Monday, October 26, 2015

Weekly Words: Stendhal

Reading / Books

Monday, October 19, 2015

Weekly Words: Annonymous

Reading is Dreaming Quote - Books - Plants

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review: A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev


A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
Rating: 2.5 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years—not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. Her grandmother has even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be—if her husband would just come and claim her.
Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a na├»ve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life—cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.
Heartfelt, witty, and thoroughly engaging, Sonali Dev’s debut is both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love, in all its diversity."
Review: The summary claims that this book is "both a vivid exploration of modern India and a deeply honest story of love."  If that were true I think I would have fallen in love with this story.  In reality, this book fell flat.

Here are my problems with this book:

-Mili is so unbelievably naive.  She's had a very sheltered childhood, which would make her naivety plausible if she never left her small village.  But she's moved away, gone to college, left the country even.  By herself.  This does not suggest that she's the wilting violet that she appears in this book.  I was frustrated by her guilelessness and lack of wisdom, not only because characters like that irk me, but because her naivety doesn't match her experience.  I don't believe that she could have gone through the kind of life she has led and still come out on the other side a blubbering child.  She should have been stronger than that.  More resourceful.  Quicker.  Smarter.  I don't buy her simple-mindedness.

-Because of Mili's childlike nature, I did not at all buy the romance between her and Samir.  They're polar opposites in every possible way.  I've seen a few opposites attract romances that I bought, but this one felt awkward and forced.  It was especially disappointing because I (mostly) liked Samir, and I wanted him to be happy.  But I in no way believe that Mili could make him happy long-term.  But even if I did like the characters, I still wouldn't have liked this romance because it was completely based on lies.

-I should clarify my feelings on Samir.  Samir is an arrogant, selfish jerk.  But I (mostly) liked him despite his many faults because he seemed capable of growth.  I wanted him to develop some self-reflection and grow from his realizations.  I believed he could become better.  But he didn't become better.  He became someone else entirely.  (Unfortunately, someone who still had pretty significant blind spots on their own self-awareness.)  Which leads me to the next point:

-This book features that annoying trope where the bad boy meets the good girl and then, suddenly and magically, his entire personality changes.

-"Little Sam."  UGH.  My eyes got stuck in the back of my head from rolling them so much.

-I had the hardest time keeping straight Samir's past.  I couldn't figure out what happened in which barn, in what country, on what side of the family...  It took until almost the end of the book for me to really get the timeline/applicable characters/events straight.

-Every single character is bipolar.  I am not kidding.  Their reactions fell in two camps: the "how dare you, I hate you, you disgust me" camp, and the "you're amazing, onyx perfection, and I desperately need you" camp.  The mood swings were extreme and extremely exhausting.  I mean, really.  How about a little subtlety?  Plus, it's kind of insulting to actual people with bipolar disorder.  It's a real problem for real people, and this book either doesn't know how to portray healthy human emotions, or it's mocking the extremes that real bipolar people feel.  

-I actually quite like Bollywood films.  But this didn't feel like Bollywood to me.  The over-the-top moments were irrational and forced, not the grand, sweeping romantic gestures I hoped for.  It was cheesy where it should have been grounded, and illogical where it should have been romantic.  Again, I just didn't buy it.

-So much focus on Samir's writing, and we never really see the final script.  I don't need to read the whole thing verbatim, but give me something here.  Good grief.

Clearly I did not get along with this book.  But despite my many issues with it, I will say that Dev can write one amazing food scene.  Seriously, I have been craving Indian food ever since I finished this book.  And I don't even like Indian food all that much.  BUT I NEEDS IT.  So kudos for that.  Also, I appreciated that this book brought up the topic of child brides.  I wish this issue was discussed more broadly, and I'm glad the author was brave enough to include it here.  And, lastly, despite my frustration, I never stopped reading.  Not even for a day.  I figure that's got to count for something. 

Review in a GIF
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Bottom Line: Strangely compelling, since I despised almost everything about it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review: The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan


The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: Purchased eBook
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it's Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king. And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick's sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he's fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she's sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing."

Review: It's pretty obvious from the cover image alone that this book is Prince William and Kate Middleton fan fiction.  Kate Bex is your commoner protagonist, William Nick is the future king of England, and this is their love story.  Bex and Nick's love story, though loosely based on Kate and William, is extremely fictional.  It's also wildly scandalous, heartfelt, and hilarious.  

I've said before that I'm picky about my romances.  But I loved this book.  The entire story is riddled with wit and charm, and I loved the humor as much as the romance.  Bex and Nick feel like real people.  Their relationship has all the layers found in real relationships: the goofy twinkie-eating side; the sweet Thanksgiving-in-England side; the passionate watching-from-across-the-room side; the supportive listening-ear side; and so on.  There are the meet-the-family moments and other milestones that other relationships encounter, but what makes this particular relationship unique is that Nick is one of the world's biggest celebrities.  And so Bex and Nick must not only navigate the mismatched expectations and fights and miscommunication that every couple deal with, but they must also figure out how to balance their private relationship with their public one.  That means figuring out how to deal with the press, how to differentiate between people who are your friends and people who just want to use you for your status, and how to be a public persona without losing your sense of self.  

It's a lot to ask of someone, and watching Bex and Nick figure everything out, both together and separately, made me feel every emotion.  Really, I was humored, saddened, angry, exasperated, content, and really, really happy at various points of the story.  The authors are really great at writing emotion, and I rode the wave along with them.  

Plus, it was really entertaining to get a glimpse of how the outside of any given relationship differentiates from the inside.  And I'm not just talking about romantic relationships, although those are definitely included.  Familial relationships, relationships with self and with friends, relationships with work and duty and every other kind of relationship can be bent to be perceived from any given angle.  What you see in interviews, magazine articles, and so on, is not representative of reality.  I found the disparities between the two really fascinating.  While I don't know how the real William and Kate feel about this book, I would guess that they don't mind that lesson being taught.  And while I think that this lesson is true for celebrities, it's also true for us commoners.  You never really know everything about someone else, and we should not be quick to judge anyone.

I also have to mention how much I loved a lot of the side characters.  Freddie, Gaz, Bex's dad, and Bea were my favorites.  Although Bex and Nick are 90% of this story, the side characters were really lovely, and were the perfect icing on top of the story.  

In conclusion, I was thoroughly entertained.  When I finished reading, I flipped back to the beginning to read my favorite parts, which ended up being basically the whole book.  This is a fun and compelling read that will almost certainly put a smile on your face.  I just wish it had one more chapter in the end to tie up some loose ends.

Content advisory: There is language and sex and a whole lot of alcohol.  I don't find the drinking to be particularly offensive, but I was concerned for a few livers there.

Review in a GIF:
kate middleton animated GIF

Bottom Line: Delightfully fun William and Kate Middleton fan fiction.  

Monday, October 12, 2015

Weekly Words: Glenda Millard

Books are all of these things, and more, to me.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas


Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 4.75 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "The queen has returned.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she's at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.  She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen's triumphant return.

The fourth volume in the New York Times bestselling series contrinues Celaena's epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world."

***There are no spoilers for this book below, but there are spoilers for the previous books in the series.  Be ye warned.***

Review: Sarah J. Maas makes it very difficult for me to form coherent thoughts.  

I love this series more and more with each installment.  This, the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series, was released mere days after my son was born, but I decided to read it anyway.  This was a very bad decision, since it meant I stayed up way too late to finish the novel and my sleep levels went from dangerously low to dysfunctionally low.  BUT IT WAS WORTH IT.

Why was it worth it?  I will give you five reasons why:  

1) Celaena.  This is the most hardcore protagonist I've read about in a long time.  She is fierce and wild and wicked and unpredictable and has a really scary violent streak.  But she's also somehow vulnerable and caring and loyal, and I want so badly for her to succeed against the impossible odds stacked against her.  Her horrible past has hardened her considerably, but I feel like in these last few books she's learned how to let people in again, and is slowly coming back into her humanity.  She still has not learned the value of forgiveness, but I hope that comes.  Vengeance only takes you so far, but vengeance still seems to be her only goal.  I'm not saying you always have to forgive and forget in every situation (and hers is a pretty extreme situation) but I would like some balance between revenge and redemption.  But there are two more books still, and her character has already grown so much.  So we'll see what happens.  Regardless, I'm 100% invested in Celaena's story.

2) All the other characters.  This series boasts a large cast list, but I know everyone.  I love Aedion, Rowan, and Dorian.  I adore Manon and Lysandra and Nesryn.  (Hello, hard core women falling from the skies in this book!)  And Kaltain... wow.  What a character arc.  I even liked Arobynn, even though he's a slimy git.  I feel like this series could be written from Arobynn's POV and we would get a completely different story.  (And, knowing Maas, I would probably even ship him and Celaena by the end.)  So many great characters, all with their own stories and backgrounds and contributions to this story.  Love them all.

3) The battles.  No joke, my heart was beating out of my chest during a few of the fight scenes.  My house could have caught on fire and I wouldn't have noticed, that's how immersed in the book I was.  (I do feel like I should caution others, though, about the level of violence in these novels.  It's intense.  Like, really intense.  Like, were this story made into a film, I'm not sure my stomach would be able to handle it.  But I've always been much better with mature content in print than in film, so I'm okay with it here.  But I would wait until young teens were older before handing them this series.  Just my $0.02 on that topic.)

4) The feels.  There are multiple pairings along this series.  When Celaena was with Chaol I was totally feeling it.  And then it looked like Celaena might end up with Dorian, and the way Maas wrote it, I was totally feeling it.  And then we were introduced to Rowan, and while the relationship is platonic in Heir of Fire, I was still totally feeling it.  So I knew that no matter what direction this novel took, Maas would convince me.  And she did.  I won't say where things fall in Queen of Shadows, because HELLO that would be the meanest spoiler ever, but I will say that it was the choice I was hoping for.  (Even though I would have been okay with anyone.)  Another relationship develops in this novel (not involving Celaena) and I felt like it was the better choice for that character as well, so I was happy with where things landed here.  But I'm SO STRESSED because there are two more books coming, and considering the rate at which things change in this series, I'm afraid for all my beloved characters and their fragile hearts.

5) The twists.  I love that Maas always keeps her readers on their toes.  Just when I think I've got everything figured out, a wrench gets thrown in, or a revelation is made, that completely changes everything.  The twist/revelation in the end of this novel made my jaw drop, and I want to go back to the beginning of the series and reread everything, now that I know the secrets and motivations behind certain characters.  It just makes this story so much fun to read knowing that no matter what comes in the future books, I'm destined to be surprised.

So, in conclusion, I am very tired, but so, so happy with this novel.  GIVE ME MORE MAAS.

Review in a GIF:
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Bottom Line: This book is practically perfect.  I love this series so much, and am DYING because I have to wait what feels like a million years for the next books in this series.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

2015 Third Quarter Reading Report

Oh, hey there, Internets.  I'm still alive over here!  I thought having another child wouldn't disrupt life too much, but the past month has punched me in the face while repeatedly screaming HAHAHAHA FREE TIME AND COHERENT THOUGHTS AND SLEEP IN YOUR (NONEXISTANT) DREAMS.

It's been great.  

Actually, it really has been great because I've spent a lot of time snuggling my newborn little boy.  But I've missed talking about books.  So, even though I don't have reviews posted for all the books I read this past quarter yet, I decided to go ahead and post my quarterly reading report.  I decided this for two reasons:

1) I don't want to forget my gut reactions to the books I read;


2) I like it.  Reviewing and organizing my bookish thoughts makes my organizationally particular heart soar.  So I'm doing it.  Yay!  Here goes...

Over July, August, and September I read 13 books.  They are:

  • Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (4.75 stars) - Reading this book shortly after having a baby was a bad idea for my already limited sleep levels. But a very good idea in every other way. I love this story, love Celaena, and love the direction this book took the series.
  • The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (4.5 stars) - Delightful Kate Middleton fan fiction.  When I finishd I went back to the beginning and reread the parts I loved most - which was basically the whole book.
  • Crossed by Eliza Crewe (4.25 stars) - Imaginative story with a biting and funny protagonist.  I will miss being in Meda's head.
  • Crushed by Eliza Crewe (4.25 stars) - I blew through this series so quickly that I forgot to mark this book as "read" on Goodreads.
  • Cracked by Eliza Crewe (4.5 stars) - I was wonderfully surprised by this book. Funny, adventurous, and gripping to the very last page.  Why haven't more people read this series??
  • The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty (4.5 stars)- This book is actually quite deep and both emotionally and mentally engaging. Equal parts entertaining, illuminating, and satisfying. And even a little bit scary, actually. 
  • The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson (4.25 stars) - A strong sequel that left me really mad that I can't read the final book for another year.
  • Entwined by Heather Dixon (3.75 stars) - This was a decent retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses fairy tale, though two months later I had totally forgotten about it.
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman (2 stars) - Relentlessly grim.  Grossman is very talented, but this was a difficult book to read for a lot of reasons.
  • Design Mom: A Room-by-Room Guide to Living Well with Kids by Gabrielle Stanley Blair (4.25 stars) - This design book is exactly what you'd expect from reading the title.  Which is a good thing.
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman (4 stars) - A dry and delightfully bizarre adventure.  I liked it even when I didn't love it.
  • Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan (4 stars) - A book has never given me such strong cravings for bread.  This book was warm and sweet.
  • The Martian by Andy Weir (4.75 stars) - It turns out this is a really remarkable book.  I was proud of myself for reading it, since it's pretty far outside my normal wheelhouse, but not only was it refreshingly different (for me), it was gripping and surprisingly funny.  The intricacies of the scientific portions of the book added substance but not weight to this book, and I left it with a very life-affirming feeling.

(Reviews forthcoming for the books read after going on maternity leave.)

And some graphs:

Wow, apparently this was the quarter of the 4-star book.   (Though Queen of Shadows and The Martian got extremely close to 5 stars.)  

How was your third quarter?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Weekly Words: Gao Xingjian

Quotable- Gao Xingjian