Book Review: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

Summary: Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he's so enormous-6'6" and 250 pounds to be exact. He has no one at school and life in his trailer park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother's suicide.

There's no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there's only one person who can help: Neanderthal.

To his own surprise, Cliff says he's in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS--Cliff feels like he's part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn't as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they've completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined.

Release Date: May 2018
Age Group: YA, Contemporary
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

I've been sitting on this review for a month because I just didn't know how to write what I felt about it. I'm an ice queen. I can compartmentalize feelings in less than 5 seconds but this book hit the Mom in me. My most cherished role. At the surface this was a crass, funny, coming-of-age story but at the core it dives into the complex issues our youth face each day-- sexuality, socioeconomic distress, religion and uncertainty all mixed with the typical high school experience of being inexperienced. 

By nature I am conservative with flares of liberalism. I am not left. I am not right. I am for the legalization of marijuana (for medical use) and staunchly anti-abortion. I strive for a bit of yin & yang. Let's be clear, I am no saint. I silently judge at Wal-Mart, snarky remarks are my forte and I am opinionated. 

Did I agree with all the views of this book? No. Did I agree with some? You bet. I try to always step back and see situations from others perspectives and sometimes agree to disagree. I'll always love people, even in the crappiest of circumstances. By nature I am a do'er and I try to stay afloat with action. But a lot of times I have to remind myself that people's opinions are like butt-holes, they all stink. 

With that said, I really enjoyed Neanderthal. It was incredibly honest, hilarious, sad, sweet, at times intolerant and still hopeful. The first 5 pages had me laughing so hard that Sweet Stuff actually threatened to kick me out of bed! 15 years and I have never achieved this crowning threat... I seriously couldn't stop giggling. 

Neanderthal (Cliff) was basically written after my brother. If drinking and not careful, the phrases and comments of Cliff would make you spew water. Yeah, no drinking during this read. Cliff was so intelligent and yet a victim of circumstance... sounds like 90% of the youth I interact with. Yet he persisted. 

This is not a clean read, this is a raw read. It has more of a realistic image of what life is like for most teens today. There are foul-mouthed teens, drugs, homophobia, parental abuse, confusion of sexuality and religious instability. My biggest complaint was the overuse of the F-bomb. Seriously NOT.A.FAN. 

Just about every worry I have as a mother popped-up:

Will my kids be confident enough to stand up for what they believe?
Will my kids be confident enough to stand up for those that can't stand for themselves?
Will they remember that it's better to be kind than right? 

Will I eventually want to beat up a child? 😁 just kidding... kind of... ahhhh, Mom'ing is hard y'all πŸ’†πŸΌ

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is more than a coming-of-age story, it is a window into our society today as seen by our {confused/misplaced/forgotten/innocent} youth.

Don't read it to agree. Don't read it to disagree. Read it to be informed. Read it to know the struggles of our youth today. Read it to be a better friend. Read it to decide what you can stand for and what you stand against. Most important, whatever you do, do it with kindness and compassion. Don't tear down those that disagree with you. Be the example of what you "preach". And for crying out loud stop saying the F-word! Get a thesaurus and choose another expletive to express yourself.

Book Review: Unraveled (Perfected #3) by Kate Jarvik Birch

Summary: Ella isn’t anyone’s pet anymore, but she’s certainly not free.

After exposing the dark secrets about NuPet’s breeding program, forcing them to repeal the law that allowed genetically modified girls to be kept as pets, she thought girls like her would finally be free. She never dreamed that it would backfire. NuPet may have convinced the public of their intentions to assimilate pets back into society, but Ella knows it’s a lie.

They aren’t planning mass rehabilitation...they’re planning a mass extermination.

Now, with the help of a small group of rebels, Ella and Penn, the boy she’d give up her life for, set out to bring down NuPet for good. But when her group gets implicated in a string of bombings, no one is safe. If she can’t untangle the web of blackmail and lies that extends far beyond NuPet’s reach, she won’t just lose her chance at freedom, she’ll lose everyone she loves.

Release Date: April 2018
Age Group: YA, Dystopian
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

The covers get me every time! Makes me want to go to a ball... and wait for some Supreme Commander to bust in and make the world all Handmaids Tale'ish... then I would quickly transform into Katniss and shoot a freaking arrow at the Commanders head (it hits the target of course, I'm Katniss) and then we go back to my dang dream ball!

Anywhoo. #coolstorybro The cover art for this series have been exceptional!

I'll be perfectly honest, I was completely unsettled about this book. I've had these great adventures before and then the author freaking ruins my life and DESTROYS the characters and/or plot... I was nervous. Would I have to break-up with Birch? Would I have to award her the #Rothed #hashtag or would she go down as a dystopian prowess? πŸ’†πŸΌ

The wait was so worth it.
 πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯She killed it people!πŸ”₯πŸ”₯πŸ”₯

Unraveled started and ended with a bang! It was fast-paced from beginning to end. If I didn't love my ombre nails so much I would have bit them off, instead I settled for LOADS of popcorn and coconut Bai.

It was no surprise that Ella and Penn were drug through one pile of crap to the next. This world was normal yet so abnormal, it felt real. The themes in Unraveled were definitely feminist and politically driven but VERY well done. I loved that Penn followed Ella, a strong, not totally independent, woman driven by a noble purpose-- FREEDOM.

This wasn't a story that wrapped with a pretty pink bow. People died, stuff was always blowing up and the twists and turns kept me on edge. A few of the realities of what enslavement offers to humankind made my stomach hurt. The thought that this was fiction made it a little easier to swallow but then there was the reminder that enslavement is happening in the real world, our world, and that made me sick.

Missy. That girl was a fighter. Her fire and sheer will was so vivid. I felt her rage and defiance. It was inspiring. We need more Missy's, she remains my homegirl.

Bottom line, Unraveled was beautifully written, gritty and inspiring. A fantastic conclusion and a top notch edition to the dystopian family.

Bravo Birch! So glad we didn't have to break-up.


Book Review: Tarnished (Perfected #2) by Kate Jarvik Birch

Summary: Freedom comes at a cost...

Ella was genetically engineered to be the perfect pet—graceful, demure...and kept. In a daring move, she escaped her captivity and took refuge in Canada. But while she can think and act as she pleases, the life of a liberated pet is just as confining as the Congressman’s gilded cage. Her escape triggered a backlash, and now no one's safe, least
of all the other pets. But she's trapped, unable to get back
to Penn—the boy she loves—or help the girls who need her.

Back in the United States, pets are turning up dead. With help from a very unexpected source, Ella slips deep into the dangerous black market, posing as a tarnished pet available to buy or sell. If she's lucky, she'll be able to rescue Penn and expose the truth about the breeding program. If she fails, Ella will pay not only with her life, but the lives
of everyone she's tried to save...

Release Date: December 2015
Age Group: YA, Dystopian
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

For most series, book two sets you up for the big πŸ’₯BOOMπŸ’₯ in the conclusion book and that makes for a strong LOVE-HATE relationship for me. I want more of the story but know what's going to happen... the story is going to literally pause and leave me on a cliff dangling by two fingers! But it's cool, a little torment and anticipation is what makes the conclusion so sweet (unless it's Divergent, in which you regret EVER having started the series #Rothed).

The cover of Tarnished had a Hunger Games vibe to it and was just beautiful but I don't think anything will ever beat the caged dress from Perfected. For a second book, I liked it. I actually felt like the characters were more fleshed out and began to be more relatable. I mean, I was initially just shocked in Perfected with the entire concept of a pet and am happy to report I couldn't relate. 

I am happy to report that the love story has developed a bit more and moved from instalove to more of a Peeta & Katniss situation in Catching Fire (still just a bit off). Ella is actually having life experiences and moving from a pet to an actual human being BUT her emotions are still pretty stunted.

There are several new characters introduced and Missy by far is the fire. Dang she is a fighter. I think a novella about what happened to Missy between Perfected and Tarnished is a must! There is so much unsaid and I really want to know her full story.

The good news is today is the release day of the final book in the series, Unraveled! I have waited a year for the conclusion and I'm ready to kick some butt and blow stuff up! πŸ’£ #rebellion