Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015 Wrap-Up


As a busy college student who somehow manages to juggle a full load of classes, clubs, and an internship I don't often have too much free time. When I do have a precious few hours or in this case a week of break (well away from school since I still had to attend my internship), I like to use that time to actually read. As a result, I never get a chance to consistently write here on this blog, which is really a shame. I read so many great or terrible books and I never get the time to do the full reviews I would like to. In an effort to actually talk about what I've read, since that whole "Thoughts On" segment didn't really pan out, I plan on doing monthly TBR and Wrap-Up posts!


This, dear readers is obviously the first post in the series. (I don't know why I really needed a long intro for this because you can look at the title...oh well). Before I endlessly type on about the books I've read during the month of February, I just wanted to note for those that follow my Goodreads page that I probably won't include the books I've read for college. I talk about them enough in class and sometimes they don't warrant a mention here. Let's get started!!


  • The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Rating: 


This book is another classic case where the blurb is much more exciting than the actual story. Ananna (a character whose name looks like it should have been Anna until someone stuttered and the result got written down) is the daughter of the leader of a pirate clan that is soon to be married off to the son of another leader of a pirate clan (the cliche beginning of many a YA and romance novel, amiright?). Obviously she doesn't quite like this match and escapes, only to find that the family of her almost husband has engaged an assassin to kill her. Through some sort of weird magical mishap Anannanananaana (see what I did there...) and the assassin are bound by a curse. What should follow is an action packed quest to break that curse, with a bit of YA romance thrown in the mix to spice things up a bit. Sadly, the book dragged on and it was more a series of boring travel scenes and technicalities which lead up to figuring out how to break the curse. Since this is the first in the series, it felt like this book was meant to contain all of the exposition in preparation for the second book. The problem is the story wasn't captivating enough to convince me to continue on, particularly when I've adopted a new mindset where I no longer force myself to read the whole series if I don't like the first book. I might consider the second book, but really...


  • Just One Day by Gayle Forman

     

Rating: 

I'm not quite sure if I've mentioned this here on my blog, but lately I've been getting into more YA Contemporary Romances. Some days after hours of dense college reading all I want to do is sit down with a book that is as fluffy and non intellectually stimulating as possible. I want a book that is pure wish-fulfillment and I've heard that after Rainbow Rowell and Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman is the author to fit that description. Who hasn't had the fantasy where you travel to a foreign location and meet the perfect person? Just One Day is that exact fantasy played out. Allyson is travelling all across Europe on a tour her parents arranged for her after high school (just the thought of that travel arrangement is enough wish-fulfillment for the majority of us). Near the end of her tour, she encounters a group of street actors performing the Shakespearean play Twelfth Night and she eventually meets one of the actors, Willem. In a decision that would cause many parents to faint on the spot, Allyson agrees to see Paris with Willem. The result is complete and utter insta-love. As the title plainly states, the two fall in love in just one day.


The rest of the book chronicles Allyson's life after that one day. There is a lot of awesome character growth completely ruined by the most infuriating cliffhanger and by cliffhanger I mean the poorest excuse to write another book instead of finishing the story using one more page. Speaking of which...
  • Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Rating: 

This book is for the handful of people that wondered what Willem was doing for that same year. I can bet those people are also anxiously waiting for Stephenie Meyer to fully write and release Midnight Sun. Yeah, I went there. I was under the impression that this book would address the cliffhanger from the first book, but after devouring the first 40 pages or so I quickly realized that this would just be a boring account of Willem's life, which chronicles his endless pining for Allyson without much of the character growth that made her year long story so interesting. I struggled to read this book and at times I was so tempted to skim parts of it to get to the end. I stuck around for about 300 pages only to be denied the ending I was looking for in the first book!!!!
          
One quick Goodreads search later and I discovered there is an e-novella sequel. Cool, except I don't own an e-reader and I don't read e-books. This should have been a singular stand-alone YA contemporary that got needlessly expanded into a series. I'm still trying to deal with my distaste and lack of closure.

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas  
Rating: 


Throne of Glass is hands down one of the best books I've read this month and it might even make my year end best list. I've heard this book praised all over social media, Goodreads, and YouTube, but for the longest time I refused to give into the hype. Of course that never lasts long, so I got my hands on a copy of the book and read it as fast as possible, even neglecting some of my homework in the process. Throne of Glass centers around Celaena Sardothien, a young and infamous assassin who has spent the past couple of years of her life imprisoned, working in the mines. One day Prince Dorian has her brought up from the mines and offers her a deal. She can stay working in the mines until she dies an early death or she can participate in a competition to become the King's Champion (aka the King's personal assassin). After her service to the King, should she win the competition, she will be free. What follows is the story of a kick-ass heroine trying to win a physically rigorous competition, while also dealing with court politics, romance, and the threat of dark magic. This story is honestly groundbreaking in the YA genre because it has a love triangle that doesn't get in the way of the plot and doesn't prevent any awesome main character development.
I honestly cannot wait to read the next book in the series and I desperately hope that the love triangle doesn't become the primary focus of the story. I might just go into a reading rage should that happen.

  • Fairest by Marissa Meyer

 Rating: 

It's time for some honesty. This isn't the book that fans of the Lunar Chronicles wanted. With the awesome ending of Cress so many of the fans of the series just wanted to read Winter immediately. What we received months later was this not quite novel, not quite novella about Queen Levana and her backstory. If I'm going to be blunt, the best part of this book was the excerpt from Winter. It was fantastically written and only made me want the book even more than I already did. Fairest on the other hand was a completely average piece of work, which is depressing because Meyer is such a great writer. For the longest time I actually looked forward to this book. I'm one of those people that loves a dynamic villain. I hate when an evil character is just that: evil. I want a villain to have a backstory or something about their character that justifies part of their actions or even humanizes them. Take the tv show, Once Upon a Time for example, which is coincidentally reworking fairy-tales like Meyer is doing. The main villains on the show, Regina and Rumpelstiltskin, started out as one dimensionally evil. They then grew to be so complex that I actually prefer their story-lines over the heroic characters' ones.

Sadly, this doesn't happen with Levana. Granted, the book does detail the abuse Levana faced from her sister Channary, but that plot point is brought up rarely and in flashbacks. For the majority of the book, Levana is the same evil and manipulative person we got to know in the Lunar Chronicles. If there isn't going to be any real character depth or development why even write the book? Honestly, the book revealed more interesting details about Winter's backstory than it did Levana's. I just question why I had to pay full hardcover price for a story that could have easily been packaged in a deluxe edition of Cress or Winter or sold as an e-novella. I know I'm excessively complaining about the story, but at the end of the day it was a pretty average read that I don't regret finishing. It was fast paced, relatively well written, and captivating, which is all that you can really ask of a good afternoon read.

  • The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead

Rating: 


Surprisingly, dear readers, this was the book I was most looking forward to this year. The Ruby Circle is the last book in the Bloodlines series and naturally I expected something fantastic to end the rather good spin off series from The Vampire Academy books. I even planned on doing a full review for this book, which included formatting an entire blog post before I realized I had nothing of merit to say. All of my feelings could be summed up with one word: Meh. Readers, this book is the result of stretching out three books worth of content into a six book series. It is also what happens when you allow the romance to become more important than the actual plotline. There was no real driving action, no notable character development, and the so called climax and ending depended upon random side characters. The ending was also such a saccharine happily ever after that I felt like I wasted my time reading the whole series. This spinoff series could have been a chance to expand upon the Vampire Academy world, transforming secondary characters into dynamic, fully fleshed out individuals. Instead the series devolved into pandering to an audience that loves to use ridiculously juvenile gif sets about how Adrian is so hot and how perfect Sydney and Adrian are as a couple..."Oh Sydrian, my #OTP"  No thanks! I'll just be the cynic standing in the corner wishing for a better end to this series. There was the slight suggestion that more books might be published in the Vampire Academy world and should that ever happen, I'm not quite sure I would be as open to reading that spin-off of a spin-off series.


  • Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
  
Rating: 

Lately, I've been getting into the habit of reading more nonfiction and memoirs, but I've also noticed a trend where the most popular memoirs are also the ones that suck the most. Case in point, this book. Not That Kind of Girl is the latest in so called feminist memoirs that shares the limelight with the likes of Catlin Moran, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler. The only problem, and I should have predicted this before I started reading this book, is that I HATED Moran's How To Be a Woman and I found Fey's and Poehler's books to be average/good. I really need to stop believing that highly privileged women have the hilariously packaged wisdom I so desire. What ends up happening is I end up reading 2-300 pages of weird personal stories without any sort of organization or purpose. Reading Not That Kind of Girl felt like I sat down and willingly listened to someone's weird sexual stories ad nauseum. I think the publisher made the right decision putting the word "learned" in quotation marks because you really don't learn much from this book and the entertainment value is next to nothing. If I'm in a masochistic mood I might just have to read Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg next. That will surely round out my general feelings of distaste and disappointment.


  • Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay


Rating: 

Speaking of which, I apparently decided that I hadn't had enough of that genre, so I decided to read yet another feminist related memoir. This one wasn't as bad as Not That Kind of Girl, but it still didn't completely impress me. I'd been curious about Bad Feminist for a long time. Again this was a book that got a lot of press from the media particularly because of the title. Despite the title this book does not follow the failings of the author as a feminist. In fact, I was first prompted to read this book because of a discussion I had in my Feminist Issues and Theories course (I'm a Women and Gender Studies minor). For some inexplicable reason, instead of actually reading theory material, we were prompted to discuss what makes a good or a bad feminist. Rather than simply answer the question with something like: "A good feminist strives for equality for all, while a bad feminist always devalues anything feminine and is misandrist, I immediately questioned those labels. Labeling something good or bad is always subjective. Some would say a stay-at-home mom could never be a feminist because she represents all that women strived to get away from in the 50s and 60s. I would say that you can be a feminist and a stay-at-home mom. Anyway I was hoping that Gay would break that idea down, but sadly I was disappointed. Even though the book was titled Bad Feminist, she only spends two small chapters discussing what she means.
 Aside from that the book was really good. It had a nice mix of personal stories and commentary on life today as a woman. She addresses rape culture, certain media phenomena, and of course reproductive rights. The only problem that I foresee is that this book will not age well. Most of it was full of pop culture references that will no longer be relatable in a year or two. So if you've been thinking about reading this book, I would do it soon.


  • Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Rating: 

While the reviews for Asylum on Goodreads are split down the middle with some loving the book and others hating it, I'm one of the few people that found the story to be kind of...well average. The book follows the male protagonist, Dan, who is attending a college prep summer program, whose dorm was once an old Asylum with an interesting past to say the least. Once students start to turn up dead in a style similar to that of a serial killer that was once housed in the Asylum, Dan starts to question the history of the Asylum. This book was average for me because the plot had pretty good pacing and the horror element wasn't too overwrought.

The real problem with the book has to be the juvenile way in which the characters were crafted. The two side characters, Abby and Jordan were one dimensional at best. Jordan for example is really just a walking set of character cliches that rotate based on the situation. Not to mention Dan as the main character really isn't that captivating and his insta-love relationship obviously doesn't work out either. The other significant problem with this book is that it only seems to be getting attention by piggybacking on the success of Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. This book even copies Riggs' format by interspersing creepy old style pictures throughout the narrative. It makes it even harder to really like this book knowing that it's a bit of a copy-cat. That being said it was a quick afternoon read that I don't completely regret picking up.

  • Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2) by Sarah J. Maas
     
Rating: 

   THIS BOOK!!!!! Or better yet, THIS SERIES!!!
       
There's something you should know about me. I find it easier to talk about books I don't like than books I ridiculously enjoy. I can point out a book's flaws to no end, but it takes me forever to organize my thoughts about a fantastic book. I'm having that problem with Crown of Midnight right now. While I really enjoyed Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight completely convinced me that this is my new favorite series. I'm positive that if you give me a book with a strong, kick-ass female heroine, I have to try really hard not to like it. If YA fiction were more like this series, I wouldn't ever need another genre. Crown of Midnight combines action, adventure, romance, and magic all into one book.

It follows Celaena Sardothien, who is now in the midst of her duties as the king's assassin at the beginning of the book. The king has been ordering her to execute individuals he thinks might be involved in organizations working to overthrow him. Of course, she doesn't exactly follow his orders and she eventually encounters a figure from her past, who ultimately forces her to question what role she should play in the kingdom. Should she continue to follow the king's orders and ignore the injustices going on in the area or rise up against his totalitarian rule. There are a number of fantastic plot twists and some great character development. The only problem I have with this book is, of course, the love triangle. Granted, this book deals with the love triangle in a palatable way, but I find that its presence in the story causes readers to ignore the awesomeness of Celaena's actions in favor of fawning over the two male love interests, picking "Teams" similar to the Twilight Saga phenomena. If I'm going to be honest, I'm Team Celaena because I want discussions of the book to focus on the awesomeness of the main character and avoid reducing the story to the dramas related to the love triangle.

Those are all of the books I got the chance to read in February. I hope you enjoyed these quick reviews/recaps and maybe found a book or two you might be interested in. I know I loved actually getting a chance to talk about the books I've been reading and I can't wait to make this a permanent blog series. Don't forget to return here in the next couple of days for my March TBR post. I just can't believe it's March now. Where did the time go? Anyway, Best Wishes!                              

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Would You Rather...? Book Edition

Hello again readers! Sorry for the radio silence (well not true considering I do have my own radio show at college, so I'm technically on the radio quite often). Anyway, my life has been pretty hectic as a Senior in college, but I haven't forgotten about this blog. I've had a bit of free time this week, so I decided to take a break from actually reading and put up a few posts. I already have one planned for the end of this month that will start a new and consistent series on this blog, so tune back in for that awesomeness.

In order to fill the time between now and that post, I decided to answer some more questions related to books and this one presents a number of Would You Rather scenarios that I just had to answer for myself.

  • Would you rather only read trilogies or standalones?
Standalones. You have no idea how frustrating it is to have to keep up with series books, particularly when there isn't enough content to warrant a whole series. I've read so many trilogies lately, since that's what the YA genre has turned into these days, where the first book is great and then the second two are huge let downs because they have so much filler material. I would also feel less guilty about abandoning series if all I ever read was standalones.
  • Would you rather only read male authors or female authors?
No. This is a stupid question and I really can't believe anyone would have a preference over what gender the author of the book they're reading has. Men and women both write equally great or terrible novels.

  • Would you rather shop at Barnes and Nobles or Amazon?
As much as I love the cheap books that I can buy at Amazon, I would rather shop at Barnes and Nobles. So many bookstores have gone out of business lately and the remaining ones need all the support they can get. Not to mention in a physical bookstore you can actually do some effective browsing that is kind of a pain to do on Amazon. I've found so many great books browsing the shelves at Barnes and Nobles that I would have never even considered had I been online shopping.

  • Would you rather all books be made into tv shows or movies?
Honestly, I wish all of them could be made into tv shows. There are so many options there and you can actually have more than two hours to devote to the storyline. For the shorter books you could have miniseries and for longer series you could have tv seasons. You have no idea how ridiculously excited I got when I found out Netflix was redoing A Series of Unfortunate Events. Could you imagine all of the awesome tv series of books ruined by the movie industry.
  • Would you rather only read 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?
Would anyone that likes books really pick that first option? Really? If I had the time, you bet I'd be reading 5 books a week. Could you imagine how long it would take to finish a book if you only read 5 pages a day.
  • Would you rather be a professional author or reviewer?
I feel like everybody wishes that they could be an author, including myself, but realistically I'm not that great of a creative writer. Maybe if I actually put some time and effort into in? Honestly, I would be satisfied being a reviewer.
  • Would you rather read your top 20 favorite books over and over again or constantly be reading a new book?
As much as I love my favorite books, if I had to read them over and over again, they would quickly become my least favorites. I say why reread when you can be discovering new favorite books.
  • Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?
Bookseller. I'd love to have a kitschy bookshop with a shop cat and a reading nook. I may be romanticizing this a bit, but I've volunteered at libraries and there is a lot of stress there, not to mention the minute winter hits, tons of weirdos flock to the heated interiors of libraries.
  • Would you rather only read your favorite genre or every other kind of genre?
Joke's on you! I don't have a single favorite genre. I just read whatever interests me regardless of genre.
  • Would you rather read e-books or physical books?

  Ah, the never-ending conflict between book lovers. I feel like you've already heard both sides of these arguments about a billion times, so I'm just going to keep this short, sweet, and accented with gifs. I love physical books. You can collect and display them, they don't need to be charged, they have fantastic cover art (sometimes), and they smell wonderful. Are there also benefits to an e-reader? Yes. Could I go on? Yes. Will I? Nope. Now enjoy these lovely gifs of two of my favorite public figures.
 



That's all the questions I have for this post, but please visit near the end of the month for my next post. It has some pretty fantastic reviews of recently released books. Until next time, Best Wishes!