Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mini-reviews: The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty and Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Sophie Honeywell always wondered if Thomas Gordon was the one she let get away. He was the perfect boyfriend, but on the day he was to propose, she broke his heart. A year later he married his travel agent, while Sophie has been mortifyingly single ever since. Now Thomas is back in her life because Sophie has unexpectedly inherited his aunt Connie's house on Scribbly Gum Island -- home of the famously unsolved Munro Baby mystery.
Sophie moves onto the island and begins a new life as part of an  unconventional family where it seems everyone has a secret. Grace, a beautiful young mother, is feverishly planning a shocking escape from her perfect life. Margie, a frumpy housewife, has made a pact with a stranger, while dreamy Aunt Rose wonders if maybe it's about time she started making her own decisions.
As Sophie's life becomes increasingly complicated, she discovers that sometimes you have to stop waiting around -- and come up with your own fairy-tale ending.
As she so adroitly did in her smashing debut novel, Three Wishes, the incomparable Liane Moriarty once again combines sharp wit, lovable and eccentric characters, and a page-turning story for an unforgettable Last Anniversary."
Mini-reviewCharming, fun, witty, a little gritty, and everything else Moriarty is known for. This one probably isn't as loved as some of her other books, but it certainly holds a special place in my heart. It had me sobbing for personal reasons, though I'd be surprised if that was a widespread reaction to this book.  I think most of the world would give it between 3 and 4 stars, but because it hit such a sensitive nerve at the precise moment I needed it to, it merits a higher rating from me, personally.  (I can't get into why without being spoilery, but if you've read this book and want to chat, hit me up!)

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes."

Mini-reviewPhew! That was a pretty insane and wild ride. It took me a week or two to get through the first 15%... and took me less than a day to inhale the rest. Exhilarating and surprising with high stakes action and a great conclusion (set up for book 2 is in place, but this book actually has its own conclusion) this was a pretty thrilling read. Also, it was a really original format, what with everything being presented as a collection of hacked documents.  I knocked off a star because some of the dialogue between characters was annoyingly crass, and I nearly stopped reading because of it. Also, the violence level here is pretty intense. I didn't lower my rating for that, but feel like I should give fair warning to the squeamish.  (Side-note: I do not mean to be condescending by calling anyone squeamish.  I am definitely squeamish when it comes to film, so I feel your pain.  But for whatever reason it doesn't really affect me in print, so, you know, bring on the bookish zombie invasions.  I just wanted to warn those of you for whom a lot of violence is a deal breaker.)

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Five Books I Feel Differently About After Time Has Passed

I'm participating in today's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's prompt is:

Five Books I Feel Differently About After Time Has Passed

I actually had a hard time with this one.  After going over my list of books I've read, I felt pretty steadily the same about almost all of them.  I guess the good news about that is that my gut reaction to books is pretty accurately how I feel about them over time.  Or maybe that makes me boring since, once set, my opinions don't really change...?  Who knows.  There are a few exceptions to my rule, though.  Here they are:

This one is pure entertainment.  There was and is a lot to enjoy here, but, at the end of the day, this book doesn't have a whole lot of substance.  While I still like this book, it's not one that made me think very hard or really do anything besides chuckle.  I think funny books are perennially underrated, so I don't want to knock off too many stars.  It's a good book, and I'm not sorry I read it, but it maybe doesn't quite deserve the nearly 5 stars that I originally gave it.

I remember being really excited when I heard about this book, and then feeling extremely let down when I actually read it.  My disappointment stemmed from the book introducing important themes of gender equality, freedom, and choice, and then never really exploring those themes.  As time has gone on, however, I've been a little more forgiving of this book.  I still think it really oversimplified things, but I've started thinking that that's not such a bad thing.  This book won't satisfy older readers, but I think it definitely has a place with younger audiences.  It's just not one of those YA books that crosses over well to adults.  But that's okay.  There is plenty of room for books like this.  So while it wasn't as thought-provoking to me, it could still be useful in introducing important themes to younger readers who may not have considered how damaging sexism can be.  (And then, when they grow up, they can pick up Margaret Atwood.)

My review for this book is positively glowing.  According to me, this was a really gripping, thrilling read, and I was apparently dying for book 2 to be released.  Now, nearly a year later, I cannot remember a single thing about this book.  Seriously. I couldn't even tell you the name of the main character.  So it may have been a fun ride, but apparently it was a very forgettable story.  Now I'm not even sure if I'll be picking up the sequel.

I loved this book when I first read it, but I think I love it even more now.  I didn't give it 5 stars when I wrote my review because I was a tad overwhelmed with the sheer number of hot topics this book addresses.  However, the more I think about it, the more impressed I am with Moriarty's handling of all those hot topics.  I think if I were to re-review this book, I'd give it 5 stars now.

I only gave this book 5 stars when I should have given it 50.  If you haven't read it yet, GO READ IT.

Does your opinion change over time about books you've read?  Or are you like me, and feel pretty steadily the same about what you read over time?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Weekly Words: P.J. O'Rourke

Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. -P.J. O’Rourke #quote

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mini-reviews: The Queen of the Tearling and The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Rating: 4 stars 
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "An untested young princess must claim her throne, learn to become a queen, and combat a malevolent sorceress in an epic battle between light and darkness in this spectacular debut—the first novel in a trilogy.

Young Kelsea Raleigh was raised in hiding after the death of her mother, Queen Elyssa, far from the intrigues of the royal Keep and in the care of two devoted servants who pledged their lives to protect her. Growing up in a cottage deep in the woods, Kelsea knows little of her kingdom's haunted past . . . or that its fate will soon rest in her hands.

Long ago, Kelsea's forefathers sailed away from a decaying world to establish a new land free of modern technology. Three hundred years later, this feudal society has divided into three fearful nations who pay duties to a fourth: the powerful Mortmesne, ruled by the cunning Red Queen. Now, on Kelsea's nineteenth birthday, the tattered remnants of the Queen's Guard—loyal soldiers who protect the throne—have appeared to escort the princess on a perilous journey to the capital to ascend to her rightful place as the new Queen of the Tearling.

Though born of royal blood and in possession of the Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea has never felt more uncertain of her ability to rule. But the shocking evil she discovers in the heart of her realm will precipitate an act of immense daring, throwing the entire kingdom into turmoil—and unleashing the Red Queen's vengeance. A cabal of enemies with an array of deadly weapons, from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic, plots to destroy her. But Kelsea is growing in strength and stealth, her steely resolve earning her loyal allies, including the Queen's Guard, led by the enigmatic Lazarus, and the intriguing outlaw known simply as "the Fetch."

Kelsea's quest to save her kingdom and meet her destiny has only just begun. Riddled with mysteries, betrayals, and treacherous battles, Kelsea's journey is a trial by fire that will either forge a legend . . . or destroy her."

Mini-review: This book is a slower political fantasy peppered with some pretty spectacular moments of excitement. There's a lot to like in this fantasy novel, largely including Kelsea herself, but it's a bit strong. Definitely for adult readers. I plan on reading the sequel, and soon before I forget anyone.  (This book's cast list is loooooooong.)

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The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Rating: 3.25 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighboring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling —and that of Kelsea’s own soul—may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out."

Mini-reviewI honestly can't figure out if this is a fantasy or a dystopia. I give this series major props for originality, but wish it spent more time answering my questions than giving me new ones.  I felt like my focus was constantly being ripped from one plot thread to the next, and rather than build together towards a sweeping climax, the various plot threads just piled on top of each other in a hot mess.  There was so much going on, and I was invested in each plot thread, but they never connected in the end.  I so badly wanted all those plot threads to be woven together so that I could stare at a giant tapestry, but came away feeling more like I was staring at a pile of spaghetti noodles.  There's another book to come, so hopefully it comes together in the end.  But as the series stands right now, we have a long way to go from spaghetti noodles to tapestry.  I'm hopeful that we get there, though, because I'm rooting for Kelsea and her struggling Tearling.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Weekly Words: Eleanor Crumblehulme

Cutting libraries in a recession is like cutting hospitals in a plague. –Eleanor Crumblehulme #quote

Friday, May 13, 2016

My Summer To-Read List

My TBR pile is as insanely long as ever.  Does picking what book to read next stress you out?  Sometimes it stresses me out because I know each time I pick up a new book it means another book won't be read (I only have so much time I can devote to reading) and I am afraid of missing out on something amazing.  Usually I'm pretty good at dismissing that fear and just getting down to the business of reading, but now that my reading time has severely diminished I feel that pressure to make good choices and read only the books that I'm really, really interested in.  Here are a few books that made it to the very top of the pile, and why:

I devoured The Queen of the Tearling (book 1) this past January, and have been badly wanting to return to this world.  I'm worried that I've already begun to forget details, so I want to hurry and read this one before too much more time goes by.

It's the final book in the trilogy.  I'm only lukewarm about this trilogy, but I need closure, and I really, really need to return the box set to my brother-in-law.  (SORRY.)

It's a new Moriarty book, ergo I will be reading it immediately upon its release on July 26th.  Fact: I have a google calendar marked specifically for book releases precisely for books like this.  I am ashamed of nothing.

It seems like most people usually have many Thoughts and Opinions on Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, but I'm actually not all that opinionated about it.  I read it, mostly enjoyed it, and then moved on.  I have enough positive feelings about it to give this book a shot, though.  Plus that cover is pretty.  The many favorable reviews don't hurt either.

Another Chima series set in her Seven Realms world a generation after Han and Raisa's epic story?  GIMME.

I have a few friends who basically double as my bookish overlords - they command me to read something, and I read it immediately.  This book landed on my list from such a friend, so obviously I need to read it pronto.  That being said, I had requested the ebook via my Salt Lake library card, and my card got cancelled after we moved and before I could read it.  So I need to find another way to get my hands on it.  (There is only one library where I now live, and I have not been overwhelmed by its selection.  I am trying not to have a massive crisis over this fact.)

The sequel to The Wrath & The Dawn, which I loooooooved, is now available!  I am really excited about this one, but I need a refresh on the story before I jump in.

Sarah J. Maas is up there with Liane Moriarty and Rainbow Rowell on my list of auto-read authors.  I loved A Court of Thorns and Roses so, so much (I gave it 5 stars) and am way jazzed to return to this world.

This one looks really thought-provoking.  I choose my non-fiction even more selectively than my fiction, but this book is just begging to be read.

Everything about this book appeals to me.  Sometimes you just need to laugh in order to get through the muck, right?  Plus, that raccoon is killing me.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  What else are you reading this summer?  What should I add to my list?  Give me your recommendations!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Mini-reviews: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella; Carry On by Rainbow Rowell; The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family."

Review: This was a short, sweet, uplifting read.  It's not a book about a girl's anxiety, it's a book about a girl.  She has friends, challenges, family issues, a sense of humor, and anxiety, among other things.  I loved how anxiety wasn't the focus of the book, and yet how the book demonstrated how anxiety can seep into every crack of your life.  This book does a fantastic job of balancing the deep stuff with lightheartedness.  Sweet, filling, and really, really funny.

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Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Rating: 2.75 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.  That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters."

ReviewWell, okay. Rowell is forever awesome, amirite? But I just didn't love this story. Her characterization is always top notch, and I appreciated the tension and the mystery in this story, but plot wise this book really, really dragged. Plus, it was rather bizarre to be reading a fictional book based on the fictional characters within another fictional book who are a parody of an altogether separate fictional book. That many levels of meta were amazingly original, so why was the book so dull? On the whole, this book in concept was brazen, imaginative, and gutsy.  In execution, however, this book was really, really bloody boring. Of all her books, I think this is the one I'm least likely to reread.

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The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins
Rating: 3.5 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "The debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people's lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?"

Review: The more I read, the more I wanted to read.  But, good grief, that was depressing.  Also, I wish someone had warned me that this book may be triggering as it deals with the death of a baby.  I don't handle that topic well, and this book really bothered me.  Not because of how it dealt with it, but because I, personally, do not do well with that topic.  If this topic is triggering for you as well, I'd strongly recommend skipping it.  That being said, I know a lot of people who really loved this book because of the gripping mystery.

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