Book Review: Columbine by Dave Cullen

Columbine is a nonfiction book by Dave Cullen. It is an account of everything to do with the tragedy, including events before and post, and accounts of many of the people affected by it. It even includes excerpts of Eric and Dylan’s journals and plans.

This is a book that my local Indigo featured a while ago and it caught my eye. I’m a fan of non-fiction and this event was both harrowing and fascinating.

Here’s the cover:

And here’s the synopsis of the book, pulled from Amazon:

“The tragedies keep coming. As we reel from the latest horror . . . ” So begins a new epilogue, illustrating how Columbine became the template for nearly two decades of “spectacle murders.” It is a false script, seized upon by a generation of new killers. In the wake of Newtown, Aurora, and Virginia Tech, the imperative to understand the crime that sparked this plague grows more urgent every year.

What really happened April 20, 1999? The horror left an indelible stamp on the American psyche, but most of what we “know” is wrong. It wasn’t about jocks, Goths, or the Trench Coat Mafia. Dave Cullen was one of the first reporters on scene, and spent ten years on this book-widely recognized as the definitive account. With a keen investigative eye and psychological acumen, he draws on mountains of evidence, insight from the world’s leading forensic psychologists, and the killers’ own words and drawings-several reproduced in a new appendix. Cullen paints raw portraits of two polar opposite killers. They contrast starkly with the flashes of resilience and redemption among the survivors.”

Finally, here’s my review of Columbine!

This was a tough read. However, I want to be clear that the fact that it was difficult has nothing to do with my review.

What I loved most about this book was the breadth and depth of its storytelling. Not only was the novel about the perpetrators of the killing spree, Eric and Dylan; it was also about the vast numbers of victims, investigators, journalists, first-responders, and their families and friends that were affected by this tragedy.

The research was detailed and in-depth. Like the Amazon review, states, Cullen spent 10 years working on pulling it all together into this comprehensive account.

What I found most important was Cullen’s emphasis on the why of the event. This was much distorted by the media coverage. Many believed the boys were lashing out at people who bullied them such as jocks. They were not.  They also weren’t actually being bullied. Many believed that it was to do with their involvement in the Trenchcoat Mafia, a group at Columbine at the time. It wasn’t. They also weren’t a part of that group. Eric was a psychopath. Dylan had severe depression and suicidal ideation. Their combination of personalities created this great tragedy.

Other Great Stuff

Write here. Talk about how touching the writing was – how many times my heart dropped.

Another thing I found really important about this book was the author’s emphasis on flipping the script from the biggest school shooting in history (at the time) to a complete and utter failure. Not that it would have been better if the boys had succeeded — their plan was to destroy the entire high school with bombs and kill over 600 people — but that the media’s portrayal of the boys at the “top of the list” so-to-speak for mass murders glorified them and made them the “success” they wanted in their last acts, when truly they failed, utterly, at everything they were trying to carry out.

In a similar vein, Cullen also emphasized the important role the media must play in the future of diminishing the time spent covering the perpetrators of these types of crimes, and focusing on the victims and the circumstances. Part of the reason that psychopaths commit these types of crimes is that they love the spectacle of it. They want to be in the spotlight. Reducing their time in that limelight makes the crime less desirable.

One Caveat

I found that the book jumped around a lot. I would have preferred it to follow a more linear timeline. However, I understand the reasoning behind it skipping from thing to thing – there’s just so many accounts to include, and they all relate to different aspects of the event. It could have done a bit better if it was more chronological, in my opinion. You’re often going back and forward in time.

Overall, 4/5 stars. I definitely recommend this one to mature readers, with the caveat that it will likely affect your mental health during and post-reading. Tread with care and take good care of yourself during and after the reading experience!

Happy (ish) reading!

– Paperback Patronus

Book Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

Warcross is a new novel by YA writer Marie Lu. You may know her as the writer of the Legend trilogy, which I may have to read now that I’ve fallen head over heels for Warcross. But I’ll get to that in a minute, I can’t be giving away my whole review just yet!

Ever since I first saw the cover of this book on Bookstagram, I wanted it. Yes, I’m admitting it, this was definitely a cover buy. I was sorely disappointed when I realized that the rainbow naked cover is UK-only. Side note: can anyone help me out with this?! There’s a reason I bought this book in hardcover (gasp, AGAIN). Now I’m considering paying $45 to have it shipped from the UK…

Case in point:

This is the UK naked cover, as photographed by @weereader on Twitter.

And this is the cover for North America and everywhere else, as photographed by me on my couch.

This teal IS one of my all-time favourite colours. But it just can’t hold a candle to the rainbow edition, IMO.

Anywho, after the whole cover-buy situation, I started hearing what everyone thought of it, and I could NOT wait to read it. Most people who’ve posted about Warcross absolutely loved it.

Before I get to what I think, here’s the synopsis of the book, pulled from Amazon:

“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 Warcross players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty-hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. 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.

In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.”

Finally, here’s my review of Warcross!

Like I said, most people really liked this book. I’m going to weigh in with similar enthusiasm.

I think the strongest element of this novel was the main character’s struggle with right and wrong. Without getting too spoiler-y, the main conflict in the novel has a twist at the end. The main character ends up wondering if she did the right thing.

The whole plot seems to be what Margaret Atwood would call “speculative fiction,” something that plausibly could actually occur in the relatively near future. Not only is the plot an exciting romp through a digitally enhanced world with elaborate world-wide gaming competitions, it’s also a warning to the current and future generations. With great power comes great responsibility.

Other Great Stuff

I really loved the character development and world-building in this novel. At least 6 characters got really detailed, nuanced development. It was easy to relate to them, and they were all so distinct and well-designed. The plot was set in both New York and several places in Japan. However, they are futuristic versions of each, in a world dominated by the Warcross empire. They were so thoughtfully and carefully crafted. So much that over the weekend during which I was reading the book, my dreams were taking place in these fictitious renditions of NY and Tokyo.


Also, just like Turtles, I really liked the ending of Warcross. It definitely set things up for a sequel. However, it wasn’t too cliffhanger-y that I was mad. Also, it really added to the books thematic discussion of the ethics which I found so enticing.

Overall, 5/5 stars. Highly recommend, especially to YA readers and those who like sci-fi!

Happy reading!

– Paperback Patronus

Book Review: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down is the latest installment in a series of amazing work by YA writer, podcaster, and blogger John Green.

I wanted this book from the second I knew it existed. I have read every book John Green has published.  Plus, it’s been all over Bookstagram. And the cover is great. And turtles are great. Testament to how badly I wanted to read this book: I bought it in hardcover. Paperback Patronus is having an identity crisis, all over John Green.

Worth it.

First, here’s the synopsis of the book, pulled from Amazon:

“Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green, the acclaimed, award-winning author of Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity in this brilliant novel of love, resilience, and the power of lifelong friendship.”

Finally, here’s my review of Turtles All the Way Down!

I’ve already talked up John Green a lot in this post. Turtles has only solidified my opinion of his work.

My favourite part of this novel overall is that it has a female protagonist with an anxiety disorder. Even better, this portrayal feels very realistic. It doesn’t gloss over the extremely difficult, uncomfortable, and terrifying aspects of having an illness like Aza does. She also uses several metaphors and experiences throughout the novel to help her friends understand how she feels. I imagine that this would be incredibly helpful for readers who do not have mental illnesses. Honest and realistic portrayals of mental illness in relatable characters are SO important. For people with and without mental illness.

The other thing I really love about Turtles is its use of simile and metaphor.  The characters have so many thematic discussions about life. John Green’s work always tends to have such great unifying themes that are used in his work at both the macro and micro level. The book’s overall theme relates to the metaphors and similes the characters use to describe their personal, more micro-level struggles.

Other Great Stuff

In this book, characters grapple with mental illness, identity, friendship, family, and love, all through the most beautiful language imaginable. The discussions Aza and Davis have about the stars and the way Aza talks about her mental illness in terms of a spiral are stunning pieces of imagery. They make the book feel both artful and meticulously planned. The characters are relatable, complex, and different. Their interactions are believable and complicated. An added bonus is what I find to be a pretty realistic depiction of a client-therapist relationship.

This is a novel that is not to be missed. It is a masterfully elegant and poetic read that will keep you glued until the end.

As a self-proclaimed ending-elitist, this one takes the cake. One of my favourite book endings in recent memory.

Overall, 5/5 stars. Highly recommend, to readers of all ages!


Happy reading. Turtles All the Way Down would definitely a great choice for a Christmas gift to anyone you know!

– Paperback Patronus

Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck is a self-help book by online writer Mark Manson.

Warning: I use the F-bomb pretty liberally in this review, as does Manson in his book. Skip this one if you’re not a fan of that. Now I’m going to tell you why I didn’t really give too many fucks about this book…

This book was a pretty easy buy for me. A couple of friends recommended it to me, the cover is one of my favourite colours, the title is hilarious and catchy, and I give way too many fucks. All the time. If you’re interested in hearing about all the fucks I give, I write a blog about my Generalized Anxiety Disorder called Lexical Abandon.

I’m going to switch things up a bit with this review. I’ll include the Amazon synopsis after. It’s quite long and I don’t want to bore you before I even get to the good stuff!

And here’s my review of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck!

I like to read self-help books occasionally, once every couple of months. A couple of my favourites this year include Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Rising Strong, by Brené Brown.

Unfortunately Manson’s book is not going to make the favourites list.

It started off quite strong, with an intriguing idea about the pursuit of happiness being an inherently negative process. This idea is that searching for happiness implies that one is unhappy, or unsatisfied with what they now have.

Also, each of its chapters includes really fun, interesting, and insightful anecdotes from the author’s own life or from pop culture or history. These were relevant and really did a great job of illustrating his points.

This all sounds pretty positive, doesn’t it? Well, that’s about where it ends. Although I found the book to be a very interesting read, I didn’t find it particularly helpful with the main topic it is selling: not giving a fuck.

No fucks given.

That’s a falsehood. The author really only tells you that it’s important to choose what you give fucks about. Essentially, how to choose good values. But it didn’t, at least for me, help me stop giving fucks to things I shouldn’t.

The first chapter seemed quite promising. It talked several times about fucks and the reason we shouldn’t give any, or at least fewer. However, as I continued on with my reading, I kept looking for how to stop giving so many fucks. Sadly, the book didn’t give me any answers. It gave me a lot of strategies for how to live a happier and more fulfilling life, but I think I was looking for it to be an answer to my giant heaping scrap pile of fucks, and I didn’t find one. This was a disappointment, especially since that’s what the title of the book was offering.

Overall, it was interesting. However, I’m not sure I can recommend it as a solution to help you stop giving so many fucks. However, I do recommend it… scroll down to see why.

So, here’s the (admittedly quite long, even though I cut some) synopsis of the book, pulled from Amazon:

 “In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. “F**k positivity,” Mark Manson says. “Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it.” In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up….

A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.”

Overall, 3/5 stars, but I still recommend it…

Because many people I know found it very helpful. I’m sure that for a lot of people it would be a useful read. And I still enjoyed much of it.

Go try to stop giving so many fucks! And let me know if you get or got more out of this book than I did!

– Paperback Patronus

Book Review: The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

The Sun and Her Flowers is the second book of poetry and illustrations written by Rupi Kaur.

I had been seeing Kaur’s first book, Milk and Honey, everywhere on Bookstagram, and decided to pick it up.  It was revelatory for me, and I instantly went online to buy The Sun and Her Flowers. This follow-up definitely did not disappoint.

Here’s the synopsis of the book, pulled from Amazon:

“From Rupi Kaur, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of milk and honey, comes her long-awaited second collection of poetry. A vibrant and transcendent journey about growth and healing. Ancestry and honoring one’s roots. Expatriation and rising up to find a home within yourself.

Divided into five chapters and illustrated by Kaur, the sun and her flowers is a journey of wilting, falling, rooting, rising, and blooming. A celebration of love in all its forms.”

And here’s my review of The Sun and Her Flowers!

I love to read books of poetry. I often consume them all in one go, ravenously flying through the pages, unable to get enough. The Sun and Her Flowers was no different.

Often I’ll earmark certain pages or poems using bookmarks. By the time I had finished The Sun and Her Flowers, the book itself was unclosable because it was being propped up by so many bookmarks. One page in particular literally made my stomach drop. You know that feeling when you realize you left something important somewhere terrible? Maybe not, but I do, and that’s the feeling. Only my heart also started pounding. My whole body was activated. It spoke to me so infinitely that I had to put the book down and just stew in it for a few moments.


Kaur’s poetry is simultaneously heart-warming and soul-crushing, down-to-earth and lofty. I know that I will be able to go back to it a second time, and a third, and a fourth… and never have the same experience reading it as I did before. Timeless poems that also so wonderfully suit the current era.

So, this is an excellent one to pick up for mature readers. I couldn’t possibly recommend it enough.

5/5 stars!

– Paperback Patronus

Book Review: Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Renegades is the first installment of what it seems will be a duology by well-known author Marissa Meyer, author of the Lunar Chronicles, which are futuristic re-tellings of popular fairy tales, set in space. Similarly, Renegades is a futuristic-style novel, but is set in a bit less of a dystopian society. Although it is borderline dystopian, the world appears to be a similar planet to Earth, or perhaps Earth itself.

Renegades is a book that I shockingly picked up in hardcover. I know, the name’s Paperback Patronus, but with all the good press going around about this book AND the fact that the cover is just GORGEOUS, I had to get it right away.

Here’s the synopsis of the book, pulled from Amazon:

“From #1 New York Times-bestselling author Marissa Meyer, comes a high-stakes world of adventure, passion, danger, and betrayal.

Secret Identities.
Extraordinary Powers.
She wants vengeance. He wants justice.

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies―humans with extraordinary abilities―who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice―and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to the villains who have the power to end them both.”

You’ve seen the cover already, because I am so enamoured with it, but here it is again (holiday-style this time!):

And here’s my review of Renegades!

Renegades is book one of a series by Marissa Meyer that will have at least two books, possibly more. It depicts a society recovering from the so-called “Age of Anarchy.” Then, a group called the Anarchists and several rogue gangs cause chaos and terror against the government and citizens. At the same time, a group called the Renegades tries to maintain order, peace, and governmental regulations. However, there is a twist to this society. There are people who are prodigies – they have special abilities that they were either born with or acquired due to some sort of trauma. The Renegades and Anarchists contain only prodigies. The Renegades won the Age of Anarchy, and now run the government and try to protect their citizens against those rogue gangs and the Anarchists.

The story follows Nova, an Anarchist due to family connections and the traumatic events of her childhood. It is a riveting, interesting take sci-fi/fantasy, with interesting character relationships, fascinating history, and a plot that keeps you glued to the page.


4/5 stars!

All in all…

Just like Nemesis Games, I highly recommend this to fantasy and sci-fi lovers alike! However, it is more of a YA-style book, so if you’re not into YA, I’d still try it. However, expect something a bit different to what you’re used to. Also, it’s about 550 pages, but it reads quickly. I finished it in 5 days, but I’m currently in the midst of writing report cards. I’ve had very little time to read at all.

One last thing!

Renegades ends on a cliffhanger — so if those are not for you, avoid until November 2018! That’s when book 2 comes out to end the story!!

My next read is The Sun and Her Flowers, by Rupi Kaur! I’m zooming through it because it’s killer amazing and simultaneously soul-lifting and soul-crushing. Expect a review of it very soon!

– Paperback Patronus

Monthly To Be Read List: December 2017

This is my first blog To Be Read (TBR) post, so here’s the deal:

Bookstagram members are, once again, likely pretty familiar with these. For those of you who aren’t, on the first day of each month, many of us share a post detailing all the books we plan to read in the coming month!

Without further ado, here’s my December TBR, which I’m really excited about!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J. K. Rowling, illustrated by Jim Kay
Turtles All the Way Down – John Green
Warcross – Marie Lu
Renegades – Marissa Meyer
I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson
The Graduate – Charles Webb
Columbine – Dave Cullen
Everything is Illuminated – Jonathan Safran Foer
Les fous de Bassan – Anne Hébert
The Silver Chair – C. S. Lewis
The Last Battle – C. S. Lewis
A Dance With Dragons – George R. R. Martin

The first book I’ll be reading (in fact, I’ve already started) is Renegades! I think my most highly anticipated reads of this month are Turtles All the Way Down and the illustrated Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. John Green always writes such wonderfully unique books, and Jim Kay’s illustrations are absolutely gobsmacking.

Now, you might be thinking, this TBR list is bananas, how is she going to read all that in a month?!

Here’s a little history to explain why I think this is possible. I almost always try to make my TBR lists achievable and realistic, because it the feeling of accomplishment when you read everything is so nice. And this is achievable because…

Last year, I set myself a goal of reading one book per day of my Christmas holiday break from work (I’m a teacher). I came very close to achieving it, so I’ve decided to try it again! This year, our holiday spans the end of December and first week of January. 9 days of it are in December, so I chose 9 books plus some others that I will read until the holidays start.

Now that I’ve shared this with you, I’m off to continue reading Renegades!

– Paperback Patronus