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Book Review: Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak

Wonders of the Invisible WorldWonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak

352 pages
YA, Magical realism, LGBT
Read 9-29 to 10-11

Wonders of the Invisible World was recommended to me by a friend, who said she read it in one sitting and absolutely loved it. I took the rec knowing her particular suggestions to me are usually either hit or miss. I either love them to bits or can’t even finish them. This is the first time I think I’ve read a book recommended by her where it landed somewhere in the middle.

This book is set in modern day and follows a teenage boy who feels he has no idea who he is or what his life is about. He walks around in a fog, wondering when his life left him in the dust. When a friend from his childhood reappears, it triggers a series of events that slowly reveal that his life was actually as distant and detached as he thought it was, and that someone was making it that way on purpose. I’ll stop the synopsis there, only saying in addition that this book has both magical realism and LGBT themes, which is a combination I personally haven’t read before.

First and foremost, I feel like this book tried to be a mystery and couldn’t quite get there. There were a couple twists that I predicted early on and when they happened exactly how I thought they would, it was a bit of a yawn. This book didn’t surprise me at all, despite the supernatural elements mentioned that could have been used to do so. The characters as well I felt were a bit lacking. The main character Aiden, that one who’s always complaining about not knowing who he is or what his personality is, really conveyed that. I had no clue what this kid’s personality was. He was pretty damn flat. So… is that good characterization because he knew he was flat or was it bad? Haven’t the foggiest, but as a result I couldn’t relate or sympathize to him very well, which was probably a contributing factor why the twists did nothing for me.

The plot itself was interesting if a bit slow-moving. This was probably my favorite part of the book, regardless of the untwisty twists. Aiden’s memory and personality are in a fog and he starts hearing and seeing things that no one else can. The tree in his back yard starts speaking to him, he witnesses his great grandfather fighting in WW2, and all of it connects to why he’s such a bore, I mean why he’s so confused with himself. As the plot unraveled, I did start to feel something for the characters. Not the main characters, but his mother and his romantic interest. Both of them stood out to me more than Aiden did unfortunately. I ended up really disliking one and liking the other but at least I felt something towards them.

The thing I think this book handled the best was the romance. It wasn’t really.. romantic, I guess, but it felt real, natural. In every LGBT book I’ve read, there’s always some big confrontation before the characters relationship can get started: some realization, some fight with family, something that says ‘this is out of the norm and this book is gonna milk it’. But this book, the relationship just kinda… happened. There wasn’t any fighting from parents, there wasn’t any disowning, there wasn’t any ideological monologue as the main character realized he had feelings for another man… he just accepted it and rolled with it, as did his boyfriend and his family. It was a nice to see an LGBT relationship not put on a pedestal or highlighted as different or bad – it just popped in there like any other relationship would and both characters actually handled it in a mature manner (gasp, no drama!)

So overall, with the pros and cons mentioned above, I liked this book. Didn’t love it, but liked it well enough. So it gets a decent rating from me.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Happy reading. :”D

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Posted by on 10/11/2016 in Books, Review

 

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Book Review: A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)A Feast For Crows by George R. R. Martin
A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 4

Listened June 1st – 20th, 2016
Fantasy
30-something hours long

Where do I even start with this book. Reading it, I had so many different thoughts and feelings that I began writing them all down so I wouldn’t forget anything… and likely, I’ll still forget some things.

Let’s just say overall I liked it and I feel it was a good addition to the story arc, but man did I have some issues with it. As I’ve stated in my June wrap-up, this book knocked me out of the blind-love I had for this series. Don’t get me wrong – I still very, very much enjoy it, but this book highlighted some things that I didn’t find particularly amusing.

And before I go any further: This review will be mildly spoilerific. I won’t mention any deaths specifically, but I will mention elements of scenes in passing. So if you want to be blind about this one, back out now. If you don’t mind a bit of non-necessary detail, dive on in.

 The first notable thing about this book is the huge expansion of characters and locations. Some of the chapter titles were things like ‘The Queenmaker’, making it impossible to know who was being talked about until the chapter actually began. Many times, these oddly named chapters were new characters altogether. It gave an air of excitement to reading the thing – you’d never know where in this world you’ve find yourself. I really enjoyed the massive expansion and the world building. More motivations, more intrigue. This book series is amazingly detailed, and I love it. I always appreciated the family lists that were in the back of the book, but this time they became essential. So. Many. People. Wanting so many different things. I feel like when all these separate motivations finally come together, this book series is going to blow me out of the water.

Another thing I want to mention has to do with the general attitude people get when reading this book. Looking into other reviews, there seems to be a bit of an argument going on. To preface, for those who don’t know, the time line of this book takes place simultaneously as the time line in the fifth book. This book focuses on one set of characters while the other another set. A lot of people I’ve seen have issues with the particular set of characters focused on in this book. So you have one side, ripping into the book for not having their favorite characters, and you have another side, ripping into the first side for complaining. And then you have another side, ripping into both other sides for whoever knows what reason.

So it really depends on where you fall into the spectrum how much you will enjoy this book. Personally, I enjoyed it. It definitely was a bit slow – all the focus characters, save a few, were those involved in the politics of the land. So if you don’t like political intrigue, there’s a reason you might find this book lacking. What this book did have though was character development. Characters that I was luke warm towards before have become my favorites – namely Jaime and Brienne. Both of them, I love. And Cersei… well, I still dislike Cersei, but I can see her motivations and her feelings now that chapters have been written from her point of view. It makes her feel more real instead of just this antagonistic force.

One small issue I had with this book were the off-scene deaths. People were mentioned in passing and the characters were like ‘Oh, we had news so and so is dead now’ but it would be one of the characters not mentioned in this book so we wouldn’t see it happen. My biff with this is small, solely for one reason: I know about the book five timeline. Book five was clearly out before I read this one, so I know that (hopefully) I’ll read from these characters’ POVs and get my questions answered as to whether or not they truly died. I feel like if I was reading this book right as it had come out, before book five, before knowing about this timeline stuff, that I would be rather sore about it. I don’t know – maybe I’m being silly, but it left a foul taste in my mouth.

And finally, the main issue with this book was also something I really liked – the characterization. As said, the character development was wonderful, but on the other hand, it was grating. I’ve mentioned before the love/hate relationship I have with how George R. R. Martin writes women. On the one hand, I love how different each one is, each with their own goals and motivations and personalities. And my favorite part: Not all of them are strong. I know that’s probably a weird thing to be happy about, but it makes them all realistic. I’m not saying they’re flat characters – not at all – but not all of them have nerves of steel or can kick ass. Some of them are weak, and that’s a good thing. Not all people are strong, so it would be weird to write them that way.

On the other hand, the issue I have with the female characters in this book ties in to the book’s tone over all. This book, while full of wonderful women and terrible women, is still clearly written from a male perspective. Now, I know that George R. R. Martin is in fact a man, so I guess it’s expected, but it still struck me how male the women were. Case in point: When a new female character was introduced, even when in a chapter told from another straight female character’s POV, that woman’s chest size was mentioned in the initial description of that character. I could understand a mention if the chapter was a straight man’s or a gay woman’s POV, but the women who noticed how big other women’s boobs were had been established as heterosexual. And sure, a passing glance would be fine – I’ve noticed women’s chests upon meeting them but it’s never more than that – a notice. I don’t focus, I don’t wonder. But they seemed to focus on them for just a bit too long, making me feel like there was another looking instead. It made me feel like the tone of this book said now how matter how weak or strong or in the middle this woman was, all the mattered was how big her chest was, because it was mentioned every time. I mean if it’s a sex scene – sure, describe some boobs. Boob yourself to death for all I care. But if you’re in the middle of a counsel meeting or whatever, is that detail relevant? Especially coming from someone who (in theory) wouldn’t focus on it anyways?

Maybe I’m alone in this, who knows. But it irritated me, mostly because it was so one-sided. Did I get to read about man butt? Man forearms? Man peen? No. Wasn’t relevant, wasn’t mentioned. But boobs are relevant all the time, apparently. So like I said: I have a huge love/hate relationship with how the women are characterized in this book.

Sigh. Enough of that.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I can understand why people have had issues with it. I still highly enjoy this series, but I’m seriously getting tired of reading about boobs. Gonna read  the next one, hopefully will love it. Wish me luck.

Rating: 4/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 07/16/2016 in Books, Review

 

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Book Review: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse, #1)Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Read January 21, 2016 – May 2, 2016
Pages: 561
Genre: Science fiction

Leviathan Wakes is a space opera set after human kind has made it out among the planets of our solar system, but not past them. It primarily follows two characters, both with very different perspectives on the same morals.

There’s Miller, a cop from the asteroid belt obsessed with a missing persons case, and Holden, an ice miner from Earth that finds a ship he was not supposed to.

And I must say, that I loved this book so, so, so much.

Usually, the possibility of me loving a book happens towards the end of it and solidifies if the ending is what I hoped it would be. But with this one, I was smitten 80 pages in. There was just something about it – the world building, the characters, the writing, the intermittent horror and shock elements mixed into the scifi setting. All of it just blended together so well and caught me hook, line and sinker.

The story opens on the two characters – Miller as stated is given an assignment to track down a missing woman who ran away from home to find adventure among the stars, and Holden, in the middle of a mining mission when he finds himself in a compromising situation that catalyzes the entire story. Their paths slowly come together, their two seemingly unrelated situations being anything but. Conspiracy, action, horror, and even touches of noir all effected the tone of this book and it was intoxicating.

The book was full of cliffhangers and jaw-droppers and I found myself yelling at the damn thing many times. You know those books where something happens in them and you just have to close it and take a minute to catch your breath or come to terms with the latest string of events? Well, this book did that for me more times than I could count.

I think one of my favorite things about this book is the time setting. You either read books about humans solely on Earth or humans after they’ve spread out amongst the stars. You never early about the early stages – where we’ve achieved space travel but haven’t left the solar system yet. It was unique read as it didn’t feel like it took place thousands of years from now. Hundreds, maybe. Enough time for outer-planet dialects to develop, for humans to disperse to Mars, to the belt, and each area develop their own society, all held together by the fragile bond of shared humanity. It was a fascinating dynamic and it left me wanting more.

I finished this book and was tempted to change out of my pjs at 8pm and go out the to bookstore and be ‘that person’ showing up five minutes before close just so I could buy the second one. I need it, I tell you.

I haven’t yet – I managed to convince myself to write this first, and there’s a Pens game on… but I might still bite the bullet and go. Forty minutes and counting until the bookstore closes. Woot.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

 
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Posted by on 05/02/2016 in Books, Review

 

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Book Review: The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Read Jan 29 – Mar 28
Fantasy
434 pages

Going into this book, I expected a semi-generic YA fantasy, but that was okay since that’s what I was in the mood for. The first thing I realized that this is not YA, not by a long shot. The second thing I realized was that this main character was going to make or break this story for me.

So yes, this is definitely an adult fantasy. I didn’t know this going into it, and honestly I didn’t realize it wasn’t YA for a good hundred pages or so until a particular scene happened and my eyebrows shot up and disappeared into my hairline. It reads just like one though, which is nice – I tend to like the pacing of YA novels. But holy cow, some of the content of this book. Sex, violence, drug use. I was not expecting it at all. So once I realized that this was a fantasy book with more mature themes, I quickly adjusted and found myself rather enjoying it.

The world this book is set in is really, really cool. It’s in a regressed society on Earth where a new continent has popped out of the ocean. The book takes places hundreds of years after this emergence and the Great Crossing, the time where the Americas and several other countries crossed over and came to settle it. There are hints throughout the book that the rest of the world is no longer functioning or at least is out of contact, and I feel like this might be explored more in the future – I sure hope it is, at least. And to top it off, there appears to be a magic element present on this continent that didn’t exist on the rest of the planet, giving the world an added layer of depth and the genre of ‘fantasy’ instead of just a regressed society novel.

I think one of my favorite parts of the setting were the books. The main character is a bit of a book lover and since The Crossing, there are only a limited number of books existing still. “The volumes of Rowling” were mentioned. It was great. xD

The plot I found good but slightly cliched. It’s about a girl who was hidden away but is the true queen of her kingdom. So typical ‘from rags to power’ trope and ‘suddenly I command an army’ trope. While I feel like I’ve read the plot before, it didn’t detract much from my enjoyment of the thing. I just hope it breaks away from the mold a bit in the next novel. The writing helped this storyline a lot. During the violent scenes, it was gritty. During the action scenes, it was heart-racing. The author can definitely write to her scene, it was great.

The only issue I had with this book was the main character. I didn’t dislike her – not by a long shot, but sometimes I felt she was a little unbelievable, if that makes sense. She was raised in the woods with only two other people to socialize with for years, yet she seems to be perfectly normal. Nothing seems to be off. Like, if you’re raised in seclusion like that, you would definitely be missing some social skills, let alone world views. The author mentioned that she read a lot and seemed to imply that somehow that made up for not going through social situations like any human would, but I found it hard to buy. That, and she seemed to be arrogant at times and then was applauded for it. That though is just my personal tastes – I tend not to care for arrogant characters. She kept it mostly in check though, so it didn’t bother me too much. But yeah, dem social skillz, man. She’s better adjusted than I am for goodness sake.

Overall, this was a really good read and the writing was rather gripping. I’m eagerly awaiting the second book in the series and will hopefully devour it just as avidly as I did the first one.

Rating: 4/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 03/28/2016 in Books, Review

 

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Book Review: Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It (Last Survivors, #1)Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Read Feb 25, 2016 – Mar 8, 2016
Genre: YA Post-Apocalyptic
Pages: 337

Synopsis from the back of the book:
“When a meteor hits the moon and knocks it closer in orbit to the Earth, nothing will ever be the same. Worldwide tidal waves. Earthquakes. Volcanic eruptions. And that’s just the beginning.”

I have very mixed feelings about this book. Going into it, the premise really lured me in. When I think ‘post apocalyptic book’, I think ‘after’, not ‘as it’s happening’, so it was nice to read a story that started during a normal time, if that makes sense.

In that way at least, I enjoyed this book. The premise as stated was really cool (and horrifying) and the things that the family did to survive in this book got me thinking about where I’d go if that same thing happened during my lifetime, and I have to say that I feel like I’ll end up as one of those people that dies right away. But anyways.

This book is written in the form of diary entries by a sixteen year old girl. And it definitely feels like it. The writing is on the level of a 16 year old, which normally would have bothered me, but I attributed it to fitting the character. The character, while she tried, was really irritating at times, which detracted from my liking of the book. She was selfish to the point where she would get angry about losing ‘personal space’ so her family could stay warm in the winter. I rolled my eyes a few different times while reading from her perspective. The other characters in the book, even her younger brother, seemed to be developing at a better pace, adjusting better to the situation, but not Miranda. That scene I mentioned where she got angry, that happened within the last hundred pages of the book.

There were two other major detractors about this book. One is the plot twists. Everything that happened either the characters knew about ahead of time and were still caught off guard by when they occurred, or the instances were totally predictable. I feel like the author used a couple of these incidents as a plot device to make things harder on the family in the book. I mean, one person managed to injure themselves in the same way twice, resulting in the same strife for the rest of the family each time. You’d think there’d be a bit more creativity there.

The other major detractor was something that kind of caught me off guard. Back a while ago, a friend noticed I was reading this book and said “What, no, don’t read that, it’s awful” and now I see why she thought so. I feel like the author put her opinions into the book for no other reason than to have them in there. The main character is rather anti-religious and it’s mentioned quite a lot towards the beginning of the book. That on its own is fine – I’m not going to judge what a person (or character) chooses to believe or not believe. But I feel like the author is anti-religious to the point where she put this theme in her book just so she could bash religion and those who practice it. Case in point, one of Miranda’s friends is very religious and this friend (and her pastor) are portrayed in such a negative light that it was cringeworthy to read. I mean sure, there are bad eggs in every religion, but the way this was written, there was not a single character that didn’t represent the ‘crazy’ side of religion and overall the book said ‘Having a religious faith when the world is coming to an end is awful, why would anyone do that’. I mean really. Religious or not, one has to acknowledge religion’s importance in the world. It gives people comfort and you know, the majority of religious people are good, kind-hearted individuals (no matter what the media wants you to believe). But apparently not in this book.

So yes. It really put me off. The general messages of this book I think were not good. The plot was neat, the moral character was not. Though in the main character’s defense, she did become more tolerable towards the end. Maybe just enough to make me want to read the second book, but I’m still undecided on that. I won’t buy it, that’s for sure. I might get it from the library or something. But buh. This book. It had so much promise, but the ‘this is what you should feel, this other way is crazy’ messages it sent were so juvenile.

Here’s to hoping the author recognizes that she’s being completely biased in her future books, but we’ll see what happens.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 03/08/2016 in Books, Review

 

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Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

The Night Circus is more than a book, it’s an experience. As the author unravels a tale that sweeps you away, you find your heart yearning to walk through the tents, to witness the feats within. This book is alluring in a sense that when you finish reading it, you feel separated, part of you still trapped within its pages.

I finished this book five minutes ago, and I’m already fighting the temptation to pick it up again and reread it. This book enchanted me. And while you won’t find any grand adventure or daring rescue within its pages, it will still pull you in, encircling you until you can smell the caramel apples, feel the warmth of the bonfire, feel your heartstrings tighten when you read about a performance as if you were sitting in the crowd witnessing it instead.

This book is the atmosphere it creates. It lets you get away from your worries and jump into a world that hides just behind a curtain. Magic and illusion become indistinguishable and a lot of the time you find yourself wondering which is which.

From the mysterious midnight dinners where the guests invited are treated to course after course of unidentified but always somehow magnificent food to the bonfire that seems to keep anyone from aging and the two magicians the book is about themselves, each element of this book is intricately woven together to create a story that you find yourself entranced by. The characters interact and intermix with each other in a way that solidifies them in their places. Each character plays a bigger part in the story than you realize and as each intention and action is slowly revealed, the seemingly random events that happen throughout the book become far less so.

The Night Circus is a book that I believe I will be thinking about for a long time. I feel like it’s one of those books that when you read it, you think, Well now there’s something different. I highly enjoyed this book and the atmosphere it created. I enjoyed being sucked into the circus and feeling my heart dance around in my chest as the story and its characters progressed. I think my favorite part about it was just a small detail: The midnight dinners. They just sound so… magical. They make me want to host my own (and when I get a larger apartment with actual sitting space, I may well do just that).

Overall, this book was a joy, and I highly, highly recommend it.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

 

 
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Posted by on 11/21/2015 in Books, Review

 

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Book Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Walk on Earth a Stranger (The Gold Seer, #1)Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Read Oct 21 – Oct 26, 2015
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Magical Realism
431 pages

Walk on Earth a Stranger is a young adult historical fiction set during the California Gold Rush of the 1800s. It follows the main character Leah, who through a set of circumstances finds herself traversing the barely-settled United States, running from a  murderous uncle who has ‘plans’ for her. The group of travelers she finds herself with are all after the same thing – gold. Leah though has an advantage – she can sense the gold in the ground, in someone’s pockets, or hidden away in a wagon. She can feel it like we feel a tickle on our skin or a cough building in the back of our throats.

This book is by the author who wrote the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, which I really liked. And this book is no different. It’s a strong opening for what I’m hoping will be an even better trilogy than her first. The main character grew on me immediately. She reminds me of the main character from Carson’s first trilogy, but there are differences that set them apart for sure. I feel that Carson just writes really good, strong female characters. Well developed and well rounded.

Another thing I liked about this book is the relations between then the different women in the cast and the subtle ‘well I’m not gonna listen to traditional gender roles’-ness about it all. I really like it. I mean, they fit the roles for the time period but at the same time you can see them striving for more. It was a refreshing read. The women, even when obviously interested in the same person, were kind and caring towards each other. No ‘cattiness’ or whatever you want to call it that’s so stereotypical. I’m noticing that in Carson’s books in general – a lot of positive female friendships. I love it. :”D Another point – I know people are sticking the label ‘romance’ in there, and there can be hints of a love triangle at times, but like I mentioned earlier, all the drama that usually comes with one was absent in this book. And the romance I feel is gonna turn into one of those oh-so-delicious slow-burning ones that by the end of book two or three I’ll be screaming ‘JUST KISS ALREADY’. I can see it there, it’s definitely there, but I feel like Carson’s gonna toy with our emotions for a bit before doing anything with it. So don’t mind me, I’ll be over here agonizing.

And finally, the historical setting and surroundings, from what I can tell seems accurate. I am by no means a historian, but the setting felt authentic, the situations the characters found themselves in felt real. I was totally engrossed by this book. I like historical fiction but don’t pick it up too much. I’m glad I did so with this one. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I read it as a library copy, but now I want my own. Gimme. And book two, hurry up and get here please.

Rating: 5/5 stars

 
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Posted by on 10/26/2015 in Books, Review

 

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