Catching Up and November & December Book Reviews

2 Jan

(FYI, this is going to be a rather long catch-up post. You’ve been warned!)

I have been such a bad blogger and I apologize for that. But the holidays are for spending time with family and friends and I was a busy little worker getting gifts ready and well… working. This week still feels like the holidays since a lot of people took the whole week off from work. So, I figured, it’s quiet and slow enough right now that I can start the year off with talking about something I love. Books, of course 🙂 Did you have any doubt?

I was fortunate enough to receive the new Nook HD for Christmas from my mom. I don’t work for Barnes & Noble (anymore) so I am certainly not a spokesperson but this is a wonderful device. I did work for B&N for a while and left last year around February. I worked specifically at the Nook desk for a solid 5 months so I gained a lot of knowledge on the product and found that, objectively, it is superior to the Kindle. I know people have Kindles and they love them and all that, but overall, the Nook just has more options. You can add an SD card for extra space and you can read ePub formats on it, as well as many other awesome things along those lines that the Kindle doesn’t support. Not to mention the fact that I had a Kindle a few years ago and found it to not be what I wanted it to be, if that makes sense.

Secondly, I’ve been using the Overdrive app. A friend turned me onto it and at first, I was a little confused, and therefore frustrated because it wouldn’t work the way I thought it should. But eventually I figured it out and couldn’t love it more. It allows you to borrow eBooks from your local library; you just need a library card and a PIN that you set up at your library or on their website. It works just like the library does but you do everything on your phone or tablet, including searching for a book, requesting it, downloading it, reading it and returning it. You can keep it for 21 days and then it gets returned and sent to the next person. I highly recommend the app for anyone that reads as much as I do and doesn’t have the money or space to support buying up to 5 new books a month.

Veronica Roth – Divergent
Goodreads stars: four
Taken from my Goodreads review: “I really enjoyed this book. I was feeling like some teen fiction and this fit the bill. There’s action, love, friendship and it’s all set in a dystopian Chicago. I think a lot of people could relate to the characters Roth has created. I especially enjoyed the bonus material in the back. Including each faction’s manifesto made it all a little more cohesive.”
As I was reading, I felt like I was there with the characters. My heart leapt when Beatrice jumped off the roof into the net. I felt the wind rushing through my hair when they rode the trains. All in all, this was a great read. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a little action, a little dystopia and some danger.

Chris Cleave – Little Bee
Goodreads stars: four
This book was heart-wrenching. The way Chris Cleave weaves words is marvelous. At times I had a hard time following the story, but overall, it was a great read. If you want to be really sad, read this book.

Tim Wise – Between Barack and a Hard Place
Goodreads stars: four
If you’re interested, this is some great non-fiction, racial theory. I read Wise’s White Like Me in grad school and he is a fantastic writer. He’s able to take an objective viewpoint about hotly debated topics and relate them to you in a way that anyone can understand. I heard him speak at California State University, Sacramento, where I went to grad school, and it was like his words were coming to life. This book is specifically about racism in the time of Barack Obama, the time of the first black president. He writes two essays that compose the short but difficult-to-get-through book and discusses what he calls two different kinds of racism: Racism 1.0 (or good ole fashion racism) and Racism 2.0 (or racism in that people think there is no racism anymore because whites elected a black president). I would recommend reading White Like Me first as it is a little easier to get through than the essays, but both are worth the time if you’re at all interested in how racism really affects everything.

 

Richard K. Massie – Catherine the Great
Goodreads stars: four
Wow, this book! I had started reading it when I worked at B&N but only got through about 80 pages and definitely wanted to pick it up again. This was the first book I read on the Overdrive app and it took me quite a long time. It is an absolutely wonderful read, though, even if it is incredibly long. Massie writes in so much detail that it feels like I could have been friends with Catherine myself. The only issue I had with it is that he writes chronologically but also, not. If a new character emerged in Catherine’s life, he would go back to the beginning of that character’s lifetime and discuss his or her background, which I sometimes found confusing. It makes sense though instead of introducing everyone at once, but I felt like he got sidetracked at times and told other plot lines in great detail that just included too much information that only informed a small piece of Catherine’s story.

Ally Condie – Matched
Goodreads stars: four
After a long-winded biography, a nice little YA fiction was exactly what I needed to cleanse my proverbial palette. I had seen this series at B&N and the cover turned me off, but I’m not sure why. After reading a brief description of it, it sounded like something I might like. Ally Condie seemed to take a few notes from Lowry’s The Giver and Levin’s This Perfect Day, both of which were great reads. It is set in a place called Society where everything is simplified. All wear the same clothes and get assigned jobs and are even “matched” with their perfect counterpart, based on science and biology to basically create the most perfect human race. Of course there are snags in their system which is what makes it a great read.

Rick Riordan – The Lightning Thief
Goodreads stars: five
I had requested all sorts of YA fiction from the library to read on my Overdrive app and the library sent me a few, rapid fire. I had no preconceptions about this novel going into it; I had only read a very brief synopsis of it. Long story short, I loved it. This is one of the greatest YA novels I’ve ever read. Not only was it an enjoyable read, but I learned so much about Greek mythology. The gist of the story is that Percy Jackson, 12 years old, finds out he’s a half-blood, meaning he’s half Greek god. And it turns out someone stole Zeus’ lightning bolt and made it look like someone else did it, and Percy has to restore everything to its normal order. I had so much fun reading this book and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. I think it’s a great read for anyone, any age.

Philip Pullman – The Golden Compass
Goodreads stars: four
This was another great YA fiction novel. I had a slightly harder time following it because of the inventions that Pullman adds into the mix but it was still a fantastic read. The protagonist is a bit younger but I don’t think it is as youth-friendly a novel as The Lightning Thief. Some of the scientific concepts felt like they were almost over my head, but then again, I don’t have a head for science or math, so that shouldn’t be surprising. This book also felt a bit long for being a youth series. I still had a ton of fun reading it, but it might not be suitable for audiences that are around the age of the protagonist.

Emma Donoghue – Room
Goodreads stars: four
I started this novel on December 29th or 30th, I think, but I finished it yesterday, so I’m counting it towards my Goodreads goal of 50 new books for the year.
The story is told from the viewpoint of a 5 year old boy named Jack. He has lived his whole life in one room with his mother who was taken captive 2 years prior to his birth and locked in a shed in a man’s backyard to be kept as a sex slave. But because it is from Jack’s viewpoint, you see everything as he would, and you must infer what is actually happening. If any of you have read or heard anything about the Jaycee Lee Dugard story or any stories like it, you will have a pretty good idea of what is going on that Jack doesn’t totally understand. I read the Q&A provided at the end of the book and Donoghue took a few cues from stories such as this and stated that she did too much research. There are some things in her book that she did take from actual accounts and statistics. While it is a totally fictitious novel, she does a great job of sucking you in with the harrowing details.
Another interesting fact: I read a book in high school that I loved and lost a copy of, called Slammerkin, about a young girl in 18th century England that gets turned out of her house and becomes a prostitute; and it turns out Emma Donoghue wrote it. She is such a fantastic writer that she can cross genres and do it very well, which not a lot of authors do.

What are you reading right now? Do you have any great recommendations you’d love to share? I can’t wait to see what kind of great novels 2013 comes with!

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2 Responses to “Catching Up and November & December Book Reviews”

  1. lazylauramaisey January 3, 2013 at 5:08 am #

    Favourite recent reads are Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeta Naslund and The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynd.

    • paigetopus January 3, 2013 at 9:11 am #

      awesome! I added both to my ‘to-read’ list 🙂

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