Replica Review

I feel like the only books I’ve read lately are good books. The only reviews I’ve been leaving are either 4 out of 5 or even 5 out of 5 stars. Does this make me a bad reviewer? I’m too lenient? Perhaps. Or it just means that there are so many good books out there that deserve that 5 out of 5 stars on a nobody’s blog.

Replica is, obviously, not going to break this streak.

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Replica by Lauren Oliver
Published by Harper Collins on October 4th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Suspense, Friendship, Romance, Family, Coming-of-Age, Heartbreak
Pages: 544 (total); 284 (Gemma); 236 (Lyra)
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: 5 out of 5 ★★★★★


It has been quite a long time since I have read a book so original (at least to me), so overwhelmingly new, that I had a hard to grasping it (note that the other recent book that made me feel like this would have to be A Court of Thorns and Roses). And I mean this literally, the book, being flipped in my hands every chapter to read from a new perspective is so refreshing and it gives my fingers a workout.

The storyline and characters are not the only unique quality of this book. Creative-genius Lauren Oliver doesn’t simply write this story, but instead puts a piece of art work in our hands. For once, the actual book is part of the story. Almost like a children’s choose-your-own-adventure, Replica is split down the middle; one half consisting of the tale told through normal girl Gemma’s eyes, the other half is the same story, just told through the Replica, Lyra’s, eyes. The reader can decide if they want to read one half and then the other, or, how I read it, they can flip the book over after every chapter, going through each scene with both girls.

Now I will admit that while I find this groundbreaking, it can be tedious. The storyline is just so good that the physical act of closing the book, flipping it, finding the right chapter, reading it, then flipping it again is sort of maddening. I just want to read! I want to absorb Gemma and Lyra’s lives into my own, to learn everything i can about them, and having to constantly flip the lengthy hardcover book in my hands is annoying. This face alone almost made me demote the book to only 4 stars. But Oliver’s story saved it.

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The conversation about AI and other robotics is bubbling over the hidden and obscure online sources into everyday talk. From philosophers to celebrities to idiots like me are talking about the the prospect of artificial intelligence in our near future. This is most likely made popular by the sudden stream of AI-related movies and shows like Ghost in the Shell, Ex Machina, Westworld, and others. Suddenly, it’s all anyone can think about in the science fiction realm. Which is why my brain instantly went to AI and the notion of consciousness in a robot when reading through Lyra’s tale. It seemed too easy, though, and it turns out, I was wrong. Lyra isn’t a robot (though all signs point to that in the beginning) instead she is something more grotesque, something more unearthly that confuses the reader to even consider. Sure, we are more accepting of Scarlett Johansson as a crazy, assassin robot that can become invisible, but now (spoiler!) human cloning that actually works? That is just insane!

And yet Oliver has thought of this world. She has done her research too, painstakingly providing details the reader didn’t even know they needed. As if she were playing God, Oliver creates all necessary information to convince both Gemma and those that help her, as well as the reader, that this is, in fact, really happening. From news articles and eye-witness accounts to a plethora of websites with information, Haven Institute becomes something I question why I’m not Googling it now myself. Much like how Tolkien completely births his world, as does Oliver. There are no loose ends or unanswered questions.

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So I’ve talked about the physical book itself, the craziness of the plot, meaning all that is left now is to discuss the beauty in Oliver’s characters. I’m not really sure which girl, either Lyra or Gemma, is my favorite. Probably Lyra because for being a clone with no knowledge outside of Haven, she is incredibly pensive and self-assured about herself. Even when the truth behind Haven Institute hits her square in the face, she is still the same girl. Even when her own truth, about her haunting past, arises before her, she is still a girl that loves The Little Prince and the stars, finds reading a necessity, and has such genuine emotions towards fellow clone, 72.

In my opinion, Lyra’s use in this novel is to demonstrate the unworldliness that we treat our bodies and the bodies of others. Sure there is more science fiction to that, as well as plenty of other ways to read Oliver’s tale, but the body is so important, to Lyra and to Gemma, that one cannot read a page without thinking about it. Lyra is tempted to understand every anatomical drawing and reference sheet available to her eyes throughout Haven; Gemma is self-conscious about her weight, looks, and past illnesses. The Haven Institute itself is using bodies for biological warfare. Not weapons or computers, but people. The human anatomy is now both the trench and the battlefield.

What happens when we as a society put so much emphasis on the body that it becomes the norm to replicate it, to dupe others into believing that a body could be so meaningless and easily replaceable? How easy it would be, with the technology used at Haven, to quickly mass-produce “beautiful people” and do away with any “flaws” such as beauty marks, cellulite, crooked noses, imperfect breasts, eye color, hair color–all of which, today, we already do away with. There are doctors setting up right now for surgery on a person who doesn’t think they are pretty enough to be a part of society. A hair stylist is mixing pigment for a client who insists on having rose gold hair because she saw it on Pinterest and wants her Instagram followers to like her even more. There are lasers and zappers, at home DIY treatments and expensive, anesthesia-requiring surgeries that are performed every day for someone to change the way they were born, to change the way they were created. We take advantage of our bodies every second.

Lyra: She had never showered alone before and it felt wonderful: the big echoey bathroom, the space, aloneness of it. Was this how all people lived? It felt luxurious to her (130).

And then there is Lyra who doesn’t even know, isn’t even capable of knowing what is actually happening to her. And she is so enthralled by something so simple, like a shower, a cellphone, a children’s book, a chart of the heart, that we too, as readers, are forced to question the smaller things that we have always overlooked. Can you imagine how incredibly amazing our nervous system is? Working without us telling it to, without us really even noticing that it’s working at all. We would notice when it stops, of course, but for the most part, our brain is firing off signals all over our body and we’re too preoccupied with an online fail video to think about it.

Lyra is a child at heart, curious and questioning, ready to discover something new in something Gemma has considered old. Pens and paper, ready for anything, is Lyra’s playground. She doesn’t need a tablet computer, the new gaming console, TV streaming and what else. She craves knowledge from things we have since forgotten to care about: ourselves.

She is equally intrigued by the male body, and rightfully so. Since she hasn’t had any proper training on human anatomy, only peeks through books and charts, when she and 72 are no longer at Haven, but instead away from what seems like a concentration camp, Lyra begins to learn the true lessons of love: watch and wait or else you get burned:

Lyra: She’d been interested in the males, of course–curious about them–but shed also learned that curiosity led to disappointment, that it was better not to want, not to look, not to wonder (131).

How innate is that! For a girl, never allowed to interact with the boy clones, she naturally understands that being curious about someone else, someone that she doesn’t quite understand and ultimately finds attractive, can lead to failure and she is scared of that. We’re all scared of that.

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Gemma as an equally hard time figuring out who she is as well. She identifies as an “alien,” her and her best friend April are “aliens” compared to the pretty, popular girls at school. She believes she is a “freak” because of all the illnesses and surgeries she’s had, the scars showing out of her gym clothes, as well as her weight. She’s embarrassed by it all, and since the girls at school continue to make fun her for both, why shouldn’t she be embarrassed? Women, both young and old, are having to live to such ridiculously high beauty standards that the second someone steps out of line, whether it be with ten pounds extra weight or a scar from a life-saving surgery, they no longer fit the mold and are ridiculed. Ironically, Gemma’s “normal” world would prefer their women be like clones–mass produced and beautiful, not individually but as a whole. Whereas Lyra’s world craves individuality in the case with the scar on Lyra’s forehead, though ugly to her, sets her apart from the other–a clone that is different.

Gemma begins to realize, quite quickly too, that there are many more things to be worried about and to fuss over than her weight. When she meets a guy, two guys actually, who really don’t seem to care that she’s slightly over the normal weight of women, her thighs roughly caressing each other when she sits down, she can’t accept that they don’t see her that way. Then she meets Lyra and realizes that she’s been absolutely bonkers for thinking about her thighs when there have been people being experimented on. Strange, how it takes something so drastic for us to wake up and stop caring about how we look.

But Gemma is not a bad person, she is real. She’s a real girl suffering from self-doubt and her own issues. She is a great representer for young women today–dealing with body image, boys, family, school, friends, and moving.

Gemma: But she had already cried…and today she felt nothing but a strange, bobbing sense of emptiness, as if she was a balloon untethered from the earth, slowly floating away into nothingness (33).

Yet she experiences such dramatic and life-altering things that it’s surprising she comes out of it so strong. This book is definitely a coming-of-age tale, but not in the traditional sense. Gemma is forced into her coming-of-age. Instead of struggling with normal teen problems, like her body, Gemma is thrown into a whirlwind of horrors as she discovers her father’s secret. She realizes then that her own issues are minute compared to that of Lyra and 72’s. How can someone sit and obsess over their body when someone next to them is skin and bones because of experimentation? Gemma quickly matures from teen drama to heroine as she defends the rights of Lyra and 72, demanding her parents respect them and her.

Gemma: There was no time, only change, only atoms rotating, only Gemma and Pete and Rick Hairless and a love so turned around and imperfect and blind it could only be called faith (260).

She becomes insightful and courageous, something she never dreamed she could be. Her life obviously changes throughout this book, both for the good and the bad, as she discovers who and what she really is, what her family really is, and who she wants to be in the end.

If you are interested in anything science fiction, want a twinge of romance, and heart-stopping suspense then this is surely a read for you. Oliver has crafted such a unique tale that battles for recognition. It has been a while since I’ve read something so heartfelt and genuine and overall different in the Young Adult category. Thank you Lauren!

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The Bone Witch Review

Finishing more than 400 pages, I am enthralled but also so confused–what even happened, Tea? Please tell me what happened to you. The story is written in such an interesting and different way. Every other chapter takes place in the present. This is where what a journalist would be from this world, named Bard, finds Tea in her exiled land, and is determined to learn her story. She tells him her past, how she became an asha and how she got to the strange and desolate place she is today, which brings the reader to the next chapter, told through Tea’s perspective and set in the past.

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The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on March 7th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Thriller, Magic, Romance, Family, Mystery
Pages: 432
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: 4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


Picking up this book off of the Barnes and Noble bookshelf initiated both curiosity and fear–feelings I think Tea had felt many times during her asha training. The description boded more fear than what I actually read; something about reading about someone who raises the dead, add a skull on the cover, and you have a scared Shelby. And yet…I needed to buy it. Perhaps Tea was speaking to me through the book, guiding me to her strange and enticing story. I am both very glad that I picked up this book, but also still confused.

I think the most amazing part of the book is that while creating an intensely detailed world, Chupeco still finds time to have an interesting gender-related conversation. Tea, being a young and inexperienced girl, gets immediately thrown into the frightening, yet glamorous life of being a bone witch apprentice after accidentally raising her brother from the dead. Though clearly terrified (and rightfully so), instead of being silent, Tea stands up to the women before her, making sure her small, but extremely significant voice is heard.

I never did understand why the role of an asha was restricted to women alone. In the course of my wanderings, I have seen men who could be just as graceful as women. Men who, with the constant training we have had to endure, could perhaps rival even the likes of Lady Shadi. Are there any male dancers in Drycht? (page 178).

Not only does she question why men are not allowed in the asha world, she also goes to wonder why women are not allowed on the battlefield alongside the men.

“Death seekers are aware of the risks they take whether they face off against an azi or a tiger cub, a monster or a human…[T]his must be left up to the men. They are prepared to sacrifice their lives; we are not prepared for you to do the same” (page 355).

And this is just one topic Tea decides to cover–she knows that she is here, in this world, to change something. Whether it is the way royals and high asha think of other genders, to how the asha and citizens look upon the daeva. Tea is going to change something. But once the reader gets the ending, we still don’t know what that might be.

Give this book a read if you’re interested in something completely new and different. Not only is the story unlike anything else I’ve read–Tea has so many dimensions to her and there are so many more characters besides her!–the story structure is original as well. This allows more characters to be introduced (like Bard) as well as even more information regarding Tea’s life.

The only thing that I didn’t enjoy about this book is that I still don’t really know what happened. Many things happened–raising dead rats here, old kings there, a brother before, and demon devas later–and yet, the ending. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more greeting me at the end. We learn through Bard that Tea is extremely strong and has a new plan of her own–it doesn’t include the relationships we have grown accustomed to in her storytelling. But then the book ends with Tea looking onward to the destruction she is about to generate. I read on Goodreads that Chupeco is planning on writing a sequel, and I believe this is almost necessary. I am left with so many stories about Tea and her sisters, Tea and Fox, Tea and her love interests, and yet, nothing to tie anything together to. I need something more!

PS. Chupeco, can we get a glossary of words in the back of the next book? I realize, while re-reading my review here, that I am unsure whether to try and describe what each word is, or if I should just leave it for my readers to figure out on their own.

“Everyone is a puzzle, Tea, made of interlocking tiles you must piece together to form a picture of their souls. But to successfully build them, you must have an idea of their strengths as well as their weaknesses. We all have them,” [Polaire said] (page 275).

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Strong Female Protagonist Review

I feel so strongly about this comic; everything about it speaks to me as a writer, as a young adult (okay I’m 22, but still), and most importantly, as a woman.

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Strong Female Protagonist writing by Brennan Lee Mulligan; illustrations by Molly Ostertag
Published by Top Shelf Productions on November 25th 2014
Genres: Comics, Feminism, Coming of Age
Pages: 220
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: 5 out of 5 ★★★★★


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First, I’m going to express my love for the title: Strong Female Protagonist. Mulligan and Ostertag are pretty much me when it comes to procrastination, and but then run with it. This title sounds like something they typed into the file’s title just to be able to find it on their desktop later–and that is the brilliant part of it. It’s so commonplace that you can insert any female into the title. It tells the reader exactly what they need to know, what they should know, about the piece. This comic, like Paper Girls, is in silent conversation with the feminist talk of today. As I’ve noted in my Paper Girls 1 and 2 review, the mere fact that this comic follows a girl, instead of a boy lead, already turns the stereotype of comics on its head. Comics used to be a hobby for boys, and I think it’s safe that to say to some extent it still is. Most of today’s comics feature male superheroes or female leads wearing barely any clothing on–who is that for I wonder? Don’t get me wrong, though, the male lead comics are still entertaining for anyone of any gender, but that’s why I love comics like this one and Paper Girls. Girls are now the superheroes, but they aren’t without their flaws or regular pants and shirts. In some cases they are children, like in Paper Girls, or college students, as in SFP, who try to juggle school, friendship and romantic relationships, and supervillians.

This brings me to the other amazing part about this comic: the storyline. There is no cheesiness to be found here, folks. Ostertag and Mulligan have thought about how a real teen hero would react to her hidden identity and sudden super strength. Alison Green never once enjoys being called a hero–she much prefers being unnoticed all together. She knows that as a superhero for the town, her profession comes with broken relationships as well as hatred from the common people. No tax-paying individual wants to deal with a destroyed city once Mega Girl and her gang are done battling some radioactive villain. So Mega Girl faces a lot of backlash. On top of this, Alison is still young–young enough to be unsure of her path and who she wants to be. Does she want to hang up her cape? Is being a superhero for a town that seems to hate her really worth it? Is she suffering as a consequence? Sure, I’m not a superhero during the day, but I was once a college student and understand the struggle that resides in someone who separates themselves too far–between school, romantic interests, social life, and a job, it’s hard to know which way to turn when they all need you at once.

Ostertag and Mulligan create this young woman and give her the ability to be a hero, though she doesn’t need to have super strength in order to do that. The reader watches Alison repair relationships with her younger sister and family, the relationship hurdles that all growing teenagers find themselves in; as well as friendships when she does decide to take off the mask. How does she handle a drunken, but offensive statement from a friend? Or a friend that uses her as a punchline? So Ostertag and Mulligan use super strength as a medium to converse about the real issues, issues all young women are facing today–hatred, confusion, frustration, identity, masculinity and patriarchy, our own bodies, and so on.

Finally, the art style is just so lovable. It comes across as classically comic-like as well as sketchy, something that someone drew offhand and then was told it was good enough to be turned into something–there is something remarkable about that. This comic doesn’t need perfection in the drawing, or realism for that matter–the storyline is certainly real enough. By keeping with the classic cartoon-like style, the illustrator shifts the focus to the dialogue and plot line, as well as keeping with the 180 degree comic twist. So it looks like a regular comic, feels like a regular comic, but is made for strong women who want to be everyday heroes.

Please read this comic if a real female superhero is your cup of tea–no skimpy, tight “superhero turned stripper” outfits. Also read this comic if you like classic comic art style, funny, but real relationships, and overall coming of age tales. I desperately want the creators to come out with Book 2 in trade paperback, but for those that cannot wait, please continue reading their amazing work at: strongfemaleprotagonist.com.

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Paper Girls Review

A while back, I posted a comic book haul and since then I have gone back and forth between reading comics and reading books. My boyfriend has gone comic book crazy–buying membership discount cards at our local store, scouring Amazon, desperate for the latest editions to come out in trade paperback format (we have a thing against buying every individual issue when it looks so much better compiled together). Meanwhile, I am so-so on it. While I love the terseness of the comics, being able to read one, two, three in a day and feel completed, I also crave full volumes of books–like 400 pages of prose. That’s just really my thing, I think. But that certainly doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good comic book and the Paper Girls series hits that mark.


Paper Girls 1 & 2 writing by Brian Vaughan; art by Cliff Chiang; colors by Matt Wilson; and letters by Jared Fletcher
Published by Image Comics (#1) on April 5th 2016 and (#2) December 5th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Strong Female Leader(s),
Pages: 144 and 128 respectively
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Final Review: 

Paper Girls 1: 4 out of 5  // ★★★★☆

Paper Girls 2: 4 out of 5 // ★★★★☆


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So why didn’t I give these comics 5 out of 5 stars seeing as this is really the only series that I’ve gotten to the next edition? (I did read the next two after the first of Fables and just fell out of it). I think the main point for me is that I was confused, and (slight spoiler) nothing really gets resolved in the second one. I understand that the series will continue, and therefore can’t put everything on the table right away, but after reading through the second one, I was still like “wait, what?” Part of this was because I read Paper Girls 1 only a few months after it came out and then put it away. When Paper Girls 2 came out, it had been a few months since I read the first volume and had already read many books after it, that I actually seemed to forget what actually happened in the first one! So I set into the second one with almost a blank slate (my bad) and ended in more confusion. Perhaps I need to just re-read the first one and then re-read the second one all in one sitting to at least understand a little bit!

Other than my confusion–which in all honesty is probably part of the story itself; the writers aren’t going to give everything away in the first two books! I’m just a complainer–the story is great. The art is great. Everything is great! Four 12-year-old girls are not only taking on a male-dominated job–paper routes–they are also thrust into a time warp with dinosaurs, future versions of themselves, and overall confusion, which certainly doesn’t go along with regular, female-lead stories. No one is a princess, in fact quite the opposite with one of the girls being a regular smoker and avid curser. No one is a damsel in distress, though sometimes they do need saving, but certainly not by any boy, instead by their friends.

Most likely intending to, the creators of these girls and their tumultuous tale are having a conversation with today’s people. Starting even from the physical copy, boys and girls, men and women, can enjoy Paper Girls. Comics have stereotypically been a hobby only boys seemed to possess, while us girls were given dolls and pink things. But now that women are finding their voice, pushing through to the other side–the blue, male-dominated side–things that were once considered masculine are being upturned (might I add that young boys are also pushing through onto the pink side as well by showing their interests in fashion, dolls, etc. and I think this is great!). So by making a comic about girls, the creators instantly upheave the stereotypes associated with comics. Furthermore, as mentioned previously, they could have made the girls do more innocent, female-like things, but nope! Instead, the four are ruthless little girls who are suddenly tasked with saving the world from some sort of time warp that they don’t even fully understand.

I think these are a great addition to any woman’s or girl’s shelf. They are funny and curious, the girls are real, the story, while confusing (in a good way), urges the reader to figure what is going happen to this strange group of mismatched girls. Who do we trust in the year 2016? How are there different dimensions and dinosaurs all of a sudden? What is going on!

I really love the art style, it compliments both the girls from the 80’s and also the modernism from 2016. I’m not sure how to describe it other than sketchiness with harsh, dark lines that promote the seriousness of the plot as well as maintaining the cartoon-esque characters that keep it a comic book.

I’m not sure what to expect in the volume 3 trade paperback, but I’m hoping some loose ends will be tied together, and I know more questions will come out of it. Who is that bearded man?!

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