The End Of Year Survey For 2016

I really love the End Of Year Survey that Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner does every year, and I figure this is a great time to do it!  You can check it out here.

blog-graphic-end-of-year-survey

2016 Reading Stats:

Number Of Books I Read: 123

Number Of Re-Reads: I honestly have no idea- I’m pretty sure I re-read some stuff, but I don’t track it.  Unless you count the Welcome To Night Vale book, because I did read the print book and listen to the audio book because I couldn’t make up my mind about which format I wanted to read it in.  That’s only one I can remember off of the top of my head.

Genre I Read The Most From: Contemporary- with 38 books!

Best In Books:

1. Best Book You Read In 2016:

Contemporary: It’s a tie between George by Alex Gino and Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

Fantasy: A Court Of Mist And Fury by Sarah J. Maas and The Beauty Of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson

General Fiction: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t: The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick.  I really liked it but not as much as I thought.  It just didn’t have the same appeal My Life Next Door Had.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read: All The Beautiful And Ugly Things by Bryn Greenwood.  This book was a good surprise, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved it.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did): I feel like I talked about George by Alex Gino a lot- I’m not sure how many people picked it up specifically because I mentioned it, but I think everyone should read it!

5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

Best Series I Started: Court Of Fives by Kate Elliott

Best Sequel: A Court Of Mist And Fury

Best Series Ender: The Heart Of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016: Yaa Gyasi- Homegoing was amazing

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone: It’s a tie between Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Behold The Dreamers by Mbue Imbolo

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year:  I’m going with Harry Potter And The Cursed Child for this one, and that’s because I was excited to get my copy at midnight that I knew I couldn’t go to bed until I read the entire script.  It doesn’t exactly fit, but that’s the book I’m going with.

9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year: A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016: I love this one, and I don’t know why.  But it’s so pretty!

shiny-broken-pieces-cover

11. Most memorable character of 2016: Gabi, from A Girl In Pieces.  I loved her, and she has a really unique voice.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016: This is a hard one, but I think I’m going to go with All The Ugly And Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016: All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.  There are no words to describe how much this book made me think, but it was such an eye-opener for me.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read: The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick.  I’ve wanted to read it for a while, but never got around to it until last year.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016:

“You look around at the people in your life, one by one, choosing to hold on to the ones who make you stronger and better, and letting go of the ones who don’t.”

From Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016:

Shortest: The House On Mango St by Sandra Cisneros (110 pages) and Perfect by Natasha Friend (4 hours, 30 minutes)

Longest: The Beauty Of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson (688 pages) and World War Z by Max Brooks (12 hours, 8 minutes)

17. Book That Shocked You The Most: Soldier by Julie Kagawa.  I was not expecting that ending at all.  I will be so glad when the next book comes out so I can find out what happens.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!): Valek and Yelena from Night Study

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year: Melissa and Kelly from George.  I love their friendship and how supportive Kelly was.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously: And I Darken by Kiersten White.  I swear, every book she does is so different than the last one, but it was such a great book!

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure: Court Of Fives by Kate Elliott.  I read it solely based on Gail Carriger’s recommendation.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016: Rhysand from A Court Of Thorns And Roses.  I don’t think an explanation is needed.

23. Best 2016 debut you read: In the interest of mixing up and NOT putting a book I’ve mentioned already, I’m going to go with False Illusions by A. Cramton!

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year: The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye is one of the more vivid settings- I loved the Night Circus feel that the book has!

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read: The BFG by Roald Dahl.  It definitely made me smile!

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016: Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone.  It’s the only one where I remember crying when I was reading it.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year: Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli.  This book deserves more attention!

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul: This is another hard one, but I think I’m going to go with All The Ugly And Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood.  But I also think Missoula by Jon Krakauer would be either choice.  I wish I could make up my mind, because there are too many good choices.  These are my top 2 choices, though, so at least I was able to narrow it down.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016: I have to go with the Welcome To Night Vale book for this one- I highly recommend the audio book, if you do decide to pick it up!

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it): Take A Chance and One More Chance by Abbi Glines.  I read a couple of other books by Glines and really liked them, but these two were so frustrating to read.  Just thinking about them makes me angry!

My Book/Blogging Life:

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016: Paper Fury!  Her blog was new to me last year, and I don’t know why I didn’t start reading it before!!!  Her blog is absolutely delightful and fun.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016: The reviews I wrote for Take A Chance and One More Chance.  As much as I didn’t like those particular books, it was good to get my frustrations out.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog: I think I’m going to have to go with the posts I did about the Gilmore Girls revival: one with no spoilers, Part One (With Spoilers) and Part Two (With Spoilers).

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.): Going to the signing for the Welcome To Night Vale scripts.  It was so much fun to hear them talk about one of my favorite podcasts ever.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016: I have to pick?  Probably the Welcome To Night Vale signing I went to.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year: Lack of motivation.  I had a hard time getting myself to write blog posts this year.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views): Top Ten Books For People Who Like The Iron Fey.  I published this post in July 2012, and it’s STILL my most popular post.  I’ve done a couple of updated posts, but the original one is still going strong, which is completely awesome.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love: I honestly don’t know.  I’m good with whatever people want to read, and I don’t know that there’s one particular post that needs a little more love.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.): Read Diverse Books.  It’s one of my new favorite blogs, and I’ve come across so many books I haven’t heard that I want to read.

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year: Close to half of the books I read last year were diverse/#ownvoices, and I definitely paid more attention to what I was reading.

Looking Ahead:

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2016 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017: My entire TBR pile?  I’m only half-joking here, but…I think I’m going to go with A Thousand Boy Wishes by Tillie Cole.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut): Red Hot Rain by Rachel Caine.  I was surprised to find out there was going to be another Weather Wardens book, but I’m really looking forward to it.

3. 2017 Debut You Are Most Anticipating: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  I am looking forward to this book so much I pre-ordered it.

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2017: A Court Of Wings And Ruin by Sarah J. Maas.  After the way ACOMAF ended…I just need to read it.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017: There are so many things I could say, but if I have to pick one…listen to more audio books.  I’m going with one audio book a month this year.

6. A 2017 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone: I haven’t read any 2017 releases yet, but I know I have a couple ARC’s I need to read.

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2016: A Year In Books

Since I did a post looking back at everything I did last year, I figured I do a bookish recap too!  I figured I do a numbers/resolution post, but the 2016 End Of Year Survey is in the works too.  I should be posting that sometime this week, and that will be more focused on the books I read last year.

Some General Stats:

  1. Total Books Read: 123
  2. Shortest Book I Read: The House On Mango St. by Sandra Cisneros at 110 pages
  3. Longest Book I Read: The Beauty Of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson at 688 pages
  4. Total Pages Read: 38,445 for 115 e-books/print books
  5. Shortest Audio Book: Perfect by Natasha Friend at 4 hours, 30 minutes
  6. Longest Audio Book: World War Z by Max Brooks at 12 hours, 8 minutes
  7. Total Hours Listened To: 73 hours, 31 minutes

5 Most Read Genres:

  1. Contemporary: 38 books
  2. Fantasy: 29 books
  3. General Fiction: 10 books
  4. Historical Fiction: 9 books
  5. Re-Telling: 9 books

Some Random Stats:

  1. 11 books were from 2016 debut authors
  2. 70% of the books I read were YA, 21% were adult, and 9% were NA, middle grade and children’s.
  3. 74.9% were from the library, 21.9% were books I own, and the remaining 4% or so were ARC’s or borrowed.
  4. 54% were print books, 40% were e-books and 6% were audio books.
  5. 62% of the books I read were 3 stars or higher, and I ended up not finishing 39 books this year.  I’m not sure about how many books I re-read, but that might be something to track this year.

How I Did With Last Year’s Reading Goals:

  1. I read, on average, 5 diverse books every month, and overall, 48.9% of the books I read last year were diverse.  I was hoping I would reach 50%, but I got pretty close, and I am determined to have half of the books I read this year be diverse.
  2. Apparently, one of my goals last year was to get back into reading after a reading slump.  Even though I’m feeling sort of blah about a lot of the books I read this year, I did pay more attention to what I was read, and I did get out of my comfort zone a little bit.
  3. This brings me to not doing the Goodreads challenge last year.  It took a lot of pressure off, and I feel like I was able to focus more on WHAT I was reading, instead HOW MUCH I was reading.  It is a good challenge, and it definitely works for a lot of people- it worked for me for quite a few years, but at this point in my reading life, I have other things I want to focus on in terms of reading.  I may come back to the Goodreads challenge at some point, but not anytime soon.
  4. Not surprisingly, I didn’t read a lot of the books I own.  I did use the library a lot- around 74% of the books  I read were from the library, but I think it’s partially because the books I own weren’t too appealing last year? Maybe?  I’m not really sure.

My Reading Goals For This Year:

While we’re on the topic of goals, let’s talk about what I want to accomplish this year, in terms of reading.

  1. Not doing the Goodreads challenge.  I talked a little bit about it above, but it was a huge relief to NOT do it last year.  I have reading goals in mind, but not of the “how many books do I want to read this year” variety.  It’s just not a goal for me right now, but like I said, it’s something I may come back to in the future.
  2. Half of the books I read this year will be diverse/#ownvoices!  I was so close to that number last year, but more importantly, it’s really important to me that I keep reading books that are about and written by people from marginalized groups.
  3. I also want to read more translated books!  Shadow Of The Wind was really interesting, and I really liked The Vegetarian, so I am determined to find more translated books.  I’m always looking for suggestions!
  4. This year, I really want to listen to more audio books!  I feel like there isn’t enough time in the day for audio books and podcasts, but this year, I want to listen to at least one audio book a month.

I think that wraps it up.  Have a great week!

Audio Book Review: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahira

the-namesake-coverBook: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahira, narrated by Sarita Choudhury

Published August 2006 by Random House Audio|10 hours, 5 minutes

Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio book from the library

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies established this young writer as one the most brilliant of her generation. In The Namesake, Lahiri enriches the themes that made her collection an international bestseller: the immigrant experience, the clash of cultures, the conflicts of assimilation, and, most poignantly, the tangled ties between generations.

The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged marriage, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An engineer by training, Ashoke adapts far less warily than his wife, who resists all things American and pines for her family. When their son is born, the task of naming him betrays the vexed results of bringing old ways to the new world. Named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name.

Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along a first-generation path strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs. With penetrating insight, she reveals not only the defining power of the names and expectations bestowed upon us by our parents, but also the means by which we slowly, sometimes painfully, come to define ourselves.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I liked The Namesake more than I thought I would!  It really made me think about immigrants, and the power of names and being a first-generation American.

It’s been quite a while since I finished this book, so it’s definitely not fresh in my mind.  But there are a few things that stood out, particularly with pet names and good names.  It’s sad that the staff at Gogol’s school didn’t understand the concept of the name, and Gogol seemed particularly confused by it as well.  I really liked that you saw how different things were for Gogol and his parents, and I felt like I was experiencing things alongside Gogol and his parents.  He didn’t choose his name, and you see that he has a really complicated relationship with it.

One scene that bothered me was when Gogol was at a dinner party, and one of the guests assumed that he didn’t need immunizations when he traveled to India with his parents because, and I’m paraphrasing, he’s from India. It was either his girlfriend or his girlfriend’s mother who said he was from the U.S. but even she didn’t seem sure. They were together for ages, and they were all living in the same house, and yet she had no idea where he was born.  Yes, he is Bengali-American, but they didn’t seem to grasp the concept that he still needed immunizations to travel to India because he has never lived there.  I felt angry on his behalf that people lacked understanding.  It was probably just an innocent question for them, and they likely didn’t think anything about it, but it still really upset me because it seemed so insensitive.

Since I went for the audio book, I’ll talk about the narration!  I honestly don’t remember much about the narrator, but I do remember she did a great job with the narration.  I felt like she was Gogol, and she really brought him to life. I don’t think I’ll necessarily seek out any books narrated by her, but if I were listening to a book narrated by her, I wouldn’t mind.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  I really liked it, and I think, now more than ever, it’s important to read books like The Namesake.  I feel like I learned so much just from reading it.  What it’s like to be a child of immigrants is something I’ve never thought about- and never had to- but that’s why I’m glad I read it.

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: Panic In Level Four by Richard Preston

panic-in-level-4-coverBook: Panic In Level Four by Richard Preston

Published May 2008 by Random House|188 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction/Science

What It’s About:

Bizarre illnesses and plagues that kill people in the most unspeakable ways. Obsessive and inspired efforts by scientists to solve mysteries and save lives. From The Hot Zone to The Demon in the Freezer and beyond, Richard Preston’s bestselling works have mesmerized readers everywhere by showing them strange worlds of nature they never dreamed of.

Panic in Level 4 is a grand tour through the eerie and unforgettable universe of Richard Preston, filled with incredible characters and mysteries that refuse to leave one’s mind. Here are dramatic true stories from this acclaimed and award-winning author, including:

• The phenomenon of “self-cannibals,” who suffer from a rare genetic condition caused by one wrong letter in their DNA that forces them to compulsively chew their own flesh–and why everyone may have a touch of this disease.
• The search for the unknown host of Ebola virus, an organism hidden somewhere in African rain forests, where the disease finds its way into the human species, causing outbreaks of unparalleled horror.
• The brilliant Russian brothers–“one mathematician divided between two bodies”–who built a supercomputer in their apartment from mail-order parts in an attempt to find hidden order in the number pi (π).

In fascinating, intimate, and exhilarating detail, Richard Preston portrays the frightening forces and constructive discoveries that are currently roiling and reordering our world, once again proving himself a master of the nonfiction narrative and, as noted in The Washington Post, “a science writer with an uncommon gift for turning complex biology into riveting page-turners.”

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

Panic On Level 4 seemed like it would be interesting and different and informative, but I ended up not liking it as much as I thought.  I thought it would be a lot more compelling than it actually was.  And this might be an unfair comparison, but it makes me wonder how different the book would be if it were written by Mary Roach.

Each chapter is about something different, so I thought I’d talk about what I thought about each chapter.

  • The Mountains Of Pi: This chapter is about 2 brothers, both mathematicians.  I thought this chapter was boring and uninteresting, and not the best chapter to start the book with, especially given the introduction talks about ebola.   Back to this chapter, though, because ebola does come up later.  I found I didn’t really care about finding however many billions of digits of pi, and why it was so important to them.
  • A Death In The Forest: I don’t remember anything about this chapter, and I’m glad I haven’t returned the book to the library, because I had to flip through this chapter to remember what it was about- this one type of insect that destroys hemlock trees.  I was too bored to actually re-read the chapter.
  • The Search For Ebola: I think this chapter should have started off the book, and it was one of two chapters I was actually interested in.  It seems like there’s a lot we don’t know about it, and I know there was this one video I watched in a couple classes in high school about it.  I would definitely read this chapter if you pick up this book.
  • The Human Kabbalah: This chapter is about the Human Genome Project.  I’ve heard of it, but I don’t really know anything about it.  I’m not surprised by the politics involved in a few different groups working on genomes, and this was the other chapter I was really interested in.  It makes me want to learn more about it.
  • The Lost Unicorn: This about several unicorn tapestries, and this chapter was really out of place.  It didn’t fit with the other chapters (all of which were about math and science and health).  It was definitely one of my least favorite chapters in the book.
  • The Self-Cannibals: This was sort of interesting.  Not as interesting as the chapter about Ebola or the Human Genome Project, but it was better than the bugs in the forest, the Unicorn Tapestries or the pi mathematicians.  I didn’t even know that there were people who, in essence, were self-cannibals, but at the same time, it also shows how weird genes and DNA can be.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

2 stars.  Overall, it was okay.  It’s definitely not my thing, but a couple of things were interesting.  Definitely read the chapter about ebola and the Human Genome Project (and maybe the one about self-cannibals) but skip the rest of them.  I thought it would be a different book than the one I read.

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: Always Running, The Vegetarian, and Sister Of My Heart

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

always-running-coverBook #1: Always Running by Luis J. Rodriguez

Published October 2005 (originally published 1993) by Touchstone|288 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction, Memoir

What It’s About: The award-winning and bestselling classic memoir about a young Chicano gang member surviving the dangerous streets of East Los Angeles, now featuring a new introduction by the author.

Winner of the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, hailed as a New York Times notable book, and read by hundreds of thousands, Always Running is the searing true story of one man’s life in a Chicano gang—and his heroic struggle to free himself from its grip.

By age twelve, Luis Rodriguez was a veteran of East Los Angeles gang warfare. Lured by a seemingly invincible gang culture, he witnessed countless shootings, beatings, and arrests and then watched with increasing fear as gang life claimed friends and family members. Before long, Rodriguez saw a way out of the barrio through education and the power of words and successfully broke free from years of violence and desperation.

Achieving success as an award-winning poet, he was sure the streets would haunt him no more—until his young son joined a gang. Rodriguez fought for his child by telling his own story in Always Running, a vivid memoir that explores the motivations of gang life and cautions against the death and destruction that inevitably claim its participants.

At times heartbreakingly sad and brutal, Always Running is ultimately an uplifting true story, filled with hope, insight, and a hard-earned lesson for the next generation.

What I Thought: I really liked Always Running!  It’s very honest, and I’m actually really glad I read it.  It’s a very raw account of his life in east L.A. and his life on the streets, and how he broke free from that life.

It was hard to read, and I was especially saddened by how people were placed in certain classes based on their race, and yet, it wasn’t that surprising, especially given the time.  It’s as much his life story as it is the history of the factors that led to the rise in gangs.  His parents came to the U.S. from Mexico in search of a better life, and it seems like they tried to give him (and his siblings) a good life.

I liked the snapshots we got of his life, but at the same time, it was a little hard to follow because as far as timeline went, he did jump around a little bit.  I also had a bit of a hard time keeping track of who was who, but overall, it’s still worth reading.  You do a clear picture of why he joined a club- for protection, because it was the only way to stay safe.

My Rating: 4 stars.  It’s very vivid, and it’s still very relevant to current events.

the-vegetarian-coverBook #2: The Vegetarian by Han Kang, Translated by Deborah Smith

Published February 2016 (originally published 2007) by Hogarth|192 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction

What It’s About: Before the nightmare, Yeong-hye and her husband lived an ordinary life. But when splintering, blood-soaked images start haunting her thoughts, Yeong-hye decides to purge her mind and renounce eating meat. In a country where societal mores are strictly obeyed, Yeong-hye’s decision to embrace a more “plant-like” existence is a shocking act of subversion. And as her passive rebellion manifests in ever more extreme and frightening forms, scandal, abuse, and estrangement begin to send Yeong-hye spiraling deep into the spaces of her fantasy. In a complete metamorphosis of both mind and body, her now dangerous endeavor will take Yeong-hye—impossibly, ecstatically, tragically—far from her once-known self altogether.

A disturbing, yet beautifully composed narrative told in three parts, The Vegetarian is an allegorical novel about modern day South Korea, but also a story of obsession, choice, and our faltering attempts to understand others, from one imprisoned body to another.

What I Thought: I’m not sure what to think about The Vegetarian.  It’s a very weird book, but in a good way.  It is interesting that she gave up meat because of a dream, and that dreams played a big role in becoming more plant-like. In a way, it seemed like becoming vegetarian was Yeong-hye’s way of gaining some sort of control over her life.  It also goes in a direction that I did not see coming, and it’s interesting that you see it through the eyes of her husband, her brother-in-law and her sister.  Part of me wishes that we saw Yeong-hye narrate even a small portion of the book, but at the same time, I liked seeing her through the eyes of the people around her.

One thing I wondered was how people in South Korea view vegetarians, and if it’s something that’s very specific to her family.  I honestly assumed her family would be okay with it, and I’m not sure where that assumption came from. But something about how they reacted rang true.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I did like the first two parts, which focused on her marriage and being a muse for her brother-in-law, but I wasn’t as interested in the last part, which focused on her sister.  It’s still worth reading.

sister-of-my-heart-coverBook #3: Sister Of My Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Published January 1999 by Doubleday|336 pages

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

Series: Anju & Sudha #1

Genre: Adult Fiction

Where I Got It: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni made an indelible impression on the literary world with her first novel, The Mistress of Spices, a magical tale of love and herbs. Sister of My Heart is less reliant on enchantment but no less enchanting as it tells the tale of two cousins born on the same day, their premature births brought on by a mysterious occurrence that claims the lives of both their fathers. Sudha is beautiful, Anju is not; yet the girls love each other as sisters, the bond between them so strong it seems nothing can break it. When both are pushed into arranged marriages, however, each discovers a devastating secret that changes their relationship forever.

Sister of My Heart spans many years and zigzags between India and America as the cousins first grow apart and then eventually reunite. Divakaruni invests this domestic drama with poetry as she traces her heroines’ lives from infancy to motherhood, but it is Sudha and Anju who give the story its backbone. Anju might speak for both when she says, “In spite of all my insecurities, in spite of the oceans that’ll be between us soon and the men that are between us already, I can never stop loving Sudha. It’s my habit, and it’s my fate.” Book lovers may well discover that reading Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is habit-forming as well. –Margaret Prior

What I Thought: I liked Sister Of My Heart.  I really liked the bond that Sudha and Anju had, and that they are more sisters than cousins.  There were times where their bond was so strong I honestly forgot they were cousins, and not sisters.

They definitely learned things that will completely change their relationship, and it’s hard to tell which secret will change their relationship more.  I have the feeling that both secrets will come out at some point.  I didn’t realize that this was the first book in a series, and at the end of the book, I was slightly disappointed that there was not more resolution.  Once I realized that it was part of a series, the ending made more sense.  It makes me wonder what will happen next for Sudha and Anju.

I will say that I found the arranged marriages to be interesting, but also hard to imagine.  Even though it’s something I know exists, it’s hard to wrap my head around it, and this book was a really good glimpse into what is one of many reasons why there are arranged marriages.  It’s also a really good look at families and the family dynamic in a different part of the world, and how different things are for people in other parts of the world.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it, and I may continue the series, but not anytime soon.  I did love the relationship between Sudha and Anju and how much it changed.

Book Review: All The Ugly And Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

all-the-ugly-and-wonderful-thingsBook: All The Ugly And Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Published August 2016 by Thomas Dunne Books|353 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Contemporary, Adult Romance

Blog Graphic-What It's About

As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It’s safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy’s family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. Kellen may not be innocent, but he is the fixed point in Wavy and Donal’s chaotic universe. Instead of playing it safe, Wavy has to learn to fight for Kellen, for her brother, and for herself.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

I heard about this book from a co-worker, and I’m actually glad I read it!  I was unsure of the romance, because there is a HUGE age difference between Kellen and Wavy.  But I ended up rooting for them, and I thought it was really well done.

If anything, this book broke my heart.  The relationship that Kellen and Wavy have in the book is very unusual, and you can tell that he really cares for her.  It really seems like he’s the only one looking out for Wavy, and making sure she’s okay.  Even when other people have good intentions (like her aunt), you can tell that he has her best interests at heart, and it was no surprise that it turned into something.

I would also like to point out that they don’t have sex until she’s 18, and this book definitely isn’t for everyone.  I can see why people would have a lot of issues with their friendship, and later on, relationship.  There is domestic violence and drugs in the book, so keep that in mind if you’re considering reading this book.  It does take place over the span of 15 or so years, so that is another thing to keep in mind.

I really like that we’re never told how to feel, and you really go through a range of emotions throughout the book. We can draw our own conclusions about the book, and I finished the book not knowing how I felt while also loving the book.

Wavy is very much influenced by everything going on with her parents, and it is through everyone else’s eyes that we see things unfold between Wavy and Kellen.  It’s uncomfortable and graphic, and I think everyone will have a strong reaction to it, whether you think Wavy and Kellen are both victims or Kellen took advantage of Wavy and should have known better.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

5 stars.  I loved this book, and even though it was uncomfortable to read at times, it was worth it.  I definitely finished the book questioning so many things!

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.