Scratching My Cornea

There is a particular evil to scratching your eye that I have never experienced before. On Friday I took out my contacts and, according to my doctor, I happened to take out a chunk of my eyeball right along with it. This, my friends, is a singular horror that I wouldn't wish upon anyone! Instead of spending my weekend being productive and doing renovations on our new house, I was forced to sit in a dark room with my eyes closed with the uncomfortable sensation of an ice pick resting beneath my eyelid, digging into my eyeball flesh with each movement I made.

Oh, I can hear you saying "but Jessica, wasn't it nice to relax for the weekend and just kick up your feet and not have to worry about being an adult?" No. No it wasn't, and I'll tell you why.

Normally when you are sick, I will acknowledge that it's a little bit nice. You can binge watch Netflix and Youtube shows while forcing your significant other to bring you food and water (or perhaps wine) all while blissfully ignoring any kind of responsibilities on your plate. However, scratching your eye is a completely different beast all together. You can't watch tv or your eye will freak out. You can't look at your phone or your eye will freak out. You can't even READ or your eye will freak out!! Can you imagine!?

Lemme tell you, I got really familiar with some audiobooks (although I really dislike audiobooks - it takes away from the imagination for me) and then when I actually got into the book, I had to stop it because I want to actually read it myself. Then I found these lovely things called dramatized audio books - they're a revelation! It's like books adapted for radio - some of it is the actual text, but a lot of it is just adapted and voice actors act that shit out for a microphone! Pretty enjoyable, I have to say.

So that's how I spent my weekend. Laying in my bedroom with all the lights off, a pillow over my face, with my headphones on listening to voice actors dramatizing Pride and Prejudice for my auditory enjoyment.

It sucked.
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Red Queen

by Victoria Aveyard

Cover Beauty Score: 8 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 5 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Mare Barrow lives in a world where society is put into two classes - the servant class who is normal with red blood, and the ruling class who has special powers and silver blood. When she sneaks into the Silver's world to try and save her friend, she accidentally puts herself into a dangerous situation that reveals to the world that she has powers of her own. Desperate to conceal the fact that a Red has powers, the Silver royal family creates a lie that she is a long lost Silver daughter - betrothing her to their son. Mare is quickly torn between two lives and gets caught up in the pull of two worlds that are now a part of her.

My Reaction: Man did I blaze through that book! I started this one on Sunday, intending to make it last throughout the week... but after taking it to work yesterday to read through my lunch break, I became way too addicted to the storyline to stop. I binge read until I finished this puppy, and I wasn't disappointed!

The minute I first read Mare, she was ballsy and dark, with a perfect little sister that is her "little star." This had me wary, obviously feeling some Katniss from Hunger Games pretty strongly. But as events begin to happen to Mare, she begins to change in a way that Katniss never did. She began to realize the complexities of things and she has moral qualms when asked to kill callously for the rebellion. She struggles with the idea that not all of the Silvers are bad as she comes to know them individually as real people.

The writing itself was great - easy to read and well written. I get so excited when a book that is on the NYT Best Seller List actually can live up to its hype and not depress me about the state of the national reading level. Aveyard is an excellent story teller and her writing is top notch, giving the tone a raw and easy-to-relate feeling. That's incredibly important in YA novels - to be able to step into the shoes of the character so easily.

Can I just talk a minute about Mare's love interests? This girl didn't get a love triangle... oh no... she got three dudes fawning all over her. THREE! That's gotta be some kind of Young Adult record, right? Usually I hate it when we get the heroine emotionally picking between guys, but Aveyard was able to weave these believably until I didn't know where the story was going. Keeping that suspense was awesome and well done. If anything, this love square (see what I did there?) gave me a bit of a tip as to what was going to happen in the end. None of the love interests felt forced or unnatural, although I would have liked to see Mare and Kilorn's relationship a little more in the beginning. She had every geeky girl's dream going with the Thor vs Loki-- excuse me, I mean Cal vs Maven predicament. Who wouldn't want to be in between that tortured bromance? Like seriously... where do I sign up?

And overall, I loved the message of this book; don't believe lies just because they're easy or convenient. We should always question what others tell us or what we see and hear. It is our responsibility to make choices that reflect our own moral code. Not our parents or our friends. Ours alone.

So if you haven't figured it out by now, I definitely think you should read this one! Beautiful cover, good writing, awesome heroine, plenty of boy toys to choose from - it's a win, win, win, win, right?

My only problem now is having to wait 7 months for the sequel. Bleh.
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Crimson Bound

by Rosamund Hodge

Cover Beauty Score: 9 out of 10
Goodreads Score: 3 out of 5

Plot Blurb: Rachelle is an apprentice to her aunt whom the village depends on to protect them against the dark magic of the deadly forests. When Rachelle strays from the forest path her aunt tells her to keep on, she is marked by one of the dark forest creatures and must either kill someone within 3 days to survive, or become a mindless dark creature herself. She makes a choice that grants her extreme powers and runs from her small village to the country's capitol, where she becomes a hired hand for the King himself. Forced to act as bodyguard to the King's son, Rachelle tries desperately to interact with the court intrigue while searching for a way to end the dark creatures threats from the evil forest.

My Reaction: Let me start by saying that I had ridiculously high expectations for this book. I famously preached how I adored Hodge's first book, Cruel Beauty (read that review here), and after my extreme love for that one, it's a rather hard impression to live up to. So let me hop into why I gave this book a 3 out of 5.

Hodge is a fabulous writer. There's no getting around that blessedly beautiful fact - her writing is a joy to read and I sincerely wish that every YA writer could take a lesson in prose from this lady. Just take a look at this:

"He grinned at her, and it felt like there was no space or barrier at all between them, like his smile was happening inside her heart. Without meaning to at all, she smiled back."

How beautiful is that?! And it didn't stop here... I could just write quotes from the book all day long, but you really should just read it yourself. In fact, after looking over some of the quotes I marked, I'm worried that I gave this book a 3 based on what I anticipated it being, versus what it actually was. Am I making any sense?

Hodge has a unique ability to weave an intricate tale of darkness and beauty and eeriness and magic together until her book stands on its own as a work of art. While this book certainly had her tone and signature all over it, I felt like the characterization left something to be desired. Or perhaps it was the way the characters interacted with one another. I found Rachelle likable and brave - she made a difficult choice that I feel a lot of us would have made as well. Her personal journey is great and she comes full circle with her growth as a characters. 

So then my ultimate issue is the two men in her life. As I've previously stated, I tend to hate love triangles. Hodge gave us a beautiful twist on the traditional triangle in Cruel Beauty and the heroine had a real and believable relationship with the main hero. Here, however, it felt like Rachelle came out of her big crisis and just settled with the guy she chose. It left me with a Hunger Games Katniss and Peeta type of feeling. Like a "hey we just went through this big thing and I guess we'll be together, but like... I'm not sure I wasn't in love with the other guy. Sorry about that." feeling. 

Perhaps that was my only issue with the book. To be touted as a dark YA fantasy romance, the love bits felt forced. Like Hodge herself couldn't pick between which leading man she wanted Rachelle to fall for. 

That being said, you still need to read this one. I didn't regret buying a signed copy - Hodge is a writer that I am certainly going to follow for the rest of her career. Her approach to traditional fairy tales is breathtaking and despite my picky review of this book, if more teens read Hodge's writing, perhaps we can restore a semblance of literary appreciation to society! 
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