Review of Venomous by Christopher Krovatin

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Venomous is another one of my Dollar Tree finds. This one is about a boy named Locke Vinetti who lives in New York with his mother and little brother. He suffers from intense anger issues that he refers to as “angries” at first and then renames his anger “The Venom” after the Spiderman villain. The book follows his struggle to live a normal life despite the fact that he feels like he has a creature living inside of him waiting to destroy his life.

His best friend, Randall, introduces him to his friends, their tarot club and a pretty goth girl named Renee. Things seem to finally be looking up for him but it doesn’t last long. The book deals with mental illness, drinking, medications, therapy, family issues, anger management, love, friendship and death. It also has lots of swearing and has some sex, so this isn’t for younger kids.

I like that each chapter starts off with a drawing that’s a page from a graphic novel with a bit of story and it’s supposed to be one that Locke is writing. Even though the book can be pretty dark at times, it ends with a hopeful scene. The other thing that I like about the book is that it doesn’t make the idea of taking pills (like Zoloft) or seeing a therapist a weakness. Even though the characters themselves might have some issues with it, their friends don’t.

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Review of Shut Up and Give Me the Mic by Dee Snider

I got Shut Up and Give Me the Mic because I like a few Twisted Sister songs and I like Dee Snider’s movie Strangeland. The fact that I found it at the Dollar Tree didn’t hurt. I wanted to learn more about how Twisted Sister got their start, which I did, but parts of the book were really boring. I had to make myself keep reading at some points. It’s refreshing to read about a rocker who didn’t do crack, didn’t drink a bottle of gin every night or sleep with every groupie available. That part was cool, but he had/has a huge ego (which he’ll mention repeatedly). It also ends sort of abruptly.

The book covers Dee’s career with local New York bands until he eventually ends up in Twisted Sister and everything took off from there. He met his wife, TS got a following and they got a record deal. Dee explains how things like royalties, making/promoting albums and tours really work and how much money the band actually gets, which is good information for anyone in a band. He also mentions all of the milestones he missed with his first son: most of his wife’s pregnancy, his son’s first steps, his first words, etc, because he was out on the road. You can tell how much he really loves his family and I liked that part.

After living the high life for so many years and then having the last Twisted Sister album and tour fail miserably and making some less than wise business decisions, Dee had to file for bankruptcy two different times. He lost just about everything except for his family and his wife’s hot pink jeep. Trying to pull himself back out of the hole was a humbling experience and it seemed to really open his eyes.  Then the book just ended! He mentions that to learn about what it was like for him to make Strangeland you’ll have to read his next book, but I don’t want to!

Review of This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

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I got to read an excerpt of this book in a sampler last year and I really wanted to read the rest of it. I’ve tried buying this book two times before and had things prevent it both times, so when I saw that Books-A-Million was having a buy two, get one free sale on Young Adult books where this was one of them, I jumped on it. I am so happy to finally own this.
I didn’t want to put this book down, but I fell asleep reading it and finished it the next morning. This book is amazing. The writing is amazing. The characters are amazing. Everything is amazing. I love how fast paced this book is, especially during it’s climax. I had to keep reading and found myself reading even faster than usual. I had to find out what happens to everyone! It feels a bit odd to be raving about a book about a school shooting, but it’s really good.
The book follows the four characters: Claire, Autumn, Sylv and Tomas. There are also Twitter posts from various minor characters about what’s happening. I think that helped move the story along and give more weight to it.
I really like that, while the shooting is the main focus of the book, we also learn about the characters lives, hopes and dreams. They felt like actual people instead of the typical stereotypes. They just wanted to live their lives and be loved.
I recommend this to anyone who wants to read a good book.

Review of The Misfits by James Howe

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This book is one that I found at the thrift shop and I chose it based off of the description and author. I’ve read Howe’s Bunnicula books, but I didn’t know that he wrote young adult books as well. This one might technically be considered “middle grade fiction” since the characters are 12 and in middle school.
The book is written from the perspective of Bobby Goodspeed and it’s about him reflecting on the time in seventh grade when him and his friends (Addie, Joe and Skeezie) ran for student council as the No Name Party. I honestly feel that their platform (name calling hurts) and slogan (“Sticks and stones may break out bones, but names will break our spirit.”) is really good. The book talks about each character and what their home life is like. Our narrator, is an overweight kid working in a tie store to try to help his dad out after his mom passed away from cancer, Addie is an over achiever, Skeezie is sloppy kid with divorced parents and Joe is gay and artsy.
I think the character were well rounded and the story was well written. I like the bit at the end that tells the reader what each character became when they grew up. I would recommend this to middle and high school students.

Review of Polarity in Motion by Brenda Vicars

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I won an autographed copy of this book in The Gal in the Blue Mask’s Author Bling giveaway. I loved this book! It was so good that I just couldn’t put it down and I tried twice. I really like the characters and the issues they are dealing with are important.

Polarity is quiet and shy, but she’s a very strong girl. I can’t imagine having to go through something so embarrassing. I liked the progress she made in the book and I love that she stayed true to herself despite everything that was going on. Her relationship with her parents is very well written and her mother’s condition is handled well. I felt really bad for Polarity and I’m very happy that she had her grandma, her grandma’s boyfriend and Ethan on her side. Her relationship with her grandmother was one of my favorite parts of the book. It reminded me of the way things were with my gramma and I got a little choked up reading about it. That doesn’t happen very often.

Polarity’s relationship with Ethan, who should pursue a career as a detective, develops over time instead of the “insta-love” that’s so common in young adult books. It was refreshing. He’s a really good guy and he stands up for the underdog, who ends up being Polarity. I think they made a cute couple.

Besides the main issue of the naked photo, the book tackles issues such as race, bullying, privilege, mental disorders, and adults’ perception of teens. I recommend this one to teens everywhere.

Review This Above All A Novel by Lindsey Roth Culli

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I requested this book from NetGalley because the title is from my favorite Shakespeare quote (“This above all: to thine ownself be true.”). The quote is actually from Hamlet, but this story focuses on a high school drama class’ performance of Romeo and Juliet.

The main character, Piper, comes from a very conservative religious family and she’s the daughter of an evangelical pastor. Despite knowing it’s not allowed, she tries out for the play anyway and gets the lead role…as Romeo. She quarrels with herself over it because she’s been taught that being gay is wrong, and wouldn’t it make her gay to play Romeo since Juliet is a girl too?

Piper has a lot of growth over the course of the book and really becomes her own person. She stands up for what she believes in and defends her new friends, even though that means defying her father nd everything that she’s been taught. She even finds love. The friendships in the book were well done and felt like they’d be accurate for high school kids (disagreements, rumors, getting to know new people, etc.).

Religion is mentioned a lot in the book since her father’s a pastor, but it’s not anti-religion. Piper remains faithful throughout the book, but she questions her father’s tactics (which are very similar to those of the Westboro Baptist Church). I know that can be a touchy subject, but I feel like the author handled it well without insulting anything.

I would recommend this to fans of Shakespeare, young adult books (especially lgbt ya) and to people who like reading good books.

Review of Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent by Anthony Rapp

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Without You is a very emotional book. It covers some of the happiest times in Anthony Rapp’s life (being in the musical Rent) and the saddest moments (watching his mother fight cancer). I felt bad for him because I can’t imagine how hard it is to watch anyone, let alone your mother, waste away.

I liked learning more about Anthony’s start in show business and I loved the parts about Rent. It’s one of my favorite musicals. You can tell how much he loves singing and performing. His joy radiates off the pages. It was great to learn more about the other people in the cast and the director too.

The parts about his mother and what it was like seeing her so sick were really sad. There are also some unresolved issues between them. He’s really hard on himself for expressing any kind of emotion and that often leads him to fits of rage or to snap at people. I’m happy that he found someone to talk to about that. It’s just not healthy for anyone.

Ultimately, the book is a celebration of his time in the play and of his Mom’s life. I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of Anthony Rapp, Rent or biographies.