REVIEW: Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee Blauersouth

Secondhand Origin Stories Tour Banner

Title: Secondhand Origin Stories
Author: Lee Blauersouth
Format: Ebook
Publication: March 15th 2018 by Createspace Independent Publishing
Source: Author via blog tour (thank you Lee Blauersouth and Shealea @ That Bookshelf Bitch!)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Other classifications: LGBTQIAYoung Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound


Opal has been planning to go to Chicago and join the Midwest’s superhero team, the Sentinels, since she was a little kid. That dream took on a more urgent tone when her superpowered dad was unjustly arrested for protecting a neighbor from an abusive situation. Now, she wants to be a superhero not only to protect people, but to get a platform to tell the world about the injustices of the Altered Persons Bureau, the government agency for everything relating to superpowers.

But just after Opal’s high school graduation, a supervillain with a jet and unclear motives attacks the downtown home of the Sentinels, and when Opal arrives, she finds a family on the brink of breaking apart. She meets a boy who’s been developing secret (and illegal) brain-altering nanites right under the Sentinel’s noses, another teenage superhero-hopeful who looks suspiciously like a long-dead supervillain, and the completely un-superpowered daughter of the Sentinels’ leader. Can four teens on the fringes of the superhero world handle the corruption, danger, and family secrets they’ve unearthed?


I received a review copy from the author which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

Welcome to one of the stops on the second day of the #SHOSPH Blog Tour!

Heavily character-driven, Lee Blauersouth’s Secondhand Origin Stories is less a superhero novel and more a novel about a dysfunctional family of superheroes. And that makes for a more compelling narrative.

The book follows four teens; each having something to prove, all wanting to protect their family. There is Opal, who has always dreamed of becoming a superhero and joining the Sentinels. Issac, who has been developing secret but positively illegal brain-altering nanites to save a family member. Yael, who has been training for the life of a superhero for as long as xe can remember. Except the past, an inheritance xe has no control over, keeps resurfacing and threatening that future. And Jamie, who will always support her siblings no matter what. But can four teens on the fringes of the superhero world handle the corruption, danger, and family secrets they’ve unearthed? One of the things I love about Secondhand Origin Stories is that even though it has an ensemble cast, the author does a fantastic job of shining a spotlight on the individual characters. And that is no easy task. You feel for the characters. They are complex and flawed and you root for them.

“Xe stepped towards him. His knees bent as if to step back, but he held his ground. He was a hero. Which meant Yael had to be something else.”

It is quite hard to miss out the amount of thoughtful nuances that went into writing this story. It is timely, gripping, and emotionally resonant. Each character has a distinct voice, and although the novel is told in third-person, the shifts are seamless and at times even smart. For instance, there is a confrontation between Issac, Jamie, and their mom, and it unfolds in such a way that the reader views it from Opal’s POV. And I think that is brilliant, because it strips down the scene to its barest form. It also shows that Opal is an outsider. Which is another aspect of the book I appreciate: it does not shy away from the struggles of its characters. You join Yael as xe makes peace with who xe is and who xe wants to become. You are there as Opal wrestles with the reality of her dreams. As Jamie tries to reconnect with her dad. And as Issac reevaluates what he believes in and how much he is willing to fight for them. I am a sucker for family drama, and Secondhand Origin Stories certainly delivers. It could have easily fit in the CW lineup.

“We can’t always save everyone.”

I could not stress this more: we still need diverse books. There are still not nearly enough diverse stories by and about people from diverse experiences out there, and that is why I am stoked for Blauersouth’s book and what it adds to the conversation. Secondhand Origin Stories has representations on gender, sexuality, race, and disability. It touches on systemic racism and the insidious ways marginalization works. There is one scene where a black character finds herself faced with uniformed men and she gets anxious, not without reasons, and is suddenly “hyper-aware of her skin, dark enough to paint a target on her.” And it is these little details that really leave the most impact, for me at least.

“There was something about queer kids that made them seem to cluster together, without even meaning to. Without even knowing. It was something she’d learned to trust.”

Perhaps it has a slow start and perhaps it is a bit unpolished, but this novel is self-published y’all! I can only imagine what Blauersouth can accomplish with the backing of an established publisher.

For superhero film buffs who want well-written character arcs. Go grab yourself a copy of Secondhand Origin Stories!

4.0 out of 5

Lee Blauersouth 01

After about a decade of drawing comics independently or with small presses, Lee started writing prose out of a combination of peer pressure and spite, then continued out of attachment to their favorite made-up people. They live in Minnesota even though it is clearly not a habitat humans were ever meant to endure, with their lovely wife/editor, the world’s most perfect baby, and books in every room of the house.

If you like categories, they’re an ENFJ Slytherin Leo. If you’re looking for demographics they’re an agender bisexual with a couple of disabilities. If you’re into lists of likes: Lee loves comics, classical art, round animals, tattoos, opera, ogling the shiner sciences, and queer stuff.


Check out the rest of the tour stops!

April 23
Secondhand Origin Stories blog tour launch
Feature post from The Backwards Bookshelf
Feature post from Candid Ceillie
Review from The Backwards Bookshelf
Review from Crimson Blogs
Review from Samantha House
Review from Stuffed Shelves

April 24
Excerpt from Not Just Fiction
Excerpt from Utopia State of Mind
Feature post from Unputdownable Books
Review from That Bookshelf Bitch
Review from Cliste Bella
Review from wallflower’s plight

April 25
Excerpt from The Nerdy Elite
Excerpt from BookMyHart
Review from Candid Ceillie
Review from F A N N A
Review from forthenovellovers
Review from Igniting Pages
Review from Spines In a Line

April 26
Excerpt from Provocatrix
Review from Bookish Wanderess
Review from bookishwisps
Review from Flying Paperbacks
Review from TheHufflepuffNerdette
Review from My Reading List
Review from Unputdownable Books

April 27
Author interview on That Bookshelf Bitch
Feature post from Cliste Bella
Review from Afire Pages
Review from The Book Maiden
Review from The Little Miss Bookworm
Review from Reader Fox and a Box of Books
Review from The Youngvamp’s Haven

Question: are you Team Plot-Driven or Team Character-Driven? And have you heard about Secondhand Origin Stories before today? Would you be picking it up anytime soon? Sound off in the comments below!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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REVIEW: Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu (+ Giveaway)

Batman Nightwalker 01

Title: Batman: Nightwalker
Author: Marie Lu
Format: ARC, 252 pages
Publication: January 2nd 2018 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher via blog tour (thank you Penguin Random House and JM @ Book Freak Revelations!)
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Other classifications: Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked


Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City. The city’s elites are being taken out one by one when their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. And Bruce Wayne is next on their list.

Bruce is about to become eighteen and inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Industries and all the tech gadgetry that he loves. But on the way home from his birthday party, he makes an impulsive choice and is sentenced to community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most nefarious criminals.

There, he meets Madeleine Wallace, a brilliant killer with ties to the Nightwalkers. A girl who will only speak to Bruce. She’s the mystery he has to unravel, but is he convincing her to divulge secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees?


I received a review copy from the publisher which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

Welcome to the ninth stop of the #NightwalkerPH Blog Tour!

The DC Icons series continues with Marie Lu’s fast-paced, riveting, if slightly disjointed, Batman origin story.

Nightwalker follows Bruce Wayne before he dons the cape and cowl. The night of his birthday—as he turns eighteen and inherits his parents’ legacy—Bruce acts out of impulse and ends up having to do community service at Arkham Asylum, a place for the most horrible criminals of Gotham City. A place where he meets Madeleine Wallace, a brilliant killer with ties to the Nightwalkers who are currently terrorizing the city. Here’s my caveat: my reading experience brought me to the immediate but perhaps unsurprising realization that I knew close to nothing about the Batman mythos. Even the modicum of characterization I vaguely recall from my childhood, watching Batman Returns and Batman Forever and endless runs and reruns of the animated Justice League series, wasn’t much. I skipped the Christopher Nolan films entirely. Because, although I loved the X-Men and Justice League growing up, I wasn’t big on superheroes. And Bruce Wayne was the least I was interested in. (That was rather lengthy, wasn’t it?) But Lu somehow manages to capture in the meager 250 pages the nuances of this boy who lost his parents at a very young age, who is on the cusp of adulthood, who is naive and good and reckless. Suddenly, I was rooting for Bruce. I wanted him to figure out what he would do after graduation (well, spoiler alert: he would become the caped crusader). I wanted to protect him from Arkham Asylum. And I found myself getting frustrated at some of his less than astute judgment.

“It’s not up to you to save the world, Bruce.”

I appreciate that Nightwalker isn’t peppered with comics references and too much foreshadowing; there isn’t a need for Easter egg hunting. It’s still clearly a Batman novel, but the author’s imprint is also very evident here. Like Bruce’s training regimen involves a neat virtual reality and there are robotic drone police reinforcements at one point. It’s hard to classify this title in terms of genre but it surely has a strong speculative tinge. Then there are the original characters. I was mildly startled to learn Bruce have friends, but definitely thrilled that one of them is of Filipino descent. This adds to the YA appeal I’m pretty certain. Just as I’m certain the rice-and-egg breakfast of Dianne’s (Bruce’s Filipina friend) lola was garlic fried rice. #Yesrepresentation! I was not, however, startled to learn that the main villain is unreliable. I enjoyed the interactions between Bruce and Madeleine, even if I itched to drag the former away half the time.

“”The first rule of fooling someone,” she said, “is to mix a few lies in with many truths.””

The only thing that felt off to me was the tone of the book. It was almost as if Lu and her editor wanted this to be dark but had to pull back mid-punch. Or that wasn’t the intention at all; it’s just that Bruce’s story is inherently dark. In any case, it was bizarre to have this sort of disconnect between where the reader thinks the narrative is headed, tone-wise, and where it actually goes. And what’s up with sending an eighteen year old to a psychiatric hospital/prison with “the city’s most nefarious criminals”? That’s extreme for me, but okay.

“”I’m saying this objectively,” Bruce snapped. “I’m not crazy.”
“No. You’re just naive.””

Intriguing and positively entertaining, Batman: Nightwalker will most likely please both fans and newcomers.

3.5 out of 5


Marie Lu 01

Marie Lu is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Young Elites, as well as the blockbuster bestselling Legend series. She graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry as an artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing games, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with one husband, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Facebook | Twitter | TumblrWebsite

You can read Batman: Nightwalker, too! Enter THIS Twitter giveaway for a chance to win one (1) advance reader copy. Bonus point if you leave a comment on my review! Entries are open worldwide and will be accepted until 11:59pm (EST), February 2nd.

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

Stay Bookish
The Hogsmeader Reader
Bibliophile Kid
The Ultimate Fangirl
Divergent Gryffindor
Book Freak Revelations
Book Allure

Happy New Year, bookworms! How was your holiday? I hope it was all kinds of fun and lovely and magical! ❤ Are you a fan of the dark knight? Have you already picked up Lu’s take on his origin story? What did you think? Alternatively, we can talk about your current read. Sound off in the comments below!  

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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REVIEW: Warcross by Marie Lu (+ Giveaway)

Warcross Blog Tour Banner

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Title: Warcross
Author: Marie Lu
Format: Paperback, 353 pages
Publication: September 12th 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher via blog tour (thank you Penguin Random House and Raf @ The Royal Polar Bear Reads!)
Genre: Fiction—Cyber Thriller, Science Fiction
Other classifications: Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked


For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life.

The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.


I received a review copy from the publisher which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

Welcome to one of the stops on the third day of the Warcross PH Blog Tour!

Deeply immersive and compellingly readable, Marie Lu delivers in her latest book Warcross. Think The Hunger Games meets online RPGs.

The novel, which is first in a planned duology, follows teenage hacker and bounty hunter Emika Chen who is three days away from becoming homeless. With waitressing gigs in decline and a hunt gone awry, she goes for some quick cash and hacks into the opening game of the International Warcross Championships. Except she accidentally glitches herself into the actual game in the process. Now, convinced of an imminent arrest, Emika is nonplussed when she instead receives a call from the game’s creator, young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, who has a job to offer. Then she finds herself in Tokyo, drafted in one of the official teams, and working for her idol. This is my introduction to Marie Lu, and while it didn’t convert me, it has made clear why there’s a massive number of champions (pun definitely intended) of her books: the author does a fantastic job in crafting vivid, nuanced settings and stories that have mass commercial appeal.

Every locked door has a key.
Every problem has a solution.”

Virtual realities aren’t anything new; I can easily cite Ernest Cline’s massive 2011 hit Ready Player One, for instance. But there’s something very seductive about the idea of Warcross and the NeuroLink glasses. Imagine entering the Hunger Games without risking, well, your life or playing Ragnarok where you are your character, avatar and all. Take everyday occurrences, like going to a coffee shop or playing Mario Kart, but with enhanced experience and points to be gained. It actually doesn’t take a bout of imagination, given how much we rely on the internet for almost everything nowadays. Moreover, the novel is incredibly cinematic. I haven’t been to Tokyo, or anywhere else in Japan for that matter, but I grew up consuming enough anime to acquire a certain set of mental images of the city. And Lu’s Tokyo not only captures that, it also improves it. I must say I had issues with the pacing, though, mainly because I feel like it lost its momentum towards the second act. But damn those final chapters. They were pretty intense and I couldn’t read fast enough. And when it’s time for the major plot twist—the major plot twistI was inwardly facepalming myself for believing I had it all figured out.

“It’s too easy to lose yourself in an illusion.”

I also laud the author for inclusivity. Emika Chen, the plucky, badass heroine, is Chinese American. The captain of one of the Warcross teams is in a wheelchair. Two dudes have a history of hooking up and it was mentioned so casually—like it’s the most natural thing, and it is—and half the cast is non-Caucasian. Hideo Tanaka has his charm, but it often reads as paradigmatic. And I wish we got to see more of Emika interacting with her teammates. Perhaps we’ll see that in the sequel, but I think it’s a missed opportunity to witness an independent female MC have better fleshed out relationships outside of her romantic arc. Which conveniently brings up my next point: the biggest turn off for me, the romance. I was ready to forgive its insta-love nature, YA throws you that every now and then. But I find zero chemistry between Emika and the love interest. None. Where people were freaking out over their ship sailing, I was left with a resounding why? The result is me lowkey cringing over border line cheesy dialogues (and I love cheesy!).

“If I could solve these problems, then I could control something.”

If you are looking for a title that will give you the satisfaction of a good summer blockbuster, look no further.

3.5 out of 5


Marie Lu 01

Marie Lu is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling series The Young Elites, as well as the blockbuster bestselling Legend series. She graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry as an artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing games, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with one husband, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Facebook | Twitter | TumblrWebsite

You can read Warcross, too! Enter HERE for a chance to win one (1) finished paperback. Entries are limited to the Philippines and will be accepted until 11:59pm (EST), September 21st.

Check out the rest of the tour stops!

September 12
Read by Nicka
The Hogsmeader Reader
That Bookshelf Bitch
Amidst the Pages

September 13
The Ultimate Fangirl
Kat Reads PH
Highlit Books
Wanderer in Neverland

September 14
Descendant of Poseidon Reads
The Owl Hoots Loudly
Bookable Reads

September 15
Home of a Book Lover
The Nocturnal Fey
Books and Photographs
The BookDragon

Now tell me: what is your favorite Marie Lu title? 

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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REVIEW: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

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Title: A Wrinkle in Time
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Format: Paperback, 247 pages
Publication: May 1st 2007 by Square Fish (first published January 1st 1962 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Source: Borrowed from the library (Kumon Angeles City)
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Other classifications: Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked


It was a dark and stormy night.

Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure—one that will threaten their lives and our universe.


NOTE: The fifth paragraph is slightly spoilery. Thread with caution.

Human fallibility and the capacity for deep connection are at the center of A Wrinkle in Time, a Newbery Medal-winning, universe-hopping sci-fi fantasy novel.

The first title in a quintet, it chronicles Meg Murry’s quest to save her father. From who or what she has no idea. But she has her brother Charles Wallace, a boy named Calvin O’Keefe, and three mysterious ladies—Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which—to accompany her. I’ve read somewhere that there are two types of children: those who read Madeleine L’Engle and those who don’t. I’d like to believe I would’ve been the former had I stumbled upon A Wrinkle in Time in my younger years. Or, that is, had I had the love of reading I now have. I could just picture myself freaking out over a girl I can identify with who goes to this thrilling and dangerous and awe-inspiring journey through the cosmos. Who embraced her flaws to battle the bad guys. That being said, I was still able to appreciate and take pleasure in the story, even if the final act felt rushed.

“I’ve never even seen your house, and I have the funniest feeling that for the first time in my life I’m going home!”

For whatever reason, I somehow thought this beloved L’Engle classic is going to be a family drama. This is prior to seeing the trailer for the DuVernay/Disney adaptation of course. And in a lot of ways it is a family drama. But it also is so much more than that; it has beautiful, past-the-Greek-centaur creatures for one. It’s about good vs. evil. It’s about friendship. It’s scientific and it’s fantastical. It braids together quantum physics, Einstein’s theory on relativity and Christianity. It has a strong opinion on communism. One might even argue that the book is too on the nose in those front. In fact, I’m curious to know if the author wouldn’t have a hard time securing a publisher now as much as she had in 1960s. But ultimately, it’s about a girl trying to get to her father.

“Don’t be afraid to be afraid.”

Let’s talk about the characters. Meg, the protagonist and whom the novel follows, is outrageously plain. She has your basic government issued descriptors: she wears glasses and has teeth covered with braces and mouse-brown hair that stood wildly on end. She doesn’t understand the concept of emotional inhibition quite yet and thinks school is all wrong. She’s practically an oddball and she hates it. And these are what makes Meg so relatable. Because what 12-year-old doesn’t feel ordinary? What 12-year-old isn’t governed strongly by emotion? Meg may not have the language for what she feels all the time but she knows this: she just wants to be like the other kids. And didn’t we all want that at one point? Next up is her younger brother Charles Wallace. He is five years old, speaks complete sentences—with a set of vocabulary that includes “inadvertently” and “compulsion”—and prepares sandwiches for his family—not just PBJ mind you. But possibly the most remarkable thing about Charles Wallace is that he is not a parody. For all his precociousness, he is still liable to err. Plus, his exchanges with Mrs Whatsit are endlessly entertaining. There’s also Calvin O’Keefe. Can I hug this fella? I want to hug this fella. His experience, both at home and in school, is so disparate from Meg’s but his friendship offers nothing but comfort and support. Then there are the three Mrs, these very strange old ladies. They reminded me of the Greek gods who always ask mortals to do their bidding, except one of the Mrs casually tosses phrases in French and German and quotes Dante and Cervantes.

“”I like to understand things,” Meg said.
“We all do. But it isn’t always possible.””

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time yet and wish to proceed unspoiled, you can skip to the next paragraph. Otherwise, carry on. There is a part in the book where Meg realizes her father isn’t omnipotent and that he may well be as lost as her, and I think the author did a fine job there. I’m infinitely fascinated by narratives where the young character becomes aware that her parents are also people, existing outside the realm of parenthood, capable of misjudgments and not without their own faults. Because I think it is as much a part of growing up, no matter how baffling. By the time Meg comes to this realization, it is a powerful scene. And Meg you know to be operating in extreme ends of the emotional spectrum.

“”But I wanted to do it for you,” Mr. Murry said. “That’s what every parent wants.””

At once imaginative and touching, A Wrinkle in Time teaches us courage and the importance of familial ties. Definitely recommended for fans of Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

4.0 out of 5


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Madeleine L’Engle was an American writer best known for her Young Adult fiction, particularly the Newbery Medal-winning A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters. Her works reflect her strong interest in modern science: tesseracts, for example, are featured prominently in A Wrinkle in Time, mitochondrial DNA in A Wind in the Door, organ regeneration in The Arm of the Starfish, and so forth.

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Have you read this beloved classic? Do you agree that the final act felt rushed? What do you think of the three Mrs? How do you feel about the DuVernay/Disney adaptation? Also, are you a child who read Madeleine L’Engle? Sound off in the comments below!

You can also stalk follow me elsewhere! On Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Bloglovin.

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REVIEW: Duplicity by N. K. Traver


Title: Duplicity
Author: N. K. Traver (and narrated by MacLeod Andrews)
Format: Audiobook, 6 hours 46 minutes
Publication: March 17th 2015 by Audible Studios
Source: Author (thank you N. K. Traver!)
Genre: Fiction—Cyber Thriller, Science Fiction
Other classifications: Young Adult

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound | Fully Booked


A computer-hacking teen. The girl who wants to save him. And a rogue mirror reflection that might be the death of them both.

In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts just for the thrill of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. He should know: he’s worked hard to maintain the façade. With inattentive parents who move constantly from city to city, he’s learned not to get tangled up in things like friends and relationships. So he’ll just keep living like a machine, all gears and wires.

Then two things shatter his carefully-built image: Emma, the kind, stubborn girl who insists on looking beneath the surface – and the small matter of a reflection that starts moving by itself. Not only does Brandon’s reflection have a mind of its own, but it seems to be grooming him for something—washing the dye from his hair, yanking out his piercings, swapping his black shirts for … pastels. Then it tells him: it thinks it can live his life better, and it’s preparing to trade places.

And when it pulls Brandon through the looking-glass, not only will he need all his ill-gotten hacking skills to escape, but he’s going to have to face some hard truths about who he’s become. Otherwise he’ll be stuck in a digital hell until he’s old and gray, and no one will even know he’s gone.


I received a review copy from the author which in no way swayed my opinion about the work.

Duplicity asks the reader to suspend quite a few disbelief in exchange of an intriguing, fast-paced cyber thriller with a normal, flawed guy at the center.

The book follows Brandon Eriks—tattooed bad boy by day, deft hacker at night—and the series of bizarre occurrences after his computer seems to have gotten hacked. His reflection appears to operate on its own volition; his multiple piercings start disappearing; the dye in his hair gets washed off; and his wardrobe undergoes a makeover. It doesn’t help that his ex, who doesn’t believe any of it, wants to get back together and Emma, who refuses to buy the devil-may-care attitude, is making him question his carefully built façade. Equally unhelpful is his barely present parents. And then he gets pulled through a mirror and, well, he’s gonna need all his hacking skills to fight his way out. Here’s the thing. Do not attempt to make sense out of the concept of this novel; it doesn’t work that way.

“”Maybe that’s the problem,” I say. “That everyone does what’s easiest.””

The plot could’ve worked out fantastically—except for the part where some codes don’t add up. I listened to the audiobook—Andrews captures the little pockets of humor in Duplicity particularly well—and I had to pause several times, taking in details, processing information. I paused and rewound. And this could’ve easily been attributed to the fact that the descriptive nature of the book consistently sends my imagination off, rendering the narrator a white noise. But ’til I realized the best way to enjoy the story is to turn off the critical thinker in me, I was going back and forth over scenes. I was positive I missed passages.

“You don’t know how to block what you can’t see, do you? You’re too visual. Typical guy problem.”

It’s easy to dismiss Duplicity as a ridiculous YA thriller with certain elements too improbable for its own good. But it bears pointing out that where the narrative shines is on the characterization of Brandon Eriks. Misunderstood baddy, sure, that has appeal to a specific set of readers. But I’m talking flaws in character. Brandon has trust issues; he has his reasons for not letting people in. But he’s also self-absorbed and I like that the author doesn’t try to excuse him. Some of the parts that stood out to me are ones where we witness Brandon struggling with the realization of this. On the contrary, some of the parts that scarcely registered to me are those involving Emma. She is a love interest at best, a plot device at worst. She had potentials, especially in the scene where we discover she has a personal agenda. But I wish she had more agency. Although, props to Traver for sidestepping a convenient literary trap. Emma doesn’t save Brandon. Love doesn’t fix everything. Then there’s Seb. You can’t discuss Seb without stumbling upon a collective data of spoilers, so I’ll curtail. Brandon meets Seb in the mirror and the latter probably brings about the most humor and character development from the former. Seb also makes our MC uncomfortable, which makes for good entertainment.

“I sigh because it’s literally hurting me to think of nice things to say.”

In a way, Duplicity is a hero’s journey. One that doesn’t end with the hero learning all his lessons, neat bows and all.

3.0 out of 5


N. K. Traver

As a freshman at the University of Colorado, N. K. Traver decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said “no one could make a living” with an English degree. It wasn’t too many years later Traver realized it didn’t matter what the job paid—nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Programmer by day, writer by night, it was only a matter of time before the two overlapped.

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REVIEW: Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

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Title: Grasshopper Jungle
Author: Andrew Smith
Format: Paperback, 384 pages
Publication: February 17th 2015 by Speak (first published February 1st 2014)
Source: Bought from National Book Store
Genre: Fiction—Coming of Age, Contemporary, Science Fiction
Other classifications: Apocalyptic, LGBTQIA, Weird, Young Adult

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This is the truth. This is history. It’s the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it. You know what I mean.

In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend, Robby, have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of HORNY, HUNGRY, SIX-FOOT-TALL PRAYING MANTISES that only want to do two things.


At least once in our lives, we become so confused in and with everything. With our identity, our sexuality, how we make sense of what’s happening around us and how it affects us while also trying to figure out who we are and what does that mean. This is at the core of Grasshopper Jungle, Andrew Smith’s 7th novel, which is also a Michael L. Printz Award nominee.

“”Sometimes I’m confused,” I said. “Actually, pretty much all the time I am. I wonder if I’m normal.””

Smith is many things, but what he does best is writing complex teenage boys. Andrzej Austin Szczerba is our narrator. He, his best friend Robby, and girlfriend Shann witness the end of the world, where hungry, horny, six-foot-tall Mantis-like bugs are involved. Austin is flawed and almost always thinks of the stuff boys think, but he’s young and is threading waters. In that way, Grasshopper Jungle wins. It excels in capturing the inner battle of who-am-I-what-do-I-want-what-could-I-do everyone of us fights or at some point fought. This universal subject is what makes the book an intimate experience. And Smith’s use of monosyllabic reactions like “uh” and “um” is so on point.

Okay, at times, can effectively serve as the closing curtain to difficult teenage conversations.”

Grasshopper Jungle also champions two other topics: weird YA and bisexuality. What’s horrifying about this piece of literature is not the ginormous bugs who only like to do two things, it’s the “deranged carnival sideshow.” The disturbing tableaux of where humanity may lead to, or maybe have. Smith offers his readers a freak show of macabre human psyche and he does it with no reservation whatsoever. And the portrayal of one character’s bisexuality is just realistic and I think it comes from a place of sensitive observation. Because, clearly, Smith is not bi. But his character undeniably is. Plus, the book does not shy away from vulgarity. It actually has one graphic, explicit sex scene but the author handles it well.

“I consider it my job to tell the truth.”

The biggest drag, however, in this novel hitting full circle of genius is the narrative style. Austin is a historian. He records events in his notebooks. The book, Grasshopper Jungle, is filled to the brim with too many facts. And, while every single one of these is relevant to the story by rights and manages to resurface in forked roads, it’s often distracting. I find the reiteration of certain things gratuitous, and by the nth time I was told that Andrzej Szczerba—whose American name is Andrew Szerba—is Austin’s great-great-great-grandfather, I was weary.

“I love how you tell stories. I love how, whenever you tell me a story, you go backwards and forwards and tell me everything else that could possibly be happening in every direction, like an explosion. Like a flower blooming.”

But I still recommend this title, especially for fans of honest, candid coming-of-age tales like The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Grasshopper Jungle is wild, daring and introspective if in places tedious.

3.5 out of 5


Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith knew ever since his days as editor of his high school newspaper that he wanted to be a writer. His books include Grasshopper Jungle, Winger, and 100 Sideways Miles. Smith prefers the seclusion of his rural Southern California setting, where he lives with his family.

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I cheated. My photo is recycled. I disappoint myself. Have you read this book? Have I convinced you to? Who are your go-to authors for Weird YA? And, OH, since Grasshopper Jungle is about the end of the world, name three writers you’d want in your team when this happens!

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REVIEW: More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This

Title: More Than This
Author: Patrick Ness
Format: Paperback, 480 pages
Publication: May 1st 2014 by Walker Books Ltd (first published September 10th 2013)
Source: Bought from Fully Booked
Genre: Fiction—Science Fiction
Other classifications: Bullying, Depression and Mental Illness, LGBTQIA, Weird, Young Adult

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A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies.

Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive.

How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place?

As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?


I’ve never quite read anything like More Than This in a long time, if I ever read one to begin with. It’s powerfully tense and the writing is spot-on, hitting the marks in places meditative and in others deeply affecting. It continuously flips everything on its head, like, at one point, you’d think, okay that was all of the cards right? But no, Ness hacks the chair off and—bam!—you’re back to square one figuring out—with the main character—what everything means. And all this in a backdrop of family dysfunction, youthful impulse and longing, acceptance and big life questions.

“No, life didn’t always go how you thought it might.
Sometimes it didn’t make any sense at all.”

The pacing is impeccable—teasing in a way that keeps the reader engaged all the time but that is also efficient as to not be frustrating. Reading More Than This feels to me like walking in a dark tunnel, when you can just see the light seeping through a door, quite far away, quite within reach. It’s gripping through and through. There’s even this particular chapter so jarring and visceral it kept me on the edge of my seat. Literally. Ness really captures the sense of helplessness in such a palpable state it’s unsettling.

“Haven’t you ever felt like there has to be more? Like there’s more out there somewhere, just beyond your grasp, if you could only get to it…”

Now let’s talk about the characters. This isn’t my first Patrick Ness book; The Knife of Never Letting Go is. But it is a tremendously different experience for me. I don’t think I’d make the connection between the two if I didn’t know the same person wrote them. More Than This is loaded with well-written characters. Seth, the MC, is someone I identify with. He’s got issues with his family, is skeptical about things but he’s willing to risk it to be happy, to be more. Then there’s Regine with her scars and whose grittiness and own sense of humor add texture to the story. Tomasz who is at once adorable and a punch to that very word. Owen and Seth’s parents with their flaws and drama. And the whole cast of secondary characters with their moving turns. If you’ve been tuning in for a while—back from the Tumblr days—you’d be familiar that I don’t usually cry in books (and films). I get moved and teary-eyed and all that stuff, yes, but actual crying is seldom. This book, however, made me shed tears in one father-and-son scene and got me teary-eyed here and there.

“People break, I guess. Everyone.”

I picked up this title because John Green’s blurb goes “Just read it.” And today, I tell you the same.

4.0 out of 5


Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness is the author of the bestselling and critically-acclaimed Chaos Walking trilogy and the prize-winning novel A Monster Calls. He has won every major prize in children’s fiction, including the Carnegie Medal twice. He lives in London.

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