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January Book Reviews

28 Jan

Hello, fellow literature lovers! I’m back with some book reviews, and I’ve been reading a lot. The grand total for the month of January will be 7 books, if I finish the book I’m reading now before Thursday (which I definitely will, do you even know me? :)). So here are reviews on the past five books that I’ve read.

 

Deborah Harkness – A Discovery of Witches
Goodreads stars: four

I can’t give half stars on Goodreads, so I’m going to do that here. I give his book 4.5 stars! I loved this book. It is wonderfully written, but the first half is a little long-winded. It took awhile to get into the good stuff. I also think the first half is geared towards a certain crowd (people like me that enjoy literature about literature). The protagonist, Diana, is a witch. But she tries to suppress her witchiness by becoming a scholar. But she realizes, after meeting a stunningly handsome vampire, that she’s been practicing magic all along.

This novel reminded me a little of Twilight (yes, I’ve read Twilight. I was curious; we’ll call it scholarly interest. And yes, I hated it), because of the mingling between different creatures in the supernatural world. Of course it is a hundred thousand times better and Harkness writes very well. She tells a better story, too (I mean, that’s not hard to do; Stephenie Meyer writes like a high schooler in a mandatory creative writing course).

When I finished this book, I wanted to immediately read the next one. But I was warned that the third one isn’t out yet. I looked at Harkness’ website and she said it’s not even finished! Oh my. So, I decided against immediately devouring book #2. I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of the series, though.

 

Rick Riordan – The Sea of Monsters
Goodreads stars: four

This is the second novel in the Percy Jackson series. It was another really fun read. I’m drawing a blank on anything more analytical than this. It’s just a great series and I already have book #3 lined up in my queue. One great thing about these books, they’re really cheap ebooks. They’re all between $4 and $6 (roughly).

 

Paula McLain – The Paris Wife
Goodreads stars: five

This has probably been my favorite book this month. I had no idea what it was about, but I knew it had great reviews. To my most certain pleasure, it’s a fiction piece (based very closely on real-life events) about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, told from her point of view. I’m a big fan of early 20th century American novelists, so this was a great read. Hadley meets and becomes friends with a few major literary stars of this time period, like Gertrude Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas. They travel all over Europe, sometimes on a whim, and Hadley goes through the pain and torment of loving an artistic soul. The way that McLain describes their love is beautiful and heart wrenching. This was one of the few novels ever that has made me cry.

 

Ally Condie – Crossed
Goodreads stars: three

This is the second book in the Matched series. I wasn’t as impressed with this book as I was with the first one. The first half of the book felt like a lot of wasting time, not much happening, just running through deserts and canyons. And I’m not impressed with Condie’s prose. It seems like she’s trying too hard to be poetic. I’ll still read the third one though, to find out how it culminates.

 

Gail Carriger – Soulless
Goodreads stars: four

I just finished this one yesterday and I’m torn. Carriger has a way with words, that is certain, but sometimes her prose is cloying. When I first picked up the book (figuratively – I have a Nook), I had trouble getting into it. It felt like her words just didn’t flow, especially considering some of the character’s names, like Lord Akeldama or Miss Ivy Hisslepenny. If a character has a strange name that I have trouble saying, then I tend to just glaze over it and have a difficult time keeping track of that person.

Overall though, the story was great. It was a really fun read once I was able to pick up on her style. I like that she involved a person without a soul, with a man that’s a werewolf. It was great that by the end of it, one knows that being soulless doesn’t necessary mean one is without soul. The main character, Alexia Tarabotti, is a firecracker who speaks her mind, which I love. I definitely plan to read further into the series, but this book definitely took some time to become invested in.

 

I am also currently reading the first installment of the Lorien Legacies series by Pittacus Lore (or, James Frey and Jobie Hughes), I am Number Four. So far, I like it, but there are a lot of little contradictions in the story that I’m having trouble getting past. That’s all I’ll say on that one for now 🙂

Tell me: what are you reading?

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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!