting read.

What also makes the story unique is its perspective. While a traditional 3rd person perspective story, the chapters not only alternate between character perspectives it also alternates between times. Some chapters are told from Victor’s POV 10 years in the past while others are told from Eli’s POV in the present. While it sounds as if alternating time lines would make for a confusing story, it actually make logistical sense in the way Schwab presents the story. I found myself more enlightened as past chapters clarified what is being said in the present.

Currently, we are told, Schwab is writing the second volume, entitled Vengeful, to be released in the near future. I surely hope so since I would like to know what Victor and Eli are now up to.

My rating: 4/5

Furthermore

Based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Furthermore is Taherah Mafi’s foray into middle grade literature. It is the story of Alice Alexis Queensmeadow and her adventures in the land of Furthermore to find her missing father.


In the magical land of Ferenwood, Alice lives with her mother and three younger brothers. Alice’s relationship with her mother is stranded though Alice is not sure why. It likely has to do with the disappearance of Alice’s father, who went missing three years prior. See, that’s a strange thing in itself because citizens of Ferenwood do not simply go missing. There is also the matter of Alice’s color; in a land full of color, Alice has none. This makes her different from her peers, nearly an outcast in bright Ferenwood.

Alice is on the eve of her twelfth birthday and the event known as the Surrender. Upon their twelfth year, the young citizens of the magical land of Ferenwood put their magical talents on display (you see, everyone in Ferenwood has magic, even no color Alice). Before her Surrender, Alice is confronted by Oliver Newbanks, a boy from her school years who has already undergone his Surrender but has not yet completed the task given to him. To complete his task, he needs Alice’s help. But Alice won’t help Oliver because she does not trust him and the lies he tells.

When her Surrender doesn’t go as planned, Alice finds herself following Oliver into the odd country of Furthermore. It is here that Oliver tells Alice her father disappeared to – and they he knows where Alice’s father is. Compelled to find her father and bring him home, Alice follows Oliver into Furthermore despite her mistrust of him. They find themselves in dangerous territory, where the magic of the land works differently than in Ferenwood, and where the citizens are so starved for magic they consume everything. Including children.

Furthermore is a whimsical read, full of magic and adventure. I found it to be fun, but a little confusing at times. I couldn’t understand some of the rules the land of Furthermore had, nor could I understand some of the actions Alice and Oliver took. Perhaps it’s because I’m well past my middle grade years and, as much as I wish I could keep it, my adult mind works differently from my childhood mind (Alice’s father says at much at one point in the story).

For fans and readers of Lewis Carroll’s work, you will find some notable but different scenes in Furthermore. The fall down the rabbit hole, the small door that opens into a wonderland, there are many elements in Furthermore that are recognizable in some way. Having read Lewis Carroll earlier this year, these similarities were more apparent since Wonderland was still fresh in my mind.

While I found the story whimsical and a fun read, my adult brain was puzzled by how quickly the ending occurred. It seemed as if the ending was far too easy a resolution given all the trials and dangers Alice and Oliver found themselves in. After all, breaking into a prison is far easier than breaking out. But I suppose middle grade stories deserve a happy ending.

I applaud Mafi for creating a heroine who is visually different from the other characters; this allows children who have physical differences to learn it’s okay to be different, that the strength of your inner character is far more important than looks. I do wish, however, that Alice had remained disabled – at one point in the story, she loses her arm due to some bad decisions. Having Alice learn to cope with her disability, I think, would have been a great tool to teach that bad decisions can have dire consequences but that one can still live and learn and cope with their mistakes.  A lesson that not everything has a simple solution. But in a land of magic, Alice was made whole again and I found that lost lesson to be a disappointment.

Overall, I found Furthermore to be a fun read with lessons to be learned but it is not without its faults and holes.

My rating: 3.5/5

Schedule Change

Hello dear followers!

Thank you so much for sticking with my book review blog. It means a great deal to me that you read and value my book reviews. When I started this blog, I really only had the intention of reviewing books so I could keep myself motivated and read more. But it truly means a lot to me that you have chosen to follow my reviews. I cannot thank you enough for your support.

Life is happening, as I’m sure it is for many of you. By the new year, there is the potential for my life to change – a lot. I won’t know for certain until December, but I am hoping for the best. As such, the life change will affect my reading schedule. I won’t be able to read as often as I do now, and therefore won’t be able to put up as many book reviews. But I don’t want to leave you all hanging. Thus I have decided to make a schedule change regarding my book review postings.

As of this week, I’ll be posting book reviews on Fridays. I’ll be posting bookish related things on Tuesdays; these will include reviews of products or sellers who make/produce book related materials, as well as facts and “what do you prefer” prompts. I haven’t posted many of these so I am hoping that will help in the future.

I plan to make every effort to post a book review on Fridays as often as possible. Tuesday postings may be sparse as I attempt to find material to post. If you would like more book related things to tide you over, I invite you to follow my Instagram feed at http://www.instagram.com/pawsnread/ I currently post book related photos every day (or every other day); some photos I use here in reviews but others are entirely unique.

Again, thank you so much for your support. I really appreciate it and hope for your continued support in the future during my transition. 🙂

The Star-Touched Queen

The Star-Touched Queen is the debut novel of Roshani Chokshi. It is the story of Mayavati and is a retelling of a number of Indian folktales that also contains Hades and Persephone vibes. It also dabbles in reincarnation.


Mayavati is one of many children of the Raja of Bharata. Bharata is in the midst of war, but Maya and her family live in relative comfort thanks to her father. Maya, however, lives fairly isolated from the rest of her family due to her bad horoscope. The stars have predicted a very ominous future for her, thus everyone but the Raja and Maya’s younger sister Gauri avoid her.

In an effort to stave off further destruction and save his people, the Raja has requested that Maya marry one of the rulers of the 13 nations Bharata is warring against. Maya is conflicted between saving her family and country, or saving her freedom. As she tries to make her decision, she meets Amar, the Raja of Akaran. Though Maya knows Amar is hiding something – there is no country of Akaran that she is aware of – she leaves with him as war suddenly finds its way to her home.

Amar takes Maya to the Night Bazaar and finally to Akaran. He promises her the moon and that she will be his equal. Maya slowly finds herself growing more comfortable and in love with Amar. But then suddenly she is torn from the world and man she has come to love. Now Maya must make her way back and confront a person from her past.

Roshani spins an intriguing story that contains mysticism, folk tales, magic, and romance. She also writes the most beautiful prose, which is no surprise given her studies in British literature. Her characters are beautiful and well developed. Maya begins as a girl who cannot trust anyone since she has spent most of her life shunned. She grows throughout the story as she tries to find her way back to Amar and discover who she really is.

I really enjoyed this story. I wasn’t expecting all the folk tale elements when I began the novel, but that was the part I enjoyed the most. I also really enjoyed the inclusion of of reincarnation in the story. Reincarnation is an integral part of many Eastern religions and schools of thought. It’s not used often in novels – at least not many I have read – so it was nice to see it as a major part of this story.

If this is Roshani’s debut novel, I can’t wait to see what other stories she has yet to tell.

My rating: 4/5

The Force Awakens Novelization

Happy Force Awakens release day!!! To commemorate, I’ll be reviewing the novelization of the movie.

I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I watched the original trilogy when I was 12; I watched them so many times that year I could repeat every line of dialogue. At the time, I read a few of the books that were based off of the movies and that made up the expanded universe.  Not many of them – because there were so many and I had other books to read (thanks middle and high school English). The prequels were meh,  and to be quite honest I wasn’t overtly excited about The Force Awakens. At least not initially.

I have really bad motion sickness and can’t really watch movies in theaters without the nausea setting in. I had resigned myself to wait until TFA to be released on blu-ray, but so many of my friends were signing its praise. So I bit the bullet, bought a ticket, and saw the movie right before the New Year.

And I LOVED IT!

Not wanting to risk a second showing but impatient to watch it again, the best course of action seemed to be to read the novelization. I had, after all, already read Before the Awakening. My friend Ally said the book was true to the movie with a little bit more information some scenes.

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Ally was right. The book is very true to the movie, but I do question some parts. It may just be my memory on some scenes but it feels like there’s some deviation in certain places. I can’t be sure so I can’t give concrete examples. But movies and books have different perspectives so that makes sense. One scene that I did like in the book answered the question “How the hell did Poe get off Jakku?” The book nicely answers that question that the movie did not fully satisfy. However, Poe’s brief perspective of the events of Takodana are left out. That makes me a bit sad since I like Poe and wanted to know what he was thinking during that brief moment.

The Force Awakens novel is a short, quick read (only 260 odd pages). Because I was already familiar with the movie, it took only 4 days for me to complete. It lacks explicit detail – such as a character’s physical description – but I’m fine with that. I really think this book is meant to be more of a companion piece to the movie than a whole entity onto itself.

My rating: 4/5

 

Six of Crows

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo was one of those “Ooooh, pretty cover…” books for me (there are a lot of those actually). I haven’t read her previous works, the Grisha Trilogy, yet so I wasn’t familiar with her work. (For those interested, you don’t really need to read the Grisha Trilogy before 6oC; Bardugo gives you enough information to get through the story.)

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When you move past the cover art, the story line is quite intriguing: 6 criminals need to break into the most secure place in the world.

Why? How? Once they get in, how do they get out?

The book is written in 3rd person but each chapter centers around the perspective of one of the six main characters. Since you are reading from that one person’s perspective, you don’t really quite know what the other characters are thinking…until you reach a chapter from their viewpoint. You don’t go back to the same scene to get their perspective, rather you get their thoughts on the events at the same time the story is moving forward. Somehow Bardugo is able to weave a story in this sort of mish mashed way, but she does it so well that you don’t even realize the perspective keeps jumping.

Each of the characters has their own unique abilities. There’s Kaz, the unofficial leader and jack of all trades; Inej, Kaz’s right hand known as the Wraith; Jesper, a gambler and sharpshooter; Nina, a Grisha known as a Heartrender; Matthias,  an actual hardened criminal; and Wylan, a merchant runaway and demolitions expect. Each one is unique and brings something to the group. But Kaz is the brains behind the operation. He doesn’t tell the others all of the details of his plans, which keeps them – and the reader – constantly trying to figure out what happens next.

Six of Crows ends on a cliffhanger, with one of the six being spirited away (in a manner of speaking) and the remaining five having been double crossed.  But of course Kaz is already plotting his revenge and the reader gets the barest glimpse of his plan. Unfortunately we have to wait until the next book, Crooked Kingdom due out September 2016, to find out what happens. In the meantime, after I finish my current reads, I plan to read the Grisha Trilogy.

My rating: 5/5

Welcome to Paws & Read!

Hello and welcome to Paws & Read!

The goal of P&R is to review books – with some cats thrown in the mix.

What kind of books? Any books! Really anything I’m reading at the moment. But mostly Young Adult novels since that is the genre I tend to lean more towards.

What kind of cats? Lots and lots of cats! My own two cats are domestic short hairs, but I have always loved cats in general. Expect to see a smattering of cat themed things here.

Who am I? By day I am a college level biology teacher. I spend a lot of my day discussing with students the finer points of anatomy, general biology, and microbiology. On my off time, I’m a lot of things: costumer, seamstress, knitter, sketcher, photographer, cat mom, bookworm, and now book reviewer. If you’re interested in my creative endeavors, you can visit my other blog, Sew Kurafty.

My goal for 2016 is to read one book a month for a total of 12 books by the end of the year. I’m a slow reader and like to take in the details. Plus with all my other creative hobbies, having more than an hour to read a day is a blessing.

Note that I am not a paid reviewer. All of the book reviews I publish are entirely my own thoughts and opinions. You may agree with my opinions, you may disagree with them, but that’s fine. I’m not expecting to change minds, just to state my own. Feel free to share your own comments or thoughts about a book. And if you have any book recommendations, I’d LOVE to hear them. I’m always looking for new things to read – even if they are older books. 🙂