Book Review: It Devours! by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor, Narrated by Cecil Baldwin

Book: It Devours! by Joseph Fink And Jeffrey Cranor, Narrated by Cecil Baldwin

Published October 2017 by Harper Audio|9 hours and 38 minutes

Where I Got It: I own the audio book

Series: Welcome To Night Vale #2

Genre: Adult Fiction

From the authors of the New York Times bestselling novel Welcome to Night Vale and the creators of the #1 international podcast of the same name, comes a mystery exploring the intersections of faith and science, the growing relationship between two young people who want desperately to trust each other, and the terrifying, toothy power of the Smiling God.

Nilanjana Sikdar is an outsider to the town of Night Vale. Working for Carlos, the town’s top scientist, she relies on fact and logic as her guiding principles. But all of that is put into question when Carlos gives her a special assignment investigating a mysterious rumbling in the desert wasteland outside of town. This investigation leads her to the Joyous Congregation of the Smiling God, and to Darryl, one of its most committed members. Caught between her beliefs in the ultimate power of science and her growing attraction to Darryl, she begins to suspect the Congregation is planning a ritual that could threaten the lives of everyone in town. Nilanjana and Darryl must search for common ground between their very different world views as they are faced with the Congregation’s darkest and most terrible secret.

Night Vale is such a delightful place.  Weird, but delightful.  And I am glad that I got to revisit Night Vale in It Devours!

The nice thing about It Devours (and the Welcome To Night Vale novel) is that you don’t need to listen to the podcast in order to read this book.  It’s completely separate (but does reference the podcast), and while I loved the first book, I think I loved this book even more.  It’s very different than what I expected, but I really liked the story.  Carlos and his time in the Otherworld is very different in this book, and it’s a big change from the podcast.  He was more excited about the possibilities in the podcast, and more tortured in the book.

Cranor and Fink don’t like to keep things neat and tidy, that’s for sure.  But maybe it affected Carlos more than we thought.  It’s a very different Carlos that we see in this book, but maybe…I mean, it’s not like we see a lot of Carlos in the podcast.  I mean, we do, but not like this, and it’s a very different side of him.

As for the main story, I liked Nilanjana and Darryl’s story.  It’s more focused than the first book, and while it meanders, it’s not meandering the way the first book is.  We see the Joyous Congregation, which has been mentioned on the podcast, but this is a much closer look at the Joyous Congregation and the Smiling God.  And science!  And how they can be good or bad, depending on how you use it.  Darryl and Nilanjana work together to save Night Vale, and they each have their own unique perspective.

It definitely adds to the world, and it really shows how big Night Vale is.  There are a lot of stories to tell, and while I love Cecil, it’s also nice to see some of the other characters and people of Night Vale.  I also feel like they’ve gotten the hang of the novel format, and I’m sure any future Night Vale books will continue to get better.

With the first Night Vale book, I both listened to the audio book and read the book in print format.  Having been an avid listener of the podcast for years, I knew I would love it as an audio book.  It turned out that I didn’t love it in print, which is why I only listened to It Devours.  I love Cecil, and I can’t imagine experiencing Night Vale in any other format.  I’ve listened to Night Vale for years, and Night Vale in print is a very strange concept for me.

I would definitely recommend It Devours as an audio book, though it could be interesting in print as well.  It didn’t translate well the first time around, but maybe this time it well.

It Devours is a lot more philosophical as well.  It really examines science and religion, but they do it well.  There’s a very Night Vale take on both science and religion in this book, and it’s not science vs religion.  Which is nice.  It’s very kind towards both.  Weird, but kind.  We are talking about Night Vale here.

By the way…It Devours!  Yeah, I’ve totally read that book.  In case you didn’t pick up on that.

5 stars.  I loved It Devours! and it was a great book to listen to while I cleaned the heck out of my room.  I found myself paying more attention to the book than the cleaning, and it’s a big improvement on the first book (which I also loved).

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Book Review: The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Book: The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

Published December 2012 by Knopf|243 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction

A debut of extraordinary distinction: Ayana Mathis tells the story of the children of the Great Migration through the trials of one unforgettable family. 

In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented.  Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave.  She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage and the journey of a nation. 

Beautiful and devastating, Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is wondrous from first to last—glorious, harrowing, unexpectedly uplifting, and blazing with life. An emotionally transfixing page-turner, a searing portrait of striving in the face of insurmountable adversity, an indelible encounter with the resilience of the human spirit and the driving force of the American dream, Mathis’s first novel heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

I wasn’t as into this book as I thought I would be.  It seemed like it would be interesting, but I found the book to be cold and distant.

Considering the book is about Hattie’s children, you’d think she would have more of a role.  But she didn’t.  I got the impression that her kids didn’t have a lot of contact with her once they were adults, and that she was a cold, uncaring woman.

It felt more like a collection of short stories of people than a cohesive story told over decades.  Maybe even a series of stories connected by one or two characters.  There are a lot of time jumps and narrators, and while it worked for Homegoing and You Bring The Distant Near, it didn’t work for The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie.  I felt like her children were introduced and then abandoned- we were lucky if they were even mentioned again, and while we see Hattie throughout the book, it is from a distance.

And while you see the heartache and struggles each character goes through, it felt flat and one-dimensional.  There wasn’t anything to make me really care or feel invested in their stories.  She did do well with painting a picture of how oppressed Hattie’s family felt, and how she really seems to understand people who had limited options, and how much those limited options changed them.  I don’t necessarily need to like or relate to a character in order to like a book, but I found that I didn’t care about these characters or what happened to them.

1 star.  I couldn’t get into the book at all, and the structure didn’t work well for this story.

Book Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Book: Sing, Unburied, SIng by Jesmyn Ward

Published September 2017 by Scribner|304 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction

A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward.

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Ward is a major American writer, multiply awarded and universally lauded, and in Sing, Unburied, Sing she is at the height of her powers.

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.

I liked Sing, Unburied, Sing!  If you like Toni Morrison, this is the book for you, because Sing, Unburied, Sing is very much a story Toni Morrison would write.

I did find parts of the book confusing- notably with Richie and with Given.  It didn’t make a lot of sense, and while it didn’t feel completely out of place, it did take me out of what was going on.  It was jarring to go into their stories, and it’s integration into the book could have been better.  It is interesting, though, and Jojo’s family clearly has their demons (and ghosts), but the way it’s done in this book didn’t work for me.

I did struggle to get through this book, and I felt like I had to really work at getting through this book.  Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood for Sing, Unburied, Sing, since I had a hard time paying attention to what was going on.  But I do think part of it is the book.  You’re jumping around between past and present and different narrators, and it was hard for me to connect with any one person or thing that was going on.  It made things seem more convoluted than they really were.

It did take away from Jojo’s story and even Leonie’s story.  I can’t imagine having one parent in prison, and one who’s addicted to drugs and not around a lot.  He did have his grandparents, who did everything they could to make sure that he and his sister were okay, and in a loving home.  I can relate to growing up and being raised by your grandparents, but I really wanted more with them and Jojo.

The book certainly sounded beautiful, and while I wasn’t too interested in the story, there is something about the way that she writes.  Basically, the way I feel about Sing, Unburied, Sing is the same way I feel about every Toni Morrison book I’ve read- not super interested in the story, but way more fascinated and in love with the writing.  Morrison is much more…minimal…when it comes to writing, as opposed to Jesmyn Ward, but maybe I’ll give this book another read one day.  And I might give her other books a try as well, but I’m not too sure about that.

3 stars.  I liked but I didn’t love it.  The magical realism/supernatural elements took me out of the story, but the writing is beautiful, which is why Sing, Unburied, Sing isn’t getting a lower rating.  I can see why people love it, but it’s just not for me.

What I’ve Been Reading: The Fourth And Final Part

So I was going to try to fit this series of posts into 3 posts, but that would have meant the last part would have been insanely long, and I just didn’t feel like doing that, so I thought I’d try to get one more part out of it, especially since I have quite a few things to say about the last 3 books I wanted to talk about.

  • There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins.  When I saw Stephanie Perkins had a new book out, I knew I had to read it.  I loved Anna And The French Kiss and Isla And The Happily Ever After, and I figured I’d love this book as well.  Except I didn’t.  If Scream- or any of those teen horror movies from the late 90’s/early 2000’s- were in novel form, you’d have this book.  It wasn’t bad, but it just didn’t work as a book for me.  I think it could be interesting as an audio book, particularly for the chapters narrated by the murdered students.  I just don’t know that I liked it enough to give the audio book a try.  It wasn’t as suspenseful as I thought it would be, especially when we find out who’s behind everything.  And the reason why was lame, in my book.  I can understand being jealous but it seemed like a pretty weak reason to start killing people.  I also didn’t really care, considering we knew nothing about this character who barely appeared.  And Makani’s reason why she ended up in Nebraska was…boring.  It was really built up, and then I felt let down when it was revealed what had actually happened.  I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t that.  It had a lot more romance than I thought it would, and while I don’t mind romance, I think this book needed less romance and more suspense and tension.  There’s Someone Inside Your House gets 2 stars.
  • Girl In Translation by Jean Kwok, and narrated by Grayce Wey.  I did this book as an audio book, and I’m glad I did, because I really liked it as an audio book.  One thing that surprised me when I first started reading the book was the age of Kimberly.  I thought she was a lot older when the book started, and I was surprised when I found out how young she really was.  At the same time, it was nice because we see how much she changes after moving, and how hard she had to work to get what she wanted.  I really felt for Kimberly, and how she had to take on a lot because her mother spoke very limited English.  The apartment they lived in, and the fact that she had to help her mother at the factory just to finish the work on time.  And Aunt Paula was a horrible, abusive woman.  I was glad when Kimberly and her mother no longer had to rely on Aunt Paula to get by.  I can’t imagine going through what Kimberly went through, and how much I don’t see or realize because I don’t have to.  I can’t imagine living in such a horrible apartment and in terrible working conditions just to have a chance to live here and reach for something better.  I wasn’t a fan of the ending, because it was unexpected.  But I’m glad that things worked out for Kimberly, and she was still able to reach the goals that she had set for herself.  Girl In Translation gets 4 stars for a good look at what it’s like to be an immigrant in America.
  • Turtles All The Way Down by John Green.  I was both excited and nervous about this book when I heard that John Green had a new book.  Excited because it’s a new John Green book but also nervous because I loved TFIOS and Looking For Alaska, but didn’t care for his other books.  I ended up really liking it, and Aza is a great character.  She’s the most realistic of Green’s characters, and she was a lot more relatable than some of his other characters.  This book also focused on Aza’s mental health, and I really liked seeing that, because it really felt like it was something that John Green himself has lived through and dealt with.  And it was a nice change from the quirky teens falling in love that we usually see with his books.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s fine as well (and again, I did love TFIOS and Looking For Alaska) but it was still nice to see him do something different.  There’s still the philosophical conversations and trivia (both nerdy and regular trivia) that you see in a typical John Green book, and I will admit that it was nice to see that.  Aza’s struggles with OCD and anxiety were really well done.  And while everyone’s experiences are different as far as mental illness go, I still feel like it’s something that will speak to a lot of people.  I’m glad we got another John Green book, and that I really liked it, because TFIOS was such a big hit that I was nervous it wouldn’t.  I didn’t completely love it, but I did like it a lot more than I thought I would.  Turtles All The Way Down gets 4 stars.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part One

I’ve been reading quite a bit over the last few months, but I haven’t been in a mood to review anything.  But all of a sudden, I want to at least share some of what I’ve been reading.  I’m a bit fuzzy on some of the books, since it’s been a while for some of them, but I’ll do what I can.

  • I’ve read The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah.  I checked out this book from the library, and having read some of her other books, I knew I had to read this one.  I really liked it, and she has such unique characters.  Even though the book is set in Australia, the characters and beliefs are ones I can see happening here in America.  I liked seeing how much Michael changed, and I can see, very clearly, how he didn’t really think about what his parents thought and why they thought that way.  He really does make an effort to change how he thinks and to come up with his own beliefs.  I also liked seeing Mina’s experience, and how not everyone is like their parents.  My rating for this book is 4 stars.

Let’s see…I did read Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler.  This book seemed right up my alley when I bought it years ago, but when I finally read it over the summer, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.  I wasn’t a big fan of Anna’s best friend Frankie.  She seemed really self-absorbed and not willing to hear Anna out.  I get why she was upset, and that she was dealing with the loss of her brother, but that’s no reason to act the way she did.  Anna seemed to be there for her, which is good, but at the same time, it seemed like her parents were absent, and weren’t really around to help their daughter grieve.  I’d rate this book 3 stars.

  • I also read Control by Lydia Kang.  This one has a really cool idea- it sort of reminded me of X-Men, at least a little.  That’s pretty much all I remember.  That, and I was vaguely interested in reading the sequel.  I remember it being a futuristic world, with a lot of interesting technology.  It’s too bad I have forgotten it, but I’m pretty sure I liked it, so this book gets 3 stars.

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova.  I really liked The Historian when I read it years and years ago, and I didn’t know that the author had a relatively new book out.  I didn’t like The Shadow Land as much as The Historian, and I found myself skimming the more historical half of the book.  It didn’t really hold my interest the way her other book did, but it is written in a very similar style, which I liked.  I’d give this book 3 stars.

  • I finally read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood!  I feel like I need to do a post talking about the book and the movie, but for now, I’ll talk about the book briefly.  It’s scary how relevant this book still is, and how much of it still rings true.  I listened to the audio book, and I really liked it.  Claire Danes did a great job narrating The Handmaid’s Tale.  The only thing I didn’t like about it were the flashbacks.  They didn’t translate well to audio, and it wasn’t clear at first if we were in past or present.  I also could have done without the symposium epilogue part of the book.  It really took away from the horrors of what happened in the book, and while the idea of trying to piece together sources and the accuracy of said sources is interesting.  But I don’t think it really fit with the rest of the book.  The Handmaid’s Tale gets 4 stars.

Book Review: Origin by Dan Brown

Book: Origin by Dan Brown

Published October 2017 by Doubleday Books|461 pages

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

Series: Robert Langdon #5

Genre: Adult Fiction/Thriller/Mystery

Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao to attend a major announcement—the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself . . . and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery . . . and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us.

I randomly saw this book at the library on one of their displays, and I was intrigued so I figured I’d check it out.  I’ve enjoyed Brown’s books to varying degrees, and even with the ones I didn’t completely like, they’re still pretty quick reads and usually entertaining.  They’re certainly not boring, though they always seem to start off slow.  Origin was no exception to this.

It did take a while for the story to get set up, which I expected.  Still, it was slow-paced at first, but there was more action once things got going.  It wasn’t as action-packed as I thought, especially in comparison to his other books. It has been a while (years probably) since I’ve read a Dan Brown book, so maybe I’m remembering things differently.

There were a few connections to history (we are talking about Dan Brown here).  In this case, Spanish history, since the book is set in Spain.  I swear, Robert Langdon spends more time traveling than teaching.  I do like that Brown incorporates a lot of real places, people and artwork, and it felt like he put a lot of thought and research into the people, places and things we see in the book.  It is sort of topical- we see mentions of Uber, Disney, and fake news, and I did like the updates from the conspiracy website.  That seemed very timely as well.  Does that mean the book will be a little bit dated in a few years?  Probably, but for now, some of the pop culture references are pretty timely.

I am half tempted to see if that website goes anywhere, or if it’s made up.  It would be awesome if it did go somewhere, like a website for the book or something.

Is this book the typical Robert Langdon book?  Of course it is, so if Dan Brown isn’t your thing, you’ll probably want to stay away from this book.  On the other hand, if you’ve even remotely enjoyed his books, you’ll probably like it. While I don’t necessarily love his books or run out to get them, I always end up liking them and enjoying them.

One thing I wondered about is the lack of reference to the virus that was set loose in Inferno.  It’s like it never existed, and considering the revelation that Kirsch wanted the world to know, you’d think that would be incorporated into his presentation.  But it wasn’t, and that was a little strange to me.  The Da Vinci Code is referenced, though, which wasn’t surprising given that what the book is actually about.

It is sort of weird how all of the Robert Langdon books don’t really reference the other books.  They’re pretty contained, and with each book that comes out, it’s like the previous ones don’t really happen.  I’m willing to overlook it, though, because each book has enough going on as it is.

3 stars.  It’s not my favorite Dan Brown book but it’s not my least favorite either.  It was entertaining and a quick read, and I liked the setting and places we see in the book.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part Two

I thought I’d share some of the books I read earlier in the year and never got around to reviewing.  I talked about some of the books I read earlier in the year in this post, and figured I do another post since I had some more books to talk about.  All of the books were from the library.

Book One: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

What I Thought:

  • So, The Invisible Library is about Irene, a spy for a very mysterious Library, and her quest to retrieve a dangerous book from an alternate London
  • It’s a really good read-alike if you like the Eyre Affair…but instead of going into books, you’re going into parallel dimensions and alternate worlds to take their books for the sake of preservation and research
  • The library has a life of its own, and the librarians seem like an interesting bunch
  • I really want to know more about the librarians.  We get a little bit of the hierarchy and structure of the library, but not a lot, and I’m hoping we get more
  • The way I feel about the librarians is the same way I feel about the Library.  We get a general idea of the library and how it works but I want more
  • It is the first book in a series, so it is setting up for future books.  Hopefully we’ll see more
  • There are a lot of possibilities, though.  I mean, they go into parallel dimensions to retrieve books, and there are a lot of possibilities for future books.  It would be interesting to see how things could possibly spiral out
  • My Rating: 3 stars.  It’s a fun book to read, and great if you like books about books and libraries, but I wanted more about the Library and the librarians who work there.

Book #2: Carve The Mark by Veronica Roth

What I Thought:

  • Carve The Mark is about Cyra, who is pretty much able to torture people, and Akos, who has some power I cannot remember
  • I was really excited about this book, because I loved the Divergent series (even Allegiant, which I know people either love or hate), but I did’t like it as much as a thought
  • Well…what I remember, which isn’t much
  • Honestly, even though it’s set in space, it felt like it could have been set anywhere.  I kind of forgot it was space in space most of the time
  • It was really slow and confusing and I wasn’t a big fan of the dual narration
  • I don’t remember a lot about the book, and I honestly can’t remember what I liked or didn’t like.  I know I read it, but that’s pretty much it
  • I think it could be an interesting read-alike for fans of Graceling and An Ember In The Ashes
  • I vaguely remember that it’s slightly interesting blend of sci-fi and fantasy- there are element of both, and it didn’t feel like it was one or the other
  • My Rating?  2 stars.  I don’t remember enough to dislike it, but I don’t remember enough to like it

Book Three: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

What I Thought:

  • I really wish I re-read the first two books in the series first, because I had a hard time remembering what was going
  • I’m starting to like this series less and less, and I honestly thought this book was the last one
  • I was very surprised on learning this is, in fact, not the last book in the series.  I was disappointed with how it ended at first, because nothing felt resolved, but when I saw there were more books, the ending made a lot more sense
  • I was more bored reading this book than I was with the other books
  • Nothing stood out to me as interesting or memorable, and I couldn’t tell you a single thing that happened
  • I do like the overall premise of the series, and I am determined to finish it out…but part of me wonders if it’s being stretched out too much
  • Maybe I need to re-read the series before I make up my mind.  And maybe if I do re-read it, I’ll do an updated review
  • Rating: 2 stars.  It wasn’t very memorable, and I remember being bored when I was reading it.

Book #4: In A Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

What I Thought:

  • This book is bananas!
  • Seriously, what is going on with Clare and Nora?  Clare has some issues, as does Nora
  • I mean, Nora’s okay, but she was really hung up on a short-lived relationship that happened when she was 16.  I thought it was weird that she was so hung up on something that happened 10 years earlier
  • And Clare…I get that she was worried what people thought about her (don’t we all worry about that, to some degree?) but she took it to an extreme
  • To me, they acted a lot younger than they were.  Not that they have to act a certain way, just because they’re in their mid-twenties, but Clare in particular seemed very determined to get what she wanted
  • It was not as creepy as I thought it would be.  They’re in a cabin in the woods, and it’s pretty isolated from what I could tell.  But it was not at all creepy
  • I did want to keep reading, though, and to see who was killed and why.
  • Rating: I have to go with 2 stars on this one.  I just wanted something more creepy.

Book Review: The Flame Never Dies And Behold The Dreamers

the-flame-never-dies-coverBook #1: The Flame Never Dies By Rachel Vincent

Published August 2016 by Random House Children’s Books|241 pages

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

Series: Well Of Souls #2

Genre: YA Dystopia/Paranormal/Post-Apocalyptic

What It’s About: For fans of Cassandra Clare and Richelle Mead comes the unputdownable sequel to The Stars Never Rise, a book Rachel Caine, author of the bestselling Morganville Vampires series, called “haunting, unsettling, and eerily beautiful.”

ONE SPARK WILL RISE. Nina Kane was born to be an exorcist. And since uncovering the horrifying truth—that the war against demons is far from over—seventeen-year-old Nina and her pregnant younger sister, Mellie, have been on the run, incinerating the remains of the demon horde as they go.

In the badlands, Nina, Mellie, and Finn, the fugitive and rogue exorcist who saved her life, find allies in a group of freedom fighters. They also face a new threat: Pandemonia, a city full of demons. But this fresh new hell is the least of Nina’s worries. The well of souls ran dry more than a century ago, drained by the demons secretly living among humans, and without a donor soul, Mellie’s child will die within hours of its birth.

Nina isn’t about to let that happen . . . even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.

What I Thought: I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would.  I think a lot of it is that things were resolved pretty well in the first book, and it did work well as a stand-alone.  I don’t regret reading it, because The Flame Never Dies answers some questions and resolves some loose threads that came up in The Stars Never Rise.  But at the same time, it worked so well as a stand-alone that while I liked it, I’m also sort of meh about it.  What I think surprised me with this book is that, like the first book, things are resolved, with some loose threads and unanswered questions. From what I can tell, there will be only two books, so at least the overall story is resolved.  But things are open enough that there really could be another book in the series to answer those questions.

I was kept on the edge of my seat, though, and there were several times where you’re reading it, knowing that something is about to happen, and you’re just waiting for it to actually happen.  There weren’t a lot of surprises, but there were a few, and she does have a way of making you WANT to keep going.  There is part of me that wants more, but at the same time, I feel like, with this series, Vincent knew her stopping point and where things were headed.  It is nice knowing that the idea won’t get old because it’s being spread out over all of these books, and it easily could have gone that way.  But it didn’t, and I really appreciate that.

My Rating: 3 stars.  It’s enjoyable and fun, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first book.

behold-the-dreamer-coverBook #2: Behold The Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Published August 2016 by Random House|380 pages

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

Series: None

Genre: Adult Fiction/Adult Literary Fiction

What It’s About: Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

What I Thought: I ended up really liking it! Behold The Dreamers was a really good look at what it’s like to be in immigrant in the U.S. Things like the Great Recession and the collapse of Lehman Brothers really does have an effect on EVERYONE, and that was something I never thought about before. They came here for a better life, and they ended up not being able to stay, for a lot of different reasons- the biggest reason being their lawyer. Their lawyer didn’t seem all that great, or interested in truly helping them. I can easily picture families or people like the Jongas hiring a lawyer who seems more interested in the money they’re getting than actually helping their clients.

I felt for them, and how hard they both worked to have a better life for them and their children, only to have it change so much. They do end up going back to Cameroon, and it seems like they’re set financially over there, but they tried so hard to stay here. I felt like Behold The Dreamers showcased how desperate people are to come here and stay here, and how they will do anything to have a life here.

I definitely thought Jende and Neni were a lot more sympathetic than Jende’s employers.  I get they were affected by it to, but it was hard to sympathize with a family who seemed to be more interested in maintaining their lifestyle than actually trying to work on themselves.  They do seem to have their issues, but they were far more unlikable. The Edwards family were much meant to contrast the Jonga family, and you see how different things are for the privileged and those who come here, hopeful and wanting a better life.  Perhaps that is what Mbue was going for, and I did feel for all of the characters, even when it was hard to care about them and like them.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked seeing Jende and Neni come to the U.S., full of hope and optimism, only to have their dreams dashed.  It’s such a great read, and I really recommend it!

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: 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.