What I’ve Been Reading: Part One!

I’m back…sort of!  I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post, and I’m trying to get back into reviewing and blogging again.  I’ve been reading, but not up to reviewing.  But I still wanted to talk about the books I’ve been reading, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about the books I haven’t talked about yet.  I’m a bit fuzzy on some of them, since it’s been a while…but that’s not going to stop me from talking about them!

Book #1: Ghost by Jason Reynolds

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

Here’s what I thought:

  • It’s a middle grade contemporary about a kid who runs track, which I thought was cool.  I feel like track doesn’t come up a lot, as far as sports novels go.  Cross country, yes.  Track, not so much.
  • I don’t know that I remember enough to say anything else, but I remember thinking it was okay.  Then again, All-American Boys was such a great book that I had really high expectations.
  • I did like the parallels between running and what was going on in his life.  Especially with how running turned out to be a really good thing for him.
  • I don’t know that I’d read the rest of the books in the series- it looks like this is the first one of…I’m not sure how many.
  • It’s definitely a must read if you like stories about sports.  And also how to move on and deal with your past.
  • I think my rating would be 2 stars.  It’s okay, and not a lot stuck with me.

Book #2: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

My thoughts:

  • I really liked this book!  It’s a YA contemporary about Amanda, who transferred schools.  I felt for Amanda, who tried so hard to fit in, and who had to deal with a lot- bullying and transphobia are the first things that come to mind.
  • I really like that it’s not a coming out story- both are important, but I really liked seeing Amanda move to a new town and transition to a new phase in her life.
  • I liked the friendships she had too- people can be horrible, but I’m glad Amanda found some amazing people.
  • I can’t remember anything about the romance, other than I liked it…but that’s about it!
  • I loved the author’s note at the end of the book.  Don’t skip over it, because it really does add to an already awesome book.
  • I feel like I’m not doing this book any justice.  At all.  Mostly because it’s been a while since I’ve read it, and I remember next to nothing.  But it’s such a great book and really important and I doubt I’d do it much justice regardless.  But waiting months to do some sort of half-hearted attempt isn’t helping.
  • Part of why it’s important is because of what the book is about, but it is worth mentioning that the author is also trans.
  • And I’m not sure if it’s true, but the cover model is trans as well.  For some reason, that feels really important as well.
  • I know I got really emotional and starting crying at one point.
  • My Rating: 4 stars.  Had I reviewed it right after finishing it, my rating probably would have been 5 stars.
    • But I may re-read it at some point so I can properly talk about it.
    • I still really liked it though.

Book #3: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This is another hardcover from the library.

What I Thought:

  • I liked seeing how much Strayed changed during the hike.
  • She did seem ill-prepared for the hike, and I can see why some reviewers think she’s whiny and self-absorbed
    • and also why some people thought she made poor life decisions
    • There’s no judgement from me, though, because she did have a lot of things she had to work through, especially with the death of her mother
  • Hiking- especially since she was by herself for most of the hike- seemed to help her
    • there was a lot of opportunity for her to reflect on her life
    • she did randomly meet up with other people along the way, though
  • I think my favorite part was seeing her not give up, even when it would have been easy for her to do so
  • I can’t imagine doing such a big hike, especially with no hiking/backpacking experience whatsoever
  • It really felt like I was hiking with her, and it never felt boring or repetitive
    • I can’t imagine being alone with my thoughts for that long, but props to her for sticking with it
  • It’s a memoir of her experience hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, so if you’re looking for more information or history about the trail itself, this is not the book for you
  • I’ve heard of it before- because it was adapted into a movie, but I mostly picked it up because it was mentioned in one of the Gilmore Girls revival episodes
    • I’m glad I picked it up, though, because I really liked it
  • I think my rating would be 4 stars.  I didn’t love it, but it was an easy read, and there is something about the way she writes

Book #4: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad is a hardcover from the library.

And now, my thoughts:

  • This book deserves a lot more attention.  I feel like it didn’t get a lot of attention, despite the fact that it was an Oprah book club pick.  The publication date also got moved up because of it.  And I know it was recommended by Obama, so I had really high expectations.
    • It lived up to all of the hype…at least the hype that I heard.
    • It’s totally worth reading
  • I admit that I didn’t like it at first, and it took me a while to get into it.
    • I’m glad I stuck with it, though, because I really liked it
  • It is a hard read, because you see what it might have been like for slaves on the Underground Railroad
    • I’m not sure what to call them, but there are ads and wanted posters for runaway slaves, which really added to the journey Cora takes
  • The Underground Railroad is quite literal in this book but it was terrifying to see what it was like during that time period
    • so many people risked everything to be a part of it- whether they were a stop along the way, or the one trying to escape slavery
    • I know I said it already, but it really highlighted what it might have been like
  • It really is mind-blowing that people were willing to take a chance to have freedom than spend one more second as a slave
  • My rating: 4 stars.  It was hard to get into at first, but worth reading.
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Book Review Round-Up: When Reason Breaks, Compulsion and Split Second

Book Review Round-Up is when I talk about several books in one post.  Today’s books are When Reason Breaks By Cindy Rodriguez, Compulsion by Martina Boone and Split Second by Kasie West.

when-reason-breaks-coverBook #1: When Reason Breaks by Cindy L. Rodriguez, narrated by Cassandra Morris

Published February 2015 by Audible for Bloomsbury|Length: 7 hours, 16 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: 13 Reasons Why meets the poetry of Emily Dickinson in this gripping debut novel perfect for fans of Sara Zarr or Jennifer Brown.

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control.

What I Thought: I’ve wanted to read When Reason Breaks ever since I heard about it. I thought the dual narration worked really well, even in the audio book. It was hard at first, telling the two girls apart, but as the book went on, it got easier because Elizabeth and Emily are very different girls. I’m also glad that Elizabeth went by Elizabeth, because two Emily’s in the audio book would have been a little bit hard to keep up with. Especially with the connection to Emily Dickinson we see throughout the book.

Emily and Elizabeth are very different girls, but both of them are struggling with depression. With Emily and Elizabeth, we see very different portrayals of it, and I liked seeing how two very different people deal with depression in very different ways. They very much represent different manifestations of depression- outwardly for Elizabeth, and inward for Emily.

I will say that I was frustrated with how Mrs. Diaz dealt with the anonymous letters she got from one of her students. I get why she would assume the letters were from Elizabeth- Elizabeth is not only Goth, but has a lot of other issues that she’s dealing with at home. I’m not at all saying that if you’re Goth, you’re depressed and suicidal, and this book clearly shows that you can be depressed and suicidal and still appear like everything is fine, even if it’s not. But it frustrated me, because she’s focusing all of her attention on the student she thinks needs helps- it’s like she doesn’t consider that it could be someone else, and that was frustrating to listen to, because depression isn’t always obvious. At least she realizes that a student needs help, and that she was able to save the student in time. We don’t really see any attempts at recovery, but this book isn’t about that. It’s about the struggle of dealing with something and not knowing what to do or how to handle it.

Cassandra Morris was an excellent narrator, and even though I’m actively seeking out other books she’s narrated, if I saw she narrated a book that I was considering listening to, I’d definitely consider it as an audio book. I do wish she had done something slightly different for the two girls, but overall, she did a pretty good job. I could have sworn I’ve listened to a book by her, because she sounded really familiar, but I haven’t. Maybe she sounds similar to another narrator Ive listened to.

My Rating: 4 stars. Mostly because the assumptions that Mrs. Diaz made in regard to who was sending her letters was really frustrating (as understandable as it was), and it was a little hard to get over. It is a very good look at depression and the different forms it can take.

compulsion-coverBook #2: Compulsion by Martina Boone

Published August 2015 by SimonPulse|433 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: The Heirs Of Watson Island #1

Genre: YA Paranormal/Mystery/Gothic

What It’s About: Beautiful Creatures meets The Raven Boys in Compulsion, the first novel in a spellbinding new trilogy.

All her life, Barrie Watson has been a virtual prisoner in the house where she lived with her shut-in mother. When her mother dies, Barrie promises to put some mileage on her stiletto heels. But she finds a new kind of prison at her aunt’s South Carolina plantation instead—a prison guarded by an ancient spirit who long ago cursed one of the three founding families of Watson Island and gave the others magical gifts that became compulsions.

Stuck with the ghosts of a generations-old feud and hunted by forces she cannot see, Barrie must find a way to break free of the family legacy. With the help of sun-kissed Eight Beaufort, who knows what Barrie wants before she knows herself, the last Watson heir starts to unravel her family’s twisted secrets. What she finds is dangerous: a love she never expected, a river that turns to fire at midnight, a gorgeous cousin who isn’t what she seems, and very real enemies who want both Eight and Barrie dead.

What I Thought: I don’t remember how I came across this book, but it seemed intriguing enough, especially since it’s described as Beautiful Creatures meets The Raven Boys. I know I read The Raven Boys (and I know a lot of people love that series) but I don’t remember much about it, other than they’re trying to find…something. I do love Beautiful Creatures, and I was hoping that I would like this book as much as that series.

As much as I wanted to like it, I ended up not liking it that much. As much as I like the premise, it fell short for me. I can see the comparisons to Beautiful Creatures, and there is this southern Gothic feel to the book, but it didn’t work as well as I thought it would. I did listen to Beautiful Creatures on audio, while I read Compulsion, and I wonder if that would have made a difference. I have the feeling it wouldn’t. I really wish we had more information about the curse that affected all three families and why it bound them to the island. I feel like we got something, but it’s honestly not something I can remember. There are gifts and curses and there is not enough detail for me. All of the world-building was there (and to be honest, it felt a little forced), but never really explained. I wish it were, because those details could have been interesting.

My Rating: 2 stars. Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book, I have a hard time giving it one star, and I’m not sure why.

split-second-coverBook #3: Split Second by Kasie West

Published February 2014 by HarperTeen|360 Pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Pivot Point #2

Genre: YA Paranormal

What It’s About: Life can change in a split second.

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too . . . but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories . . . once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot . . . and a future that could change everything.

What I Thought: I didn’t like Split Second as much as I thought I would. I liked the first one, but I thought Split Second was really confusing. It was narrated by Addie and Laila, and even though there were major differences in their chapters, in terms of how their stories unfolded, it was hard to tell them apart. Just when I got used to one of them, the chapter was over, and I was thrown into someone else’s story.

I did have trouble focusing on the book, so maybe my massive confusion was partly because I wasn’t paying as much attention as I could have. I do remember having this problem with Pivot Point, and being confused by the two different time lines, but I don’t remember having this much trouble keeping up with what was going on. It’s also been a while since I’ve read Pivot Point, so part of might be because I remember nothing. I have really liked the contemporary books I’ve read by West, so maybe her more paranormal stuff isn’t my thing.

My Rating: 2 stars. I found that I was really confused, and unable to keep up. It’s an interesting idea, but not my cup of tea.

Book Review Round-Up: Crooked Kingdom, My Lady Jane And Tumbling

Since I’ve finished a few books recently, I thought I’d share some of the books I’ve been reading!

crooked-kingdom-coverBook #1: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Published September 2016 by Henry Holt & Co|448 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: Six Of Crows #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets—a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.

What I Thought: After reading Six Of Crows, I knew I would be anxiously waiting for the sequel!  It didn’t disappoint, and even though I didn’t love it, I still really liked it!

It’s such a roller-coaster and I was glad that I was along for the ride.  There’s a lot of craziness, but in a good way, because I wanted to see what happened next.  There’s a lot of action and adventure…which I expected, considering it’s fantasy and a heist novel.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I swear, her writing is getting better and better.  And the world is completely amazing.

I loved the banter and it made me laugh, and yet, my heart broke a couple of times.  So many feels!

I will admit that I was surprised by how complete the story felt.  I honestly went into this book assuming that it was the 2nd book in a trilogy, and was surprised to find that there is no book 3 planned.  I really wanted (and was expecting) more to this story.  At the same time, though, she wrapped up the story really well.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked the story, and I’m a little disappointed there are only 2 books, because I really wanted more books!

my-lady-jane-coverBook #2: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows

Published June 2016 by HarperTeen|512 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Alternate History

What It’s About: The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

Like that could go wrong.

What I Thought: I had really high hopes for My Lady Jane.  I love the time period, and I love Hand and Meadows. I have yet to read anything by Ashton.  But I was really disappointed in the book, and I hate that I didn’t like it, because I really wanted to.

It felt like it dragged on, and the pacing seemed insanely slow.  It felt like it took forever for me to finish the book, and there were a lot of times where I didn’t want to pick it up.  It seems like they were going for a Princess Bride sort of feel with the book, but it felt more like an alternate history than fantasy.  I wasn’t particularly amused by anything that happened, even though I feel like they were trying to be funny.

For me, I don’t know that using history as a springboard necessarily worked for the story they were trying to tell. It’s an interesting idea, and I can see why people like the book so much.  It makes me wish that this book were for me.  I am curious to see how this book would work if it were entirely made up of original characters.

My Rating: 1 star.  I wanted to like it but it didn’t work for me.

tumbling-coverBook #3: Tumbling by Caela Carter

Published June 2016 by Viking Books For Young Readers|432 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Work harder than anyone.
Be the most talented.
Sacrifice everything.
And if you’re lucky, maybe you will go to the Olympics.

Grace lives and breathes gymnastics—but no matter how hard she pushes herself, she can never be perfect enough.

Leigh, Grace’s best friend, has it all: a gymnastics career, a normal high-school life… and a secret that could ruin everything.

Camille wants to please her mom, wants to please her boyfriend, and most of all, wants to walk away.

Wilhelmina was denied her Olympic dream four years ago, and she won’t let anything stop her again. No matter what.

Monica is terrified. Nobody believes in her—and why should they?

By the end of the two days of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials, some of these girls will be stars. Some will be going home with nothing. And all will have their lives changed forever.

What I Thought: Gymnastics is my favorite thing to watch when the Summer Olympics on, so when I saw this book, I knew I had to read it.

I really liked that this book takes place over the span of 2 days, and you follow several gymnasts in their quest to go to the Olympics.  I really liked seeing their stories, but some stood out more than others.

I really felt for Wilhelmina, who missed going to the Olympic trials 4 years prior because she wasn’t old enough. You can see how much she wants, and for a while, you’re not sure if she’s going to make it onto the team because of politics.  Which is completely horrible, but not that surprising.

Monica’s story also stood out to me- it seems like she has a coach who isn’t at all interested in coaching her because he pays a lot of attention to his daughter.  I really hated that he didn’t seem to be a good coach to her, and with all of the time and money that’s going into her training, it seems like a waste of time.  She could be great if she had a better coach.

I felt like Grace and Leigh were the typical mean girls, and I didn’t care for Grace’s story.  She felt very flat, and not as rounded or developed as the other characters.  I also felt like the fact that Grace doesn’t eat a lot was super-stereotypical.  I felt that to a certain degree with Leigh and her secret, although I felt like that was understandable, given Leigh is lesbian, and she’s worried about people finding out.  We do see some of her thoughts, but I wish it had been explored more.  Given how the book focuses on 5 different people, each character could be developed more if the book had focused on less of them, but all things considered, they were more developed and had more depth than you’d think.

Oh, Camile!  I almost forgot about her.  I did like her story and how she wanted to make her mom happy, but at the same time, I’d place her in between Grace and Leigh as one of my least favorite stories.

The one thing that kept me from loving this book was how drama there was behind the scenes.  I have no idea how accurate this was, but it seemed like there was some research put in, if the lengthy glossary at the end of the book is any indication.  I get that these girls are under a lot of pressure and one little mistake can cost them the dream they’ve been working so hard for, especially given female gymnasts seem to peak at around 16 or 17. And I get that it’s a way for the reader to be invested in these girls, but something about rang a little bit true, but not completely true.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, but with 5 different narrators, you didn’t get to spend a lot of time with each of them.

Book Review Round-Up: World War Z, A Torch Against The Night, And Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

I have a lot of books I want to talk about, so I thought I’d do some shorter reviews of a few of them!

world-war-zBook #1: World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War by Max Brooks, Narrated by Full Cast

Published May 2013 by Random House Audio|Length: 12 hours, 8 minutes

Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio cd’s from the library

Series: None

What It’s About: World War Z: The Complete Edition (Movie Tie-in Edition): An Oral History of the Zombie War is a new version of Max Brooks’ episodic zombie novel. The abridged versions of the original stories are now joined with new, unabridged recordings of the episodes that were not included in the original (abridged) version of the audiobook. These additional episodes feature a star-studded cast of narrators to coincide with the upcoming release of the film.

New narrators include Academy Award-winning director Martin Scorsese, Spiderman star Alfred Molina, The Walking Dead creator Frank Darabont, rapper Common, Firefly star Nathan Fillion,Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg, and members of the casts of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Heroes and more! Max Brooks will be reprising his role as The Interviewer.

The original abridged edition, released in 2006, won an Audie Award for Best Multi-Voiced Performance. Original cast members include Alan Alda, Mark Hamill, Carl & Rob Reiner, and John Turturro.

In this new classic of apocalyptic fiction that feels all too real, the Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. The documentary-style oral history records the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time.

Featuring five more hours of previously unrecorded content, this full-cast recording is read by F. Murray Abraham, Alan Alda, René Auberjonois, Becky Ann Baker, Dennis Boutsikaris, Bruce Boxleitner, Max Brooks, Nicki Clyne, Common, Denise Crosby, Frank Darabont, Dean Edwards, Mark Hamill, Nathan Fillion, Maz Jobrani, Frank Kamai, Michelle Kholos, John McElroy, Ade M’Cormack, Alfred Molina, Parminder Nagra, Ajay Naidu, Masi Oka, Steve Park, Kal Penn, Simon Pegg, Jürgen Prochnow, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, Henry Rollins, Jeri Ryan, Jay O. Sanders, Martin Scorsese, Paul Sorvino, David Ogden Stiers, Brian Tee, John Turturro, Eamonn Walker, Ric Young, and Waleed Zuaiter.

What I Thought: I randomly picked up World War Z at the library one day- I remember watching the movie, and I think that’s why I picked it up.

I think it worked really well as an audio book, considering how the book is told.  I like that it’s an oral history of the Zombie War, and I think that lends itself well as an audio book.  It was something that I only listened to sporadically in the car, and there were so many different stories that none of them really stood out.  I don’t know that I would have finished it had I read it, but at the same time, maybe I would have had better luck in remembering more of the stories.  It does seem like almost all of the actual fighting took place in the U.S., while all of the chapters that took place in other parts of the world were about trying to figure out what was going on, and how we ended up with a Zombie outbreak.

I was hesitant about the full cast, but it worked really well for the book because it was easier to distinguish between the different stories that were being told in the book.  It is quite the cast, and unfortunately, while I recognized some of the names, it was hard matching up the voice with the character, especially when I don’t know what their voices sound like.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I did like hearing all of the stories and global the book was, but the stories started to blend together after awhile.

a-torch-against-the-night-coverBook #2: A Torch Against The Night by Sabaa Tahir

Published August 2016 by Razorbill|464 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: An Ember In The Ashes #2

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: Elias and Laia are running for their lives.

After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf – the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison – to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene – Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own – one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape… and kill them both.

What I Thought: I was really looking forward to this book after reading An Ember In The Ashes last year, and it didn’t disappoint!  I really wish I had read the first book again, just because I could not remember anything from the first book, and I had a little bit of a hard time getting back into this world.

Like An Ember In The Ashes, I didn’t particularly care for Laia’s story, and for me, Elias was much more interesting, especially with how his story went.  His narration went in a direction I wasn’t expecting- though the same thing happened with Laia, but not to the same degree as Elias.  I also liked the addition of Helene, and her narration gave perspective on the what things were like for the Empire.  I liked seeing both sides, and the obstacles that Laia and Elias had to face.  I also liked seeing how hard it was for Helene, and the horrible position she was put in.  She went through quite a change by the end of the book, and I’m curious to see if she’ll ever go back to the character we see at the beginning of the book.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and I’m glad that there are more books in the series.  I wish I remembered more from the first book, and while Laia’s story was a little more interesting, I thought Elias and Helene were much more interesting.

miss-peregrines-home-for-peculiar-children-coverBook #3: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Published June 2013 by Quirk Books|382 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from a co-worker

Series: Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #1

Genre: YA Fantasy

What It’s About: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered inMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that Miss Peregrine’s children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

What I Thought: I really liked it- a lot more than I thought I would.  Seeing the trailer for the movie made me want to read the book, so I was really glad when a co-worker let me borrow her copy.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with it, and I really liked how creepy and mysterious everything was.  I also LOVED the photographs throughout the book, and they somehow made the book more interesting.  Especially since so many of the photographs went so well with the book and the characters and what was going on.

I think maybe part of me was expecting the story to be more about Jacob’s grandfather, and I was actually a little surprised by how it was more Jacob’s story.  It’s not that we don’t learn about his grandfather, because we do, at least a little.  I wish we got a little more about the children, and why they can do what they do, but perhaps that will be explored in the rest of the series.  Speaking of the rest of the series- even though I really like this book, I’m not sure if I want to keep going with the series.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I think I expected more with Jacob’s grandfather, and I wanted to know more about why there are people who are so peculiar, but I also loved how creepy the book was.  And the photographs- they were really cool and interesting and added something special to the book.

Book Review Round-Up: Homegoing, The Shadow Of The Wind and So Far From God

I have quite a few books I want to talk about, so I figured I share some quick thoughts on some of them!

homegoing-coverBook #1: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Published June 2016 by Knopf|305 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction, Adult Historical Fiction

What It’s About: The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoingtraces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indelibly drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day.

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

What I Thought: I really liked Homegoing, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should!  What struck me the most about this book was how differently their lives turned out, and how differently things turned out for their families.  Their stories eventually came together over the centuries, and when I realized each chapter was going to be told by a different person, I wasn’t sure about it at first.  But it worked really for the story, and you get alternating chapters between someone from Effia’s family and someone from Esi’s family.  You see how much the slave trade affects people, particularly Esi’s family, and even though you’re getting snippets of each person and each family, there is such a connection between each family and the reader.  I was glad there was a family tree at the beginning of the book, because I referred to it constantly to make sure I was keeping up with where we were at in the story.

It’s such a complex book, and yet it never felt that way.  You see how things change, both in Ghana and in the U.S., and all through these two families.  Something about it felt very honest and objective, and it was hard to read at times, but for me, it would have been a very different book without those scenes.  It’s necessary to understand how much of an impact slavery had on people.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I think, had I read the book at a different time (when I wasn’t distracted by other stuff going on whe I read it), it would have received a higher rating.  Still, I recommend it to EVERYONE, and it is a fantastic book. I am definitely looking forward to reading anything else she writes.

the-shadow-of-the-wind-coverBook #2: The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Translated by Lucia Graves

Published April 2004 (originally published 2001) by The Penguin Press|487 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction, Adult Mystery

What It’s About: Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

What I Thought: I started off really liking the book and being really interested in what was going on.  I did lose momentum with it by the end of the book, and I basically finished it just to say that I finished it.  Which is unfortunate because I really wanted that to not happen.  I think I may have to re-read it at another time, because I liked it enough to give it the attention it deserves.

It is a really interesting mystery, and I love that it’s a story within a story.  You have Daniel finding a book, and then he starts discovering more about the author and his story, and it is such a cool (but also slightly dangerous) thing to try to figure out.  I also like that it takes place in the 1940’s in Spain- something about the time period and place add to the mystery of what was going on, and I don’t know that it would have worked nearly as well in another time and place.

It also reminds me that I really need to read more translated works- if I hadn’t have looked for translated books, I certainly would not have come across it, and I’m glad I did.

My Rating: 3 stars.  It started off really well, but I just sort of lost interest and had trouble focusing on it.  I do plan on re-reading it, though, when I’m more able to focus.

so-far-from-god-coverBook #3: So Far From God by Ana Castillo 

Published May 1993 by W.W. Norton And Company|251 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction

What It’s About: Sofia and her fated daughters, Fe, Esperanza, Caridad, and la Loca, endure hardship and enjoy love in the sleepy New Mexico hamlet of Tome, a town teeming with marvels where the comic and the horrific, the real and the supernatural, reside.

What I Thought: This is another one that I read at a really bad time, but I don’t know that I liked it enough to give it another try.  It’s an odd book, but in a good way.  It did take some time getting used to the writing style- and I may need to re-read it just because I feel like a lot of the book was lost on me.  This book is just one of quite a few books that I had trouble focusing on when I was reading it, and I cannot, for the life of me, remember most of what happened.  I remember a few things, but not much, and even though it’s a book I finished recently, it didn’t really stand out to me.

I mostly remember that things were a little all over the place, but I honestly don’t know if it’s me not paying attention to the book and what I was reading or if it was really the book, and it seemed like we got random snapshots of the family and things that happened.  It didn’t feel like a linear narrative to me, but again, I’d have to re-read to be sure.

My Rating: 2 stars for now, but if I re-read it, it might change.  I had too much trouble focusing to remember most of the book.

Book Review Round-Up: Boxers, One Night For Love And City Of Night

I have quite a few books I want to talk about, so I figured I share some quick thoughts on some of them!

boxers-coverBook #1: Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

Published September 2013 by First Second|325 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: Boxers And Saints #1

Genre: Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction

What It’s About: China, 1898. Bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants.

Little Bao has had enough. Harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers–commoners trained in kung fu–who fight to free China from “foreign devils.”

Against all odds, this grass-roots rebellion is violently successful. But nothing is simple. Little Bao is fighting for the glory of China, but at what cost? So many are dying, including thousands of “secondary devils”–Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity.

What I Thought: I liked it, but not as much as I liked Saints.  I think reading Boxers before Saints will help you understand what’s going on in Saints, because it goes into greater detail about what the Boxer Rebellion actually was. I really like the idea of history being told in the form of a graphic novel.  It’s been a while since I’ve read it (over a month), and now I’m finding that I’m having a hard time talking about the book and what I thought about it.  It’s definitely worth reading, though, and it does make me want to learn more about it. Whether I actually do so remains to be seen, but maybe one day…

It is a good introduction to the subject, though, and I think if you’re new to graphic novels (like I am), Boxers (and Saints) is a really good place to start.  I also liked seeing the other side of the story, and that there are many sides to one event.

My Rating: 3 stars.  Mostly because it’s a good introduction to the Boxer Rebellion and the format makes it different. But it also gets 3 stars because I don’t remember enough to give it a higher rating.

one-night-for-love-coverBook #2: One Night For Love by Mary Balogh

Published January 2012 (originally published 1999) by Dell|384 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: Bedwyn Saga #0.5

Genre: Adult Romance, Adult Historical Romance

What It’s About: One reckless man…One passionate woman.

Enter the world of Mary Balogh—the glittering ballrooms and vast country estates of Regency-era England, where romance, with all its mystery, magic, and surprises, comes vibrantly alive.

It was a perfect morning in May…

Neville Wyatt, Earl of Kilbourne, awaited his bride at the altar—when a ragged beggar woman raced down the aisle instead. The cream of the ton saw him stare, shocked, then declare that this was his wife! One night of passion was all he remembered as he beheld Lily, the woman he’d wed, loved, and lost on the battlefield in Portugal. Now he said he’d honor his commitment to her—regardless of the gulf that lay between them.

Then Lily spoke her mind…

She said she wanted only to start a new life—wanted only a husband who truly loved her. She had to leave him to learn how to meet his world on her terms. So Lily agreed to earn her keep as his aunt’s companion and study the genteel arts. Soon she was the toast of the ton, every inch a countess fit for the earl, who vowed to prove to his remarkable wife that what he felt for her was far more than desire, that what he wanted from her was much more than…One Night for Love.

What I Thought: This is another one I don’t remember a lot about.  I vaguely remember liking it, but not being super-into the romance.  I do remember not being surprised by the fact that she wasn’t really dead, and that he never told anyone about it.  Other than that, nothing stands out.

My Rating: 2 stars- mostly because I remember nothing, and I don’t remember enough to dislike it, but I also don’t remember enough to actually like it.

city-of-night-coverBook #3: City Of Night by John Rechy

Published January 1994 (originally published 1963) by Grove Press|400 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction

What It’s About: When John Rechy’s explosive first novel, City of Night, was first published in 1963, it became a national bestseller and ushered in a new era of gay fiction. Bold and inventive in his account of the urban underworld of male prostitution, Rechy is equally unflinching in his portrayal of one hustling “Youngman” and his restless search for self-knowledge. As the narrator careens from El Paso to Times Square, from Pershing Square to the French Quarter, we get an unforgettable look at a neon-lit life on the edge. Said James Baldwin of the author, “Rechy is the most arresting young writer I’ve read in a very long time. His tone rings absolutely true, is absolutely his own; and he has the kind of discipline which allows him a rare and beautiful reckless.”

What I Thought: This was a really hard book to get through, and I really struggled with it.  I can see why it was such an important book when it was published, considering what the book is about.  But I had a hard time with it, and it felt really dry.  I know it’s loosely autobiographical, and it really read that way.  It’s not a bad thing, but it just didn’t work for me.

It is a glimpse into what life was like during that time, but it seemed to drag on.  It also seemed really repetitive, and I’m sort of doubting why I took the time to finish the book.  It just seemed like an endless cycle of the same behavior for the main character, but I suppose it goes with the lifestyle that the character is living.

My Rating: 2 stars.  It’s definitely not the book for me, and it was a struggle for me to get through but I can see why it gets a lot of praise.

Book Review Round-Up: Burn Out, The Shadow Queen And This Savage Song

I’ve read quite a few books recently, so I thought I’d do some shorter reviews about some of them!

Burn Out CoverBook #1: Burn Out by Kristi Helvig

Published April 2015 by EgmontUSA|288 pages

Where I Got It: I own the paperback

Series: Burn Out #1

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Post-Apocalyptic

What It’s About: New in paperback! A science fiction tale of survival full of action, adventure, and intrigue. Perfect for fans of Beth Revis’s Across the Universe and Lenore Appelhans’s The Memory of After.

Some people want to save the world. Seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to stay alive long enough to escape it. Now that the sun’s become a “red giant,” burning out far faster than scientists could ever have predicted, Earth is barely habitable and almost everyone is gone.

Holed up in an underground shelter, Tora’s only comforts are her dreams of a planet with a plentiful water supply and the bio-energetic weapons her father lost his life for. The ones that only she can fire.

When family friend Markus arrives with mercenaries to take her weapons by force, Tora must decide if trading the guns for safe passage to a new livable planet is worth the price of betraying her father’s wishes. But when she discovers the government’s true motives, her bargaining chip may be nothing more than smoke.

Burn Out combines high-stakes action, adventure, and a hint of romance in a thrilling science fiction debut.

What I Thought: I liked Burn Out!  I thought the idea of an asteroid hitting the sun, causing the sun to burn out at some point in the future to be really interesting, and different, as far as post-apocalyptic novels go.

I thought Tora to be an interesting, but semi-unreliable character.  She has her suspicions about what happened to her father, but as a reader, I was never completely sure about what happened to him, or to Tora’s mother or sister. We only get glimpses of them and the Consulate that’s now in charge, plus there are some untrustworthy characters we meet along the way.  It’s hard to know who to trust, and what’s really going on because you’re never sure who’s telling the truth or who’s lying.  And she seems to be the only female on earth, but as it turns out, there is another survivor, which makes me wonder if there are other people still on Earth, or if everyone else really has left.

I really liked the characters, though, and Tora’s pretty tough.  I also have so many questions about the other characters, and they are a big mystery to me.  What they really up to?

I can’t speak to the accuracy of the science we see in the book, and as someone who doesn’t know, well, much of anything about science…I was going to say it seemed plausible enough, but now I’m not sure.  I do get the comparison to Across The Universe, but having never read The Memory Of After, I’m not sure how it compares to that book.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it enough to read the sequel, but I didn’t love it.  It did end a little abruptly, and I’m hoping the next one doesn’t end that way.

The Shadow Queen CoverBook #2: The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

Published February 2016 by Balzer+ Bray|387 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Ravenspire #1

Genre: YA Fantasy/Fairy Tale Re-Telling

What It’s About: Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.

But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

What I Thought: The Shadow Queen seemed right up my alley- I do like fairy tale re-tellings, but this one was just okay.  I liked the idea of a dragon huntsman, and the use of magic to help out neighboring kingdoms.  And the magic that Irina used to make the kingdom hers, even though it clearly wasn’t.  I had a hard time getting into it, though, because I feel like I’ve read this story before.  It just wasn’t different enough to make it stand out against other books in the genre, and I’ve read my share of fantasy/fairy tale re-tellings.  I think people might like it, but it wasn’t for me.

I did like Kol, but not as a love interest for Lorelei.  I think they’re better off as allies, and they didn’t work as a couple for me.  I thought they had no chemistry, and I had a really hard time believing in their romance.  I didn’t care for Lorelei, and even though I felt for her, something about her character fell flat for me.

My Rating: 2 stars.  This one wasn’t for me, but I did like the idea of a dragon huntsman.

This Savage Song CoverBook #3: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Published July 2016 by Greenwillow Books|427 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Monsters Of Verity #1

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Horror

What It’s About: There’s no such thing as safe.

Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?

What I Thought: I’ve heard a lot of really good things about This Savage Song, and I know it’s received a lot of rave reviews, but unfortunately, this book wasn’t for me.

I thought the world-building was really confusing and not very clear.  I knew there were monsters and they were born from really horrible things, but for me, the book made that concept seem a lot more confusing than it really was.  And the differences between the different kinds of monsters was also really confusing.   I wasn’t sure what the differences between them were, and it seemed like they were different, but it wasn’t really explained how they came to be or how they were different.

And the city of Verity, and it being closed off also seemed really confusing.  Sometimes, it seemed like the things going on in Verity were happening elsewhere around the country.  Other times, it seemed like Verity was the only city affected.  I ended up feeling really confused about it, because the history and how Verity got to that point wasn’t explained very clearly.  Not that we get much, because we don’t.  It’s hard to tell how much backstory there is on Verity and the monsters, because I thought the things we do get were confusing and not explained well.

I didn’t like Kate at all, and she seemed to be intentionally horrible and destructive- she seems to act that way to get attention and prove she’s like her father.  She sets a school on fire because she didn’t want to be there, and I wouldn’t have minded it, except it seemed random and for no reason.  As much as I know that people do act that way for no apparent reason, I also wanted something more from her.

As for August, I didn’t really care for him either.  He’s very much a tortured soul that’s supposed to be poetic and romantic and swoon-worthy, but in his case, it was just unappealing and annoying.  They live in a bleak world, but I wanted something more from them.  Maybe some hope or something?  I’m not really sure, but something was missing from both of them.  Maybe it’s because of the world they live in, which is really dark and hopeless and not a world I’d want to live in.

My Rating: 2 stars.  It’s definitely not for me, but I can sort of see why people love the book.

Book Review Round-Up: Saints And Dream Chaser

I’ve read quite a few books lately, and thought I’d do several short reviews of some of them!

Saints CoverBook #1: Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Published September 2013 by First Second|170 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the paperback from the library

Series: Boxers & Saints #2

Genre: YA Graphic Novel/Historical Fiction

What It’s About: China, 1898. An unwanted and unwelcome fourth daughter, Four-Girl isn’t even given a proper name by her family when she’s born. She finds friendship–and a name, Vibiana–in the most unlikely of places: Christianity.

But China is a dangerous place for Christians. The Boxer Rebellion is in full swing, and bands of young men roam the countryside, murdering Westerners and Chinese Christians alike. Torn between her nation and her Christian friends, Vibiana will have to decide where her true loyalties lie…and whether she is willing to die for her faith.

What I Thought: This is another one I’m not sure about.  I like the idea of history being told in the form of a graphic novel, because it’s definitely different, and it’s an interesting way to see what actually happened.

However, I was sort of confused about what was going on.  The Boxer Rebellion sounds really familiar, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.  It wasn’t until after I read the book that I realized it was the 2nd book in a series.  I think you can still understand what’s going on, and I don’t know that Boxers, the first one, will necessarily explain the events of the 2nd, but for now, I kind of wish that I had read it in order.

I did like Four-Girl, and I felt really bad for her, having no name.  I did like that she found friendship and a name in a very unlikely place, and that she realized she had a purpose in life.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I like the idea of history being told in a graphic novel, but I also wish I had read Boxers first, because I did feel a little confused about what was going on.

Dream Chaser CoverBook #2: Dream Chaser by Angie Stanton

Self-Published by Angie Stanton in December 2011|323 pages

Where I Got It: A copy of the paperback was given to me

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: Willow Thomas has a bad habit of running away from things that scare her. And most recently, she quit her high school cheerleading squad after a terrifying fall. With time on her hands, she auditions for a musical production directed by a Broadway choreographer. Just as things are looking up, Willow discovers she will be performing opposite Eli McAvoy, the best friend she abandoned three years before. To make matters worse, the kids in the musical hate her, her singing sucks, and her dog is sick. Eli has grown up during their years apart and now possesses confidence and good looks, as well as a giant chip on his shoulder. He is in no hurry to play nice with Willow, but their entwined roles in the musical lead to entwined bodies in the backseat of his car. Just when Willow finally has her life under control, another surprise is delivered in the form of her greatest challenge yet. Will she run or finally stand and face her fears? And will Eli be there to help or turn his back on her for good?

What I Thought: Dream Chaser was really cute!  I needed some cute and fluffy and light, and this book was definitely what I was looking for.  I really liked Willow, and I don’t blame her for being scared after the cheerleading accident- I would be too, if I were her.  I felt like her best friend was really shallow, and while I get that she wanted Willow to at least think about going back to cheerleading, I also thought she could have been more understanding of what happened to Willow.

Willow does run away/quit things when she gets scared, and I think that made her really easy to relate to.  I like that she does face her fears in the end, and I think she grows a little bit throughout the book, because she finally realizes the consequences of not facing her fears.  I find her choice between dance and cheer interesting, and it seems like a lot of it had to do with fear and losing people, but I wonder if maybe there was something else too.  Eli and Willow are great together, and I wish there was a sequel, because I really want to know what lies ahead for both of them.

My Rating: 4 stars.  It’s cute and sweet, and I loved that it was about dance and theater…and why do I not read more books about the performing arts?  I always end up really liking them!  It was predictable, but I didn’t care, because I really liked Willow and seeing her change.

Book Review Round-Up: The Really Lazy Edition

Book Review Round-Up is a random feature where I do a few short reviews of some books I’ve read.

Today…it’s almost New Year’s, and I’ve just realized I never got around to writing some reviews for a few books I’ve read last month.  I really wanted to at least mention them and give a rating for them, just so I can sort of wrap things up for the year.  I definitely want to do more of a review for a few of them (all but the last one), so maybe I’ll do that in the New Year.

Book #1: The Iron Warrior by Julie Kagawa

My Rating: 5 stars.  It’s such a good end to the Call Of The Forgotten series, and the overall Iron Fey universe. For as much as I loved it, I kind of don’t remember reading it, but I did because I have it on goodreads! November was sort of a blur, though, and maybe this year, reading during NaNo and a totally bizarre reading slump was a really bad idea.  I need to re-read it.

Book #2: Winter by Marissa Meyer

My Rating: 5 stars.  This is another one I absolutely loved, and I am so sad that this series is over!  It’s been a long time since I’ve been this sad over a series ending.  It was completely awesome and a perfect way to end the Lunar Chronicles, and next year, I am going to re-read it and give it a proper review, because it really deserves it!

Book #3: Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger

My Rating: 4 stars.  I don’t remember much, but I did like seeing how it connected to the Parasol Protectorate, and I wish we got a little more of that. And for some reason, I think I was surprised that this was the last one, because I vaguely remember being not super into it.  Add this to the list of books that I need to re-read next year.

Book #4: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

My Rating: 1 star.  This one, I wanted to wait until I was less angry to review it.  I am SO disappointed in it, especially after really liking Lies We Tell Ourselves.  WWLB made me feel MORE confused about genderqueer than I was when I started the book- I finished the book with the impression that genderqueer and transgender are basically interchangeable and that if you identify as genderqueer, you’re confused about your gender identity.  The closest comparison I can make is how some people assume that if you’re bi, you haven’t made up your mind about who you’re attracted to.

Toni is also a very priveleged, entitled, self-absorbed, shallow preachy person.  I really felt like Toni was every negative stereotype you could think of for someone who identifies as a feminist.  At one point, Toni talks about how her roommates don’t get to talk about feminism until they stop wearing bikinis.  People are not less feminist than you because they wear bikinis or like fashion and beauty.

Toni refuses to acknowledge people’s preferred gender pronouns because Toni doesn’t like using gendered pronouns.  Some of her friends struggled so much to be acknowledged by gendered pronouns, and Toni pretty much ignores it because Toni doesn’t like gendered pronouns.  Even when they tell her why it’s hurtful and not okay, she still refuses to acknowledge what they want because she doesn’t like it.  It’s okay if you don’t use them for yourself, but respect what other people want.  And how Toni refused to talk to Gretchen about what was going on, but still told Gretchen that she didn’t understand what was going on in Toni’s life.  How is Gretchen supposed to do that if you don’t talk to her?  I felt so bad for Gretchen, who tried so hard to understand.

I also felt like anytime Toni talked, it was a massive info-dump… and in a bad way.  It felt like I was reading an essay or journal article anytime Toni talked.  I don’t feel like I know enough to talk about genderqueer and Talley’s portrayal of it, but I do agree with some other reviews I’ve seen that mention how genderqueer is seen as a transitional period rather than an actual identity.  I definitely went on more than I thought, but I have so many issues with the book because I feel like it reinforces so many negative stereotypes.

That’s all for today, have an awesome Monday!

Book Review Round-Up: The Silkworm, Poison And Need

Book Review Round-Up is an ocassional feature where I do short reviews of some of the books I’ve read recently.

The Silkworm CoverBook #1: The Silkworm by Robert Gilbraith, narrated by Robert Glenister

Published June 2014 by Hachette Audio/Length: 17 hours, 22 minutes

Where I Got It: I checked out the audio book from the library

Series: Cormoran Strike #2

Genre: Adult Mystery

What It’s About: When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

What I Thought: I really liked it!  I mean, it is J.K. Rowling, and I’m not at all surprised that she writes mysteries so well.  I definitely wanted to spend more time in the car listening, because I couldn’t wait to see who was behind Quine’s disappearance and eventual death.  Thankfully, I was able to jump right in without having read The Cuckoo’s Calling, and I liked it enough that I’m definitely looking forward to reading the other books in the series.

I did like it as an audio book (except it was such a long audio book that I really needed a break from audio books), and while Glenister is a great voice for Strike, I don’t know that I’d seek him out as a narrator.  Still, if I started listening to a book he narrated, I’d still listen to the book.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I didn’t love it, but it’s a really good mystery!

Poison CoverBook #2: Poison by Lan Chan (An Advanced Reader Copy)

Published September 2015 by Smashwords/287 pages

Where I Got It: I received Poison as a digital advanced copy from netgalley.com, which hasn’t influenced my review in any way.

Series: Wind Dancer #1

Genre: YA Dystopic/Post-Apocalyptic

What It’s About: Since the night her mother was murdered, sixteen-year-old Rory Gray has known one truth: There are no good Seeders.

In post-apocalyptic Australia, the scientists known as Seeders have built a Citadel surrounded by food-producing regions and populated with refugees from the wars and famine. To maintain their control, the Seeders poisoned the land and outlawed the saving of seeds.

It’s been six years since Rory graced the Seeders’ circus stage as the Wind Dancer and still the scars on her body haven’t healed. Even worse are the scars on her heart, left by a Seeder boy who promised to protect her.

Now the Seeders are withholding supplies from Rory’s region for perceived disobedience. Utilizing the Wanderer knowledge she received from her mother, Rory must journey to the Citadel through uninhabitable terrain to plead for mercy.

However, the Citadel isn’t as Rory remembered. The chief plant geneticist is dying and rumors fly that the store of viable seed is dwindling. The Seeders are desperate to find a seed bank they believe Rory can locate, and they will stop at nothing to get it.

To defy the Seeders means death. But Rory has been close to death before–this time she’s learned the value of poison.

What I Thought: Poison is really different than a lot of the post-apocalyptic books I’ve read.  I love the idea of a seed bank being controlled, and it’s a future that I (sadly) could see happening.  It’s a world so different than the one we know, and yet it’s one I can picture so clearly.  Post-apocalyptic Australia is also the perfect setting for this book, and I’m really looking forward to reading the next book to see what happens next.  It’s also refreshing to see a post-apocalyptic book set in a different country- I can see Australia being a popular choice, for some reason, but it works so well as a setting.  It’s definitely worth checking out, even if you’re a little tired of dystopic/post-apocalyptic books.

My Rating: 4 stars.  It’s different and refreshing than some of the other books in the genre, and worth checking out!

Need CoverBook #3: Need by Joelle Charbonneau

Published November 2015 by Harcourt Brace And Company/352 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Thriller

What It’s About: “No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better.”

Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need…regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.

What I Thought: Need definitely wasn’t the book I thought it would be.  It seemed like it would be a lot more sinister than it really was.  Part of the problem is that there are too many different perspectives, and they take away from the main person narrating.  Also: what simple pranks is the summary referring to?  I felt like it jumped over simple pranks, right towards malicious crimes.

A social network that will give students whatever they want…as long as they do what Need tells them to do…it has the potential to be a lot more creepy and dark than what we saw in the book.  Clearly, the students didn’t care what they had to do in order to get what they want.  You’d hope that at least some of them would be smarter than to trust Need, but all of the characters were so shallow and flat that people died and I didn’t care. There were enough characters that I couldn’t tell them apart, and even though there’s a reason for a few different narrators, it also means it was harder to care about what actually happened to any of them.

The idea behind Need was interesting but again, I didn’t care when it was actually revealed.  It’s over-the-top and not in a good way.  It read more like cheesy thriller than chilling.

My Rating: 2 stars.  Interesting premise,  but it was a little over-the-top.