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.
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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!

Book Review: The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent

The Stars Never Rise CoverBook: The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent

Published June 2015 by Delacorte Press|384 pages

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

Series: The Stars Never Rise #1

Genre: YA Dystopia/Paranormal

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Sixteen-year-old Nina Kane should be worrying about her immortal soul, but she’s too busy trying to actually survive. Her town’s population has been decimated by soul-consuming demons, and souls are in short supply. Watching over her younger sister, Mellie, and scraping together food and money are all that matters. The two of them are a family. They gave up on their deadbeat mom a long time ago.

When Nina discovers that Mellie is keeping a secret that threatens their very existence, she’ll do anything to protect her. Because in New Temperance, sins are prosecuted as crimes by the brutal Church and its army of black-robed exorcists. And Mellie’s sin has put her in serious trouble.

To keep them both alive, Nina will need to trust Finn, a fugitive with deep green eyes who has already saved her life once and who might just be an exorcist. But what kind of exorcist wears a hoodie?

Wanted by the Church and hunted by dark forces, Nina knows she can’t survive on her own. She needs Finn and his group of rogue friends just as much as they need her.

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I really liked The Stars Never Rise!  I’ve only read her Soul Screamers series, which I really liked, and now I’m kicking myself for not picking up another one of her books.

This is a very interesting world- one where there was a war against demons, and now, the Church is in charge of everything, because they are the only ones who can do anything against the demons.  I assumed the Church to be the Catholic church, partially because some of it seemed either really similar or exactly the same, and partially because they’re the only ones with enough power to basically function as a government.

Some of the reveals aren’t surprising, but there were a couple that had me a little surprised.  The Stars Never Rise definitely made me want to keep reading.  It’s action-packed but there were some funny moments, and I really liked the relationship Nina and Mellie had.  I felt for Nina, who was the one looking out for Mellie and making sure Mellie was okay.  It’s a lot of responsibility, but it seemed liked Nina did the best she could.  She wasn’t perfect, of course, and I doubt she could have stopped Mellie, but it seemed liked she tried.

I’m not sure how I feel about the romance- it’s different, and I like Finn, but…I don’t know.  I haven’t completely warmed up to it.  Maybe in the next book?

Speaking of the next book…I like that things are pretty resolved in this book, and yet, you’re left with the sense that the story isn’t over, and there is more of this world that we need to see and explore.  I feel like the sequel is going to add to the world.  Or at least, I hope it does.

I am curious about how demons came to be in this world, and what led to the war and the Church coming into power.  I don’t recall it being explained, and I’m hoping it’s something we see in the sequel, mostly because I’m curious.  I’m fine with the fact that we know it happened, but I guess I want more specifics.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  The Stars Never Rise definitely kept me reading, but I do want to know more about the demons.

Book Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

The Jewel CoverBook: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

Published September 2014 by HarperTeen|249 pages

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

Series: The Lone City #1

Genre: YA Dystopia

Blog Graphic-What It's About

“Today is my last day as Violet Lasting. Tomorrow I become Lot 197.”

The Jewel is a shocking and compelling new YA series from debut author, Amy Ewing.

Sold for six million diamantes, Violet is now Surrogate of the House of the Lake in the centre of the Lone City, the Jewel. Her sole purpose is to produce a healthy heir for the Duchess – a woman Violet fears and despises.

Violet is trapped in a living death, her name and body no longer her own. She fights to hold on to her own identity and sanity, uncertain of the fate of her friends, isolated and at the mercy of the Duchess.

The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Other Boleyn Girl in a world where beauty and brutality collide.

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I thought The Jewel was an interesting idea, and it reminded me of quite a few dystopias out there- The Hunger Games, the Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano, The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, The Selection by Kiera Cass, and there was something about the book that made me think of Divergent too, and I think there’s something about some of the events that happen in this book (and could potentially happen in the next one), that we could see elements of Divergent in the rest of the series.  So basically, I was reminded of some of the more well-known dystopias out there, and it’s why it ended being just okay.

I spent a lot of the book comparing to other books in the same genre, and that worked against the book, because it was similar enough to other books that I was bored and thought it to be a little bit predictable.  I did finish it, and I did like it, because the overall idea was interesting enough to keep me reading and caught my interest just enough that I wanted to give it a try.

I thought Violet was lackluster.  I think part of it is that she wants to tell people her name, instead of her lot number, but she’s constantly referred to as 197 or the surrogate.  That was one of the more interesting things about the book, because in a way, it makes her less human if she’s nameless.  I do wonder if that’s partially why I felt disconnected, because everyone viewed her as someone who will produce a child, instead of an actual person.

The only thing I remember about her is that she plays the cello, but beyond that, I feel like there’s nothing special about her.  She’s special but there seems to be no reason for why she’s so special.  At least, we don’t find out what that is in this book.  And if she’s so special and can do things no one else can, why was she lot 197, and not lot 200? That makes no sense at all.

There was romance, but it didn’t stand out, and there’s not much to say about it, because it was boring, and didn’t get my attention.  It’s undeveloped and sudden, and quite honestly, I’m not sure why it’s even in the book.

I have a lot of unanswered questions about this world, and the little world-building we get doesn’t explain much.  It felt like it wouldn’t hold up if you looked at it too closely, because we only get bits and pieces of why there are surrogates and not much else.

I’m honestly not sure if I’ll be reading the next one.  I don’t necessarily have a problem continuing on with the series, and with how the last few pages went, I am curious about what’s going on. It’s definitely enough that I’m considering reading at least the next one, but I don’t think it will be anytime soon.

I’ve never read The Handmaid’s Tale so I’m not sure about that comparison, but I don’t get the comparison to The Other Boleyn Girl.  Granted, it’s been quite a few years since I’ve read it, so maybe I’m missing something, but from what I do remember, I don’t get the comparison at all.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

2 stars.  I wanted to give it a higher rating, because I do like the overall idea, but I was too reminded by the similarities to other books to really enjoy it.

Book Review: The Crown by Kiera Cass

The Crown CoverBook: The Crown by Kiera Cass

Published May 2016 by HarperTeen|279 pages

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

Series: The Selection #5

Genre: YA Dystopia

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When Eadlyn became the first princess of Illéa to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.

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Going into The Crown, I wasn’t sure what to think.  I loved the 1st and 3rd books in the series, and liked the 2nd and 4th books.  I loved America’s story, but I wasn’t a big fan of Eadlyn’s story, and thought she came across as distant, selfish and whiny in The Heir.

As it would turn out, I loved The Crown, and thought it was such a great ending to the series.  Maybe, with this series, I only love the odd-numbered books?

I really felt for Eadlyn in this book, and she had a lot of tough choices.  As much as I felt for her, though, I also thought she didn’t really understand what was going on in Illea.  She didn’t seem to care about her people until the end of the book, and I wish we saw more of that in the book, because she seemed more interested in her image, and what they thought of her, instead of what was best for them and actually listening to them about what they need.  She did take a step in the right direction, and as much as she talked about how the Selection changed her, something about it didn’t ring true to me.  I think it’s because it felt so sudden, and it didn’t match up with the Eadlyn we saw in the previous book, and for quite a bit of this one.

Still, as spoiled and distant as Eadlyn seemed, I also get why she was that way.  It can’t have been easy being the daughter of America and Maxon, and knowing that people, for whatever reason, didn’t like her (or at least, seemed to dislike her).  I think a lot was put on her shoulders, and there was a lot that people maybe expected from her, and with everything that happened in the series so far, I think I understand her a little bit better.  I do wish we saw little changes in her, because the Eadlyn we see at the end of the book…I wanted more of that Eadlyn to come through.  I am glad we saw that, though, and it will have to be enough.

And I did find myself getting teary-eyed at the end of the book…not the way I wanted to spend my lunch break, but oh well, there’s nothing I could have done about that.  I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t cry when reading.  I think a re-read of the series is in order, though, because I had some trouble remembering who some people were.  And the Illea that we see at the end of the book is different than the Illea we see at the beginning of the series.  I kind of want to see that Illea- the one that Eadlyn proposes at the end of the book.  I don’t know if we ever will, but I am curious about it.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

5 stars.  I just loved this book!  It’s been a while since I’ve loved a book the way I loved The Crown, and the sort of book The Crown is…it’s been few and far between this year.  Hopefully, I’ll find a few more like it this year.

Book Review: Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Stars Above CoverBook: Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Published February 2016 by Feiwel & Friends|369 pages

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

Series: Lunar Chronicles #4.5

Genre: YA Fairy Tale Re-Telling/Dystopia

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The enchantment continues…

The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories—and secrets—that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?

With nine stories—five of which have never before been published—and an exclusive never-before-seen excerpt from Marissa Meyer’s upcoming novel, Heartless, about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.

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Since this is a short story collection, I thought I’d talk about each story.  I’m going in the order that they appear in Stars Above.

  1. The Keeper: This is the first story in the book, and it’s about Scarlet’s grandmother and how Cinder came to be under her care.  I really liked it, because we only get a glimpse of her grandma in Scarlet, and we get to know more about her.
  2. Glitches: This story is all about how Cinder came to live with Garan and his family.  I feel like this story gives some insight into why Adri treats Cinder the way she does- not completely, but enough to not really like Adri.
  3. The Queen’s Army: This story is about the army Levana built, and we see Wolf and how he became Wolf!  I liked it, but it’s not one of my favorites.
  4. Carswell’s Guide To Being Lucky:  It’s not one of the more memorable stories, and it’s not one of my favorites, but I did like seeing Carswell at a young age.
  5. After Sunshine Passes By: I loved it, mostly because it’s about Cress, and how she came to live on the satellite at such a young age.  I also really loved Cress- I can’t decide if I love Winter or Cress more, as far as the main series goes, so it’s no surprise this was one of my favorites!
  6. The Princess And The Guard: This is another one of my favorites, because we see how Winter got her scars, and why she stopped using her gift.  I really felt for Winter!
  7. The Little Android: This is my least favorite of the group.  Even though it’s set in the same world as the other stories, we only briefly see Cinder, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the other stories.  It is a really good re-telling of The Little Mermaid, though.
  8. The Mechanic: I’m sort of in the middle on this one.  It’s a scene we see in Cinder, where Kai stops by Cinder’s stall to have her fix Nainsi, but from Kai’s point of view.  Which was nice to see, but at the same time…I don’t know, I’m feeling neutral about it.
  9. Something Old, Something New: After The Princess And The Guard and After Sunshine Passes By, this is my favorite.  It’s an epilogue of sorts, to the entire series, but especially Winter.  I loved catching up with all of the characters and seeing what they were up to.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  I ranged from not liking a story (The Little Android) to loving a couple stories (After Sunshine Passes By and The Princess And The Guard), with everything else falling somewhere in the middle.  It’s a pretty good addition to the Lunar Chronicle series, and most of the stories (except for Glitches) was new to me, so it was nice to have new stories for one of my favorite series.  It’s also nice to have all 9 stories in one volume, and it’s a great book for any fan of the series.