Currently Obsessed With: February 2016

Currently Obsessed With is a once-a-month (but sometimes more) feature where I talk about my favorite things from the last month!

Currently Obsessed With

February was pretty uneventful…except for finding out that the script for Harry Potter And The Cursed Child was going to be released as a book.  Other than that, not much happened in February.

Crochet:

I started out doing a granny square a week…only to pretty much abandon it last month.  I do want to get back on track with it, though.  And I’ve been working on a granny square blanket for myself, which seems to be going a lot faster than the other blanket I’ve been working on.  I know there’s going to be green (once I’m done with the blue), and I have a multi-colored yarn that has purple, pink, green and blue that I want to use, but I’m not sure if I want to add any other colors.  I think I definitely want to see how big it is once I’m done with the green- I sort of want to use the variegated yarn for a border, so the size of the blanket will probably determine if I keep going with the blanket.

I’m doing a color-blocked thing with the blanket, mostly because I don’t want to change yarn every couple of rows and weave in all of those ends, but I think it’ll look a lot cooler doing one color at a time.  Come to think of it, I’ve always wanted to do a rainbow blanket, so if I keep going, I might do that.  And I’ll definitely have to soften it once I’m done, because I’m using Red Heart Super Saver, and it’s a bit scratchy, so softening it is definitely in order.

Books:

I bought a few books last month!  On my Nook, I got Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie (which I read last year and LOVED), This Raging Light by Estelle Laure, A Court Of Thorns And Roses by Sarah J. Maas, The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan, Six Gun Snow White by Catherynne Valente, and The Boy In The Black Suit by Jason Reynolds.

Books- Feb 2016

I also pre-ordered Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, and I bought Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick, Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz and the Oh She Glows cookbook on a recent trip into Barnes And Noble.  And Night Study by Maria V. Snyder from Audible.  So it quite a month for book buying, but I’ve been pretty good about not buying a lot of books, so, somehow, it felt okay to buy a few. Plus, a lot of them were on sale, so that helped!

T.V./Movies:

Movies: I saw Deadpool, which was an awesome movie!  It was a lot of fun, and there were a lot of funny moments.

T.V.: I’ve been catching up on stuff on Hulu!  I forgot that I had a few random episodes from last year that I never got around to watching, and I didn’t realize that some of my shows had started, so I haven’t watched anything on Netflix lately.

Around The Internet:

I love this post about fiction being unrealistic.

This article about fruits and vegetables and how they taste better in Europe was really interesting.

This blog post defending romance is pretty awesome.

I really liked this post about the damaged girl narrative.

Another blog post I liked was this one about religion in YA.

This article about surrogacy was really interesting.

This book, this one, and also this one aren’t books I would normally go for, but I randomly came across them, and they seem interesting.

I can relate to this post about being proud of being a Hufflepuff.

There is definitely a stigma to doing things alone.  There shouldn’t be.

Diversity In Books: YA needs more diversity, We Need Diverse Books has a post about ways to describe hair, YALSA talks about asexuality in YA, Respiring Thoughts has a great post about diversifying the literary canon, this post about calling a disabled person inspirational was interesting and eye-opening, Reading Brightly talks about why we need more diversity in YA, and Ellen Oh has an awesome post on tumblr.

You can find more cool things I came across over on Pinterest!

Music:

1- Renegades by X Ambassadors.  I love this song right now.

2- Stressed Out by twenty one pilots.  I didn’t like this song at first, but it’s grown on me.

3- Cups from Pitch Perfect.  I don’t know why, but lately, I can’t stop listening to this song.

I think that’s all for today.  Hope you have a great day!

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Book Talk: A Year In Books, The 2015 Edition

Book Talk is an occassional feature where I talk about bookish things that aren’t book reviews.

Book Talk

2015 has been quite the year in books!  I’ve had my ups and downs this year as far as reading goes (more than any other year put together), and while I wish that 2015 ended on a better note reading wise, I’m hoping that 2016 will be a little bit better.

I had a reading slump earlier in the year- it was definitely stress-related to the point that I couldn’t focus on much of anything except sitting on the couch and watching t.v./Netflix.  It got better for a few months, but around mid-August, I found myself in a non-reading mood.  I tried manga and audio books from August to October, read only a handful of books in November (but I was also doing NaNoWriMo in November), so that might be why I didn’t read a lot in November.  And for December, I haven’t read a single book.  I would mark books as currently reading on goodreads, only to not even start them- and the one or two I did start, I only read a few pages and never continued past that.  I don’t want to force it, and I’ve kind of liked this non-reading period, but at the same time, I want to read so much.  Maybe I’ll try audio books again, to see if that will work, because picking something up is really unappealing right now.

Still, I actually managed to stick to my bookish goals this year- for the most part, I tried not to buy a lot of books, and I feel like I did pretty well with that.  Trying not to feel any bookish guilt- I don’t remember feeling guilty, but I also don’t think it was something that came up a lot.

As for reading more diversely (in terms of characters and authors), I did a lot better than I thought I would!  I think my initial goal was 2-4 books a month, and on average, I was at 5.8 books (or 43% of the books I read were diverse).  I was definitely more aware of what I was reading, and I read some amazing books this year because I wanted to read about more diverse characters and read books by diverse authors.  I could definitely do better, but overall, I did really well with it, and it’s something that I’m going to keep doing.

As for stats…I read a lot more print books than normal (52 this year, compared to the 7 I read last year), and that’s probably because I used the library a lot more this year (98 versus the one I read last year).  Audio books stayed around the same, but for the most part, where I got books and the format of said books stayed around the same, or evened out a little more.

I also kept better track of genre this year (because I’m also curious about what I read the most but am far too lazy to figure it out from Goodreads), and YA contemporary was my most read genre with 40 books. Paranormal (20), mystery/thriller/suspense (17), fantasy (16), manga (13), re-tellings (13), and dystopic novels (11) were the other genres I read the most.  Also, most of the books I read this year were published in 2012 or later.  My overall rating was 3.1 stars, and I read 147 books this year.  I didn’t include December in my stats, because I didn’t feel like it was fair to include a non-reading month in my own stats.

I could go on with some of the stats I kept track of (I read 37,375 pages and listened to 146 hours, 53 minutes of audio books), but I think I’ll just keep it to what I’ve mentioned (especially since I want to do the end-of-year survey hosted by The Perpetual Page-Turner, and I’m sure I’ll go more into some of this stuff then).

As for other bookish things, I went to a few book signings, and had a blast at them.  It would be fun to go up to the West Coast version of YALLFest next year (I know that there is one, I just found out about it after it happened), and while I don’t think I can make it up to BEA in 2016, I hope I can make it up there in 2017.

I’m hoping that my reading will get back to normal next year, and I can’t wait to read some awesome books!

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!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’ve Read This Year

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke And The Bookish.  Every week, bloggers share their own bookish top ten lists based on the topic of the week.  You can check out Ten Tuesdays here.

Top Ten Books I’ve Read This Year

I’ve read some great books this year!  Granted, it’s sort of been an off-year for me reading-wise, particularly since mid-August, but I have read some amazing books this year.

Best Book 2015 Year-End Collage

 

  1. Winter by Marissa Meyer.  I read it last month (and have sadly procrastinated with writing a review), but it was awesome, and I loved it and it was such a fantastic end to a really awesome series.
  2. Ash by Malinda Lo.  It’s my favorite one of hers that I’ve read!  If you love fairy tale re-tellings, I think you’ll love this book!
  3. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie.  I am so impressed with her ability to tell a story, and I can’t wait to read more of her!
  4. Breaker by Emma Raveling.  It’s such a great end to the series, and I am so sad that this one is over.
  5. None Of The Above by I.W. Gregorio.
  6. Joyride by Anna Banks.  I felt so much for Carly, and how hard she and her brother worked to bring her parents over to the U.S.
  7. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor.  I love the magic in this book, and differently awesome the magic and mythology is.  Also, Sunny is such a great character.
  8. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon.  I felt for Maddy, and everything that happened and all of the secrets she learned, but it is a great book, and still one of my favorites, even if I have mixed feelings about the ending.
  9. How To Say Goodbye In Robot by Natalie Standiford.  This book was everything I wanted from Eleanor & Park, and I just loved Jonah and Bea and the radio show they call into every night.
  10. The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  I am astounded that the family of someone whose cells contributed so much to science can’t get decent medical insurance.  Really, this book has astounded me in so many ways.

The Books That Were Awesome, But Didn’t Quite Make The List: Under The Painted Sky by Stacey Lee, The Iron Warrior by Julie Kagawa, Prudence by Gail Carriger, Ink And Bone by Rachel Caine, Does My Head Look Big In This? by Randa Abel-Fattah, Throne Of Glass by Sarah J Maas and The Truth About Air & Water by Katherine Owen

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite New-To-Me Authors From 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke And The Bookish.  Every week, bloggers share their own bookish top ten lists based on the topic of the week.  You can check out Ten Tuesdays here.

Blog Graphic- Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Favorite New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2015

I can’t believe it’s December already!  It’s definitely that time of year for looking back at 2015, and this list (all about my new favorite authors) is a good way to kick-off all of the end-of-year stuff I want to talk to about!

  1. Nnedi Okorafor.  I’ve read a couple of her books (Akata Witch and Who Fears Death), and I can’t wait to read more books by her!
  2. Chimamanda Adichie.  I read Purple Hibiscus, which I loved, and I got a couple of her other books from Audible to listen to (soon, I hope, because Purple Hibiscus was awesome).
  3. Andy Weir.  The Martian was a lot of fun to listen to, and I hope anything else Weir writes will be just as fun!
  4. Atia Habawi.  I loved The Secret Sky, and I’m looking forward to see what else she writes!
  5. Anna Banks.  Joyride was another book I loved, and I know she has some other books out that I want to check out.
  6. Nicola Yoon.  I have super-mixed feelings about the end of Everything, Everything, but overall I felt for Maddy and her mom, and I liked it enough that I would read whatever Yoon writes next.
  7. I.W. Gregorio.  None Of The Above is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year (most of the authors on today’s list have written some of my favorite books I’ve read this year), and I want another book from Gregorio.
  8. Malinda Lo.  I’ve read several of her books, but I think Ash is my favorite of the 3 I’ve read.  It’s such a great take on Cinderella.
  9. Stacey Lee.  Under The Painted Sky was great (I really recommend it, especially if you like historical fiction), and I think she’s one of my new favorite authors.
  10. Sarah J. Maas.  I really need to finish her Throne Of Glass series.  And I need to read A Court Of Thorns And Roses.

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.

Novella Round-Up #4: Beautiful Creatures: The Untold Stories

I’ve read a few novellas, and when I’ve read a few, I do one big post of novella reviews- they’re usually too short for me to do one review, but at the same time, I want to review them, so I figured it was easier to talk about several of them in one post!

Today’s novellas are the short stories set in the Beautiful Creatures universe!  All three novellas are written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

The Mortal Heart CoverNovella #1: The Mortal Heart (Beautiful Creatures: The Untold Stories #1)

Published March 2015 by Little, Brown|51 pages

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

Genre: YA Paranormal

What It’s About: Everyone in Gatlin has a story…

Before she met and married Mitchell Wate, the beautiful and brilliant Lila Jane Evers was an honors student at Duke University. Studying late into the night in the rare books library, she is captivated by a single line of text on an old piece of parchment: “In the Light there is Dark, and in the Dark there is Light.”

What can it mean?

Then one night, Lila Jane meets a mysterious young man who may have the answer. His name is Macon Ravenwood, and for every secret he reveals, he is hiding another. With Macon’s help, Lila Jane uncovers the wonders of the Caster world–the Light and the Dark. But a romance between the Incubus who is fighting his own dark side and this fiercely independent Mortal is doomed from the start. The closer Lila Jane and Macon become, the more her life is in danger.

What I Thought: I liked it!  I’m glad they’re doing short stories on some of the other characters in the Beautiful Creatures series, and I loved seeing Lila and Macon fall in love.  Given how much he still seemed to love her, I wanted a little bit more of their romance.  I know it’s a novella, but I expected more to it, especially given how much I liked Dream Dark (Beautiful Creatures 2.5) and Dangerous Dream (Dangerous Creatures 0.5).

It felt good to be back in this world, but I really was hoping for a little more to this one.  Maybe I need to re-read the original Beautiful Creatures books before re-reading this one.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it, and I think fans of Beautiful Creatures will enjoy this novella, but I also wish there were a little more to it.

The Seer's Spread CoverNovella #2: The Seer’s Spread (Beautiful Creatures: The Untold Stories #2)

Published July 2015 by Little, Brown|38 pages

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

Genre: YA Paranormal

What It’s About: “Fate is a powerful thing…”

Ethan Wate is still grieving the loss of his beloved Amma when he receives an unexpected gift–the old, yellow Whitman’s Sampler box that held Amma’s most closely guarded secrets. “One day I might let you have a look under that lid, Ethan Wate,” Amma used to say. “But today isn’t the day.”

Now it’s time for one of her greatest secrets to be revealed. In a long-lost letter, Amma tells Ethan the story of growing up as a young Seer with a remarkable gift for reading cards. But with a power that far-reaching comes responsibility, and Amma has been honoring her mission since before Ethan was born–to protect the Wate family at any cost. So when Lila Jane Evers enters Mitchell Wate’s life, bringing the whole Caster world with her, Amma turns to her cards. This time, it’s the reading that will define the rest of her life–and Ethan’s.

What I Thought: I really liked The Seer’s Spread!  I think I liked it a little more than The Mortal Heart, but Amma is one of my favorite characters, so I might be a little biased.  I loved seeing how she became a part of Ethan’s life, and how much she cared for him.  I loved seeing her do whatever she could to protect Ethan and his dad, while all respecting the fate that she saw in the cards.  More than any other character, I wish we got to see more of her life.  It just makes me love her more.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I loved getting more of Amma’s story, but I wish it were longer!  It’s a great addition to the Beautiful Creatures world.

Before The Claiming CoverNovella #3: Before The Claiming (Beautiful Creatures: The Untold Stories #3)

Published November 2015|42 pages

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

Genre: YA Paranormal

What It’s About: “You can’t hide from fate…”

While looking through her grandmother Emmaline’s keepsakes, Lena Duchannes comes across a little blue book with a big history–a book that changed Macon Ravenwood’s life and saved Lena’s.

When Lena was a baby, Seer and gifted card reader Amma Treaudeau saw a terrifying future in the cards that sent her to Emmaline’s door. When a powerful Dark Caster sets fire to Lena’s house with baby Lena and her father trapped inside, Amma, Emmaline, and Macon vow to protect the child. Lena’s grandmother and her Uncle Macon whisk Lena away, protecting her and moving her to a new place at the first sign of trouble. But a Caster can only hide for so long, and Macon must rely on the teachings in an ancient book to control his Dark nature. Ultimately, it will be his job to protect Lena–and keep her from surrendering to a Dark fate.

What I Thought: Of the three, this one is probably my least favorite.  I did like seeing more of Lena’s relationship with Ridley, and how connected her family is with Amma.  I enjoyed it, but it didn’t have something the other two had, especially The Seer’s Spread.  I did like seeing Lena before she moved to Gatlin.  Like the other two, I know they’re short, but they were too short, and I really wish they were a little longer!  Still, seeing how involved their families were was interesting, and I wish we saw more of that.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it, but not as much as the other Untold Stories.  I am curious if they’re doing another short, and what it would be about.

Some Random Thoughts About All Three:

I really am wondering if there are going to be more, because I would like to see what else they’d write.  At the same time, though, what I loved about Beautiful Creatures (and the Dangerous Creatures spin-off) seemed to be missing in these stories, and I don’t know if it’s the length or the fact that I just haven’t been in the mood to read lately or that maybe the Beautiful Creatures universe would have been fine without these stories.  It doesn’t seem like overkill (unlike anything set in the Shadowhunter world), and I did enjoy the stories but I didn’t enjoy them like I thought I would.  Maybe because it’s my first time reading, and not listening to them?  I wonder if that was part of it.

Basically, I enjoyed them…but I think I might have been fine not reading them because it didn’t really add anything to the world.

Book Review Round-Up Fledgling And The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

Fledgling CoverBook #1: Fledging by Octavia Butler, narrated by Tracey Leigh

Published August 2008 by Blackstone Audio|12 hours, 17 minutes

Where I Got It: I got the audio from audible.com

Series: None

Genre: Adult Sci-Fi

What It’s About: Fledgling, the late Octavia E. Butler’s final novel, is the story of a young amnesiac girl whose alarmingly inhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: she is in fact a genetically modified 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must learn who wanted to destroy her and those she cares for, and how she can save herself.

Fledgling is a captivating novel that tests the limits of “otherness” and questions what it means to be truly human.

What I Thought: Why did it take me so long to read Octavia Butler?  I’ve had Fledgling for a while, and figured it was a good time to actually read it.  I really liked it, and I think I’m going to read Kindred sometime soon. Butler certainly created an interesting vampire myth with Fledging, and the humans needed the Ina (Butler’s vampires) as much as the Ina needed their humans.  I thought Shori was an interesting (but also compelling) character- she’s human and Ina, attacked, and left with no memories.  I can’t imagine what she had to go through and what it was like for her to remember nothing.

Leigh was a wonderful narrator for the book- in my mind, she was Shori.  While I liked her as a narrator, I’m not sure if I like her enough to seek out anything else she’s narrated.  But if I happen to come across a book she’s narrated, I wouldn’t hesitate to listen.  I sort of wish I had reviewed Fledging right after finishing it, because I’ve forgotten a lot of what I wanted to say between when I finished the book and now.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and Butler really drew me into Shori’s world.

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks CoverBook #2: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Published February 2010 by Crown|370 pages

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

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Medical/Science

What It’s About: Henrietta Lacks, as HeLa, is known to present-day scientists for her cells from cervical cancer. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were taken without her knowledge and still live decades after her death. Cells descended from her may weigh more than 50M metric tons.

HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks was buried in an unmarked grave.

The journey starts in the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s, her small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia — wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo. Today are stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, East Baltimore children and grandchildren live in obscurity, see no profits, and feel violated. The dark history of experimentation on African Americans helped lead to the birth of bioethics, and legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

What I Thought: I am so glad I read this book!  I don’t know where to start with Immortal Life, because there were a lot of interesting things in it.

I think what made her story so fascinating was that they took her cells without asking.  I mean, it’s not surprising, given the time period (not that I’m trying to assume anything, because assuming isn’t good) but it’s hard to believe. Her own family has trouble getting good healthcare, and I really felt for them, especially her one daughter, who wanted to know more about her mother.

Immortal Life is really two stories- HeLa cells, which are very really important in the science world.  A lot of advancements made seem to be based on the cells they took from Lacks.  The other story is of Lacks herself (only a little) but it focuses more on her family and how what happened to Lacks had such a huge effect on them.

Not only that, but I was horrified by how Lacks name was attached to the cells, and that her name was attached to her medical records…and that they just randomly handed it off to people.  I work in medical records for my day job, and I kept having to remind myself that this was way before HIPAA and that there weren’t federal privacy laws.  At least some states had them, but unfortunately, Maryland wasn’t one of those states.  That has since changed, but I was so taken aback by that.  And the fact that they didn’t even have the right name!

I can’t help but wonder so many things.  Like, how would things have been different if they did get informed consent. Was her race or socioeconomic status a factor?

And she is definitely a real person, which the researchers seemed to forget.  It did seem like they saw her as just cells, and it also felt a little bit like that with her family too.  I don’t blame her family at all for wanting their mother to be recognized for her huge contribution to science.  It’s such a balanced look, and you see so many different pieces of the story.

It’s definitely a non-linear story, and Skloot herself does appear in the book.  But it’s only when it’s absolutely necessary, and I can’t imagine the story being told in a linear way.

I feel like it’s so hard to do this book justice, but it’s such an amazing look at the ethics of research and consent and trying to find the truth.

My Rating: 5 stars.  It’s an awesome book, and if you haven’t read it, you really need to.

Book Review Round-Up: Vampire Knight, Volumes 2-5, by Matsuri Hino

Book Review Round-Up is a random feature where I talk about several books in one post.

Today is Volumes 2, 3, 4, & 5 of Vampire Knight.  I thought it might be good to review them together!  I did go through them pretty fast, and they all started to blend together, so I had a little bit of trouble remembering which thing happened in which volume!  All four volumes are by Matsuri Hino.

Vampire Knight Vol 2 CoverVampire Knight, Volume 2

Published May 2007 by Viz Media|186 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 2

What It’s About: Yuki and Zero go into town to do some shopping for the Headmaster, and they are attacked by a fiendish vampire called a “Level E.”  Two Night Class students, Takuma Ichijo and Senri Shiki, come just on time and slay it, and invite Yuki and Zero to their dormitory at midnight to find out why they killed one of their own kind…

What I Thought: I really liked it!  I am amazed at how she can tell a story with so little words and such detailed artwork!  Yuki and Zero really stood out to me, and I love how kind Yuki is, even knowing that Zero is coming to terms with being a vampire.  I liked seeing more of the vampires in this world, and I feel like as we get further into the series, we’re going to learn a lot more about the vampires!  I’m really curious about whether Yuki offering her blood to Zero will come again, and what sort of effect it will have on things.  Zero is definitely brooding in this book, which I totally understand but I also wonder if he’ll start to move on at some point.  And his former vampire hunter teacher is around, so I can’t wait to see where that goes.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked the story and some of the things that come up, because I’m really curious about where things are headed.

Vampire Knight Vol 3 CoverManga #2: Vampire Knight, Volume 3

Published October 2007 by Viz Media|196 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 3

What It’s About: Kaname, the pureblood vampire, has kept to his room since learning of Yuki and Zero’s forbidden act. However, the arrival of Ichijo’s grandfather brings the entire Night Class together to greet one of the oldest vampires on the senate. Ichijo’s grandfather says he’s there merely to visit his grandson, but he’s out for Kaname’s blood.

What I Thought: I really liked Volume 3!  We learn more about the characters, especially Yuki, and I really liked the flashbacks!  Kaname, Zero and Yuki are all very connected.  And the new transfer student, Maria…there is more to her, and I’m curious about where her story is headed.  It seems a little random, a new transfer student but I feel like there’s a purpose behind it.  New students don’t randomly show up for no reason.  We are getting deeper into this world and how things outside the school are affecting things inside the school.  And the concept of the Senate is introduced in volume 3.  I’m wondering how much of a presence they’ll have in future volumes.  I really liked the art, and both art and story are getting better with each volume.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I like that 3 volumes in, we are learning so much more about this world.  I can’t wait to see where things go.

Vampire Knight Vol 4 CoverManga #3: Vampire Knight, Volume 4

Published April 2008 by Viz Media|197 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 4

What It’s About: Zero warns Yuki to stay away from Maria Kurenai, the new Night Class transfer student, although he won’t tell Yuki why. Kaname is also wary, and he sends Ichijo to watch Maria so she doesn’t start trouble. Who is this girl, and why does she have the entire Night Class on edge?

What I Thought: This is the book where we learn what’s really going on with Maria!  I don’t know why I didn’t see it coming, because I feel like I should have.  There’s the deal between Yuki and Maria and Kaname is pretty awesome.  And I feel for Zero, even though he still has a lot he needs to work on.  And he’s pretty sulky too.  But I still love him, and I still feel for him.  I also love the side bars she has throughout the book (and the ones in volumes 2 and 3 are equally as awesome).

I am having trouble keeping the characters who aren’t Yuki, Zero and Kaname apart, but hopefully as the series goes on, I’ll be able to tell them apart!  I really want to learn more about the Purebloods and their powers.  I feel like it’s going to come up again in the series.

My Rating: 4 stars.  The story is really starting to get interesting, and the artwork is getting better and better!

Vampire Knight Vol 5 CoverManga #4: Vampire Knight, Volume 5

Published September 2008 by Viz Media|195 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed it from the library

Series: Vampire Knight, Volume 5

What It’s About: Zero is suspected of killing Shizuka Hio, the pureblood vampire who murdered his family. Incensed, the vampire senate sends assassins to Cross Academy to execute him. Will the Night Class intervene, or will Kaname let Zero take the fall?

What I Thought: I am hooked on this series!  I have been since the first volume but this volume is really good!  We learn why Shizuka did what she did.  I tried to dislike her but I had a really hard time doing that- in fact, the opposite happened, and I felt a little bad for her.  Even though Shizuka has died, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see more of her in flashbacks.  Things don’t look good for Zero, but Kaname shows that he’s pretty awesome by defying the Senate and protecting the school and Zero.  We also meet a certain someone, and I’m wondering if that certain someone is going to show up again.  I feel like we will, and I can’t wait to see how that will go.  There really is a lot to Kaname, and I want to know more more about him.  I’m sure more will be revealed about him in the continuing volumes, so I’ll just have to read to find out!

My Rating: 4 stars.  As usual, the artwork and story is getting better with each volume, and we learn more about this world the further we get into the series.  I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Book Review: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

Beyond Magenta CoverBook: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, written and photographed by Susan Kuklin

Published February 2014 by Candlewick Press|182 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Non-Fiction/LGBT

Blog Graphic-What It's About

A groundbreaking work of LGBT literature takes an honest look at the life, love, and struggles of transgender teens.

Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

Beyond Magenta is a really interesting book but it’s also a hard book to talk about.

I like that she talks a diverse group of teens, but most of them (5 out of the 6 interviewed) are from New York, and all 6 teens (particularly the 5 from NY) seem to have access to a lot of services and support.  The 5 from New York are in a section called Spectrum, while the last story is in a section Lifeline.  And even the teen featured in that narrative seemed to have a good support system and quite a few resources available to him.

Kuklin does mention at the end of the book that she was in touch with a medical center in New York City, which does explain why it’s heavily focused on NY teens.  She also talks about wanting the book to spread its wings and have another part of the country represented.  Unfortunately, it makes the one non-NY story feel like an afterthought that’s there just for representation of a different part of the country.

While there are a wide range of experiences, I felt like it lacked stories from teens who don’t have the access to services/resources these kids do.  The teens we see in Beyond Magenta do have varying degrees of familial support, and I felt for all of the teens, especially the teens who have parents who don’t seem to bother trying to understand their children, and denied/dismissed their experience and what they were saying.

Each teen has a very unique story, and it was heartbreaking at times to see what they were going through.  There are times where you see gender stereotypes, particularly in the first couple of stories, which I think is something that will frustrate a lot of people (especially if reviews are any indication) but I just took it as their experience and I really felt like Kuklin really tried to keep their story as they told it to her.  I will say that it felt very much like they were telling me a story, and that aspect of the writing would make this a particularly good book for an audio format.

Overall, though, there was something about the organization and format that seemed a little weird.  I respect that Kuklin interviewed and photographed the teens, and worked with them to tell their story, but 5 NY stories in one section (Spectrum) and the lone non-NY story in a section called Lifeline made no sense to me.  I don’t understand why you’d need two different sections, and it just really made the one story in Lifeline feel like an afterthought.

 

There isn’t any particular order to the stories- not that they need to be in any particular order, but something about the book felt a little disorganized.  And while it is a quick read, I’m not completely happy with the format.  It felt like a random assortment of stories with nothing to connect them together- other than all 6 stories being about a transgender teen.

There were random comments from Kuklin, which felt out of place and disrupted the flow of the story.  They should have been left in some cases, and in other places, an introduction to the story would have been helpful, and a place where some of her comments could have been better served.

There is an author’s note at the end of the book, which I think would have been more insightful/better placed at the beginning of the book so that you had a much better idea of how the project changed for Kuklin.  There are also resources at the end of the book, and Kuklin also included a list of books (non-fiction and fiction) and movies.  I was disappointed that there only a couple of books in the fiction list, both of which were published over 10 years ago, just because something a little more recent (and more than 2 books) would have been nice.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

I’m not sure what to rate Beyond Magenta.  I think the organization of the book could have been better, and while there is a wide range of experiences in the book, I also think the representation of other parts of the country could have been better, and less like an afterthought.  I still like reading about their experiences, and it would be a great book to have in any classroom or library.

As for an actual rating, I’m going to give Beyond Magenta 3 stars.