Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mini-reviews: Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty; Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld; The Crown by Kiera Cass

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty
Rating: 3 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle, beautiful thirty-three-year-old triplets, seem to attract attention everywhere they go. Together, laughter, drama, and mayhem seem to follow them. But apart, each is dealing with her own share of ups and downs. Lyn has organized her life into one big checklist, Cat has just learned a startling secret about her marriage, and Gemma, who bolts every time a relationship hits the six-month mark, holds out hope for lasting love. In this wise, witty, and hilarious novel, we follow the Kettle sisters through their tumultuous thirty-third year as they deal with sibling rivalry and secrets, revelations and relationships, unfaithful husbands and unthinkable decisions, and the fabulous, frustrating life of forever being part of a trio."

ReviewLots to like, with Moriarty's signature ability to get you to empathize with every character, flaws and all. But it's pretty clear that this is her first novel. Her later work is much more polished. And I lacked that ache I usually feel at the end of one of her novels, not wanting it to be over.  I'm still glad I read this one, but it's not anywhere near my favorites of hers.

Review in a GIF:
taylor swift shrug agree nod shrugging

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
Rating: 2 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.

Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .  And yet, first impressions can be deceiving."

I'm still not wholly convinced that this book isn't so much a retelling of Pride & Prejudice as a parody. It removes all the endearing and lovable moments and character traits and leaves all the ugly. I hated everyone, and was frustrated that this novel tainted such a beloved story. Was the moral supposed to be that only Mary has life figured out, and everyone else is just stupid? That's what the epilogue seems to suggest. And that's absurd. Especially considering this version of Mary.

Angst aside,  I thought the portrayal of Kitty and Lydia as paleo/crossfit enthusiasts was dead perfect.  They're annoying and selfish in both versions, so I guess I wasn't so upset that I hated them in this version since I hate them in the original too.  And I did read it in about two days, so there's that.
Review in a GIF:
Yosub Kim, Content Strategy Director 90s annoyed ugh cruel intentions

The Crown by Kiera Cass
Rating: 2.5 stars
Source: Library
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "When Eadlyn became the first princess of IllĂ©a to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined."

ReviewI wish I knew this was a duology. I was expecting a trilogy and therefore was confused about the pacing in the second half of the novel. It's the same old cupcake you get with all the other Selection books, though this round of Selection has a less likable protagonist and less political unrest, therefore less tension. Still, I like cupcakes, though this one was sort of a forgettable flavor. Still tasty enough, though by tomorrow I doubt I'll remember I ate it.

Review in a GIF:
alan rickman unsure shrug i don't know dunno

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Mini-reviews: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Rating: 4.5 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future."

Mini-reviewHow did I never do a review for Cinder?  I actually read this book about 4 years ago, loved it, recommended it to everyone, and then never continued the series until a friend bought book 2 for me a few months ago.  The story was a bit predictable, but that didn't stop it from being awesome.  What a fun, unique spin on fairy tale retellings.  I especially like Cinder as a character.  I had a blast with this one, and am glad I was pushed to finish the series, because it was awesome.

Review in a GIF:
RuPaul's Drag Race happy excited rupauls drag race glitter

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Gifted
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. 

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner."

Mini-review: A lot of fun! Cinder and Thorne and Kai and Wolf were all so interesting, their stories crashing together and building into what's sure to be another suspenseful and wild ride in the next book. Scarlet herself felt like the weakest link in this book, and though her temper and her impulsivity sometimes grated, and though her romance felt a tad forced, it wasn't enough to stop my enjoyment of the story.

Review in a GIF:
once upon a time ruby scarlett meghan ory red riding hood

Cress by Marissa Meyer
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "In this third book in Marissa Meyer's bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they're plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl trapped on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she's being forced to work for Queen Levana, and she's just received orders to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is splintered. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price than she'd ever expected. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai, especially the cyborg mechanic. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has."

Mini-reviewThis book is just a whole lot of fun. Cress is no Cinder, but I still just couldn't put this book down. I love compulsively readable books like this.  This book is so fantastically compelling that it merited 5 stars purely for the fun factor.

Review in a GIF:
disney tangled rapunzel

Winter by Marissa Meyer
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Purchased
Buy the Book: Amazon
Summary: "Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won't approve of her feelings for her childhood friend--the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn't as weak as Levana believes her to be and she's been undermining her stepmother's wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that's been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? Fans will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion to Marissa Meyer's national bestselling Lunar Chronicles series."

Mini-reviewI blew right through this one. Another compulsively readable book, which is certainly nothing to scoff at considering the length of this novel (800+ pages). There are a lot of pros to this book. Such as: I had a lot of fun! A lot, a lot of fun. This book was action packed, and certain moments had my heart racing because of Meyer's unpredictability. The plot was intricate and exciting and at times really breathtaking. The way the Snow White fairy tale was weaved into this story was very clever. I am satisfied with this conclusion, and feel closure with the story. I will miss these characters, especially Cinder and Thorne. (The moment with the high five was spectacular.) I loved that friendship was just as important in this story as romance. I appreciated how everyone felt distinct and individual. I think these stories would make a banging film series. Also, I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to visit Luna. That being said, there were a few things I didn't luuuurrrrve as much as I wanted to. Such as:
-The revolution felt way oversimplified. There was some commentary about sacrifice for the greater good, but every decision to be made in the book had a pretty clear right decision vs. wrong decision, whereas in reality things are much grayer and messy and complicated than that. 
-Relatedly, there is a pretty bad case of white horse/black horse syndrome going on. It felt like this world was split into good people and death eaters. Everyone was either totally heroic or else they were selfish, ignorant, and cruel. I would have preferred more variety on both sides, and for the characters' moral compasses to be less in sync. (I wanted for people with good intentions to disagree on the best course of action, for example. I don't know if I'm making sense here. It makes sense in my head.)
-I was a little confused about one of the characters in the end, and I didn't get quite as much resolution about another character, but on the whole I was satisfied with this series.  It was a whole lot of fun and I'm glad I read it.

Review in a GIF:
snl friendship high five snow white

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

2016 First and Second Quarters Reading Report

Oh, hello.  Yes, I'm still here.  I had a bunch of holds come through at the library all at once and was busy trying to get through them all before they were due back.  On the bright side, I got a lot of reading done in July.  On the not-so-bright side, none of those books will be featured in this post because I'm only talking about the books I read between January and June.  :)

In the first two quarters of 2016 I read a total of 13 books.  This whole year is definitely a low-reading year, which I blame entirely on my adorable children and the fact that we moved this year.  But at least I got a few books in!  Here are the books I read:

  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (2.75 stars) - In concept, this book was brazen, imaginative, and gutsy.  In execution, however, this book was really, really bloody boring.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (3.5 stars) - A gripping and disturbing mystery that I really should not have read.
  • The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (4 stars) -  A slower political fantasy peppered with some pretty spectacular moments of excitement.
  • The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty (4.5 stars) - Charming, fun, witty, a little gritty, and everything else Moriarty is known for.  I was especially touched by the devastatingly accurate portrayal of PPD.
  • Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (4 stars) - Not my favorite in the series, but still a fun read. (How do I not have reviews posted for this series yet?)
  • Cress by Marissa Meyer (5 stars) - Definitely my favorite in the series.  I could not put this book down.  Full review to come.
  • Winter by Marissa Meyer (4 stars) - I thought the revolutionary aspect of the story was way oversimplified, but I enjoyed the cast and had a fun time reading.
  • The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (4 stars) - An emotionally intelligent YA revolutionary novel, though I missed Kestrel's mind from the earlier books.
  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (4 stars) - Exhilirating and original, with a LOT of violence and an unfortunate level of crass.  
  • The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (3.25 stars) - I give this series major props for originality, but wish it spent more time answering my questions than giving me new ones.  I'll definitely be reading book 3 when it comes out, though.
  • Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid (4.25 stars) - Short, funny, and thought-provoking.  This book raises a lot of questions in a mostly light and conversational way.  This would be a good book club choice.
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (DNF) - This book has so many positive reviews, but I just couldn't do it.  Nothing I did could get me into this story.  Apologies to the fans.
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (4.5 stars) - This book was not a happy story  and yet I left it feeling hopeful. Believing in beauty and truth and love. Believing that good can come from strange back doors. And believing that even if life is one giant game of Screw You, there's a way to play that game joyfully.
And here are some graphs:

It is becoming abundantly apparent that I am quite liberal with my 4-star rating.  What can I say, I read a lot of good books.  :)

How were your first two quarters?