Sunday, September 6, 2015

August 2015 Wrap-Up

As one of my favorite Florence and the Machine songs says, the dog days are over, and with it the month of August. To be fair though, I'm a bit glad August is finally over considering it is the month I will now characterize as the period of one of my worst reading slumps. For whatever reason, I started out the month strong. I was hoping to read as many books as I did in July and then that just didn't occur. Reading slumps happen to the best of us I guess. If you follow me on Goodreads then you probably know that six days into September, I've already finished a decent number of books, so the reading slump is no more! Now that my exhausting work week is over and I've had a ton of sleep, it's time to let you lovely readers know about all of the books I did manage to finish in August.
  • Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
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As I've mentioned plenty of times before, I'm not really a huge nonfiction fan. I find that most of the books in that genre are mindnumbingly boring, but I've been pushing myself to expand my reading tastes and Erik Larson is the perfect author for that. He somehow manages to make history read like an exciting novel and I think he deserves all the praise in the world for that. Dead Wake is no different. When I was taking history classes in high school, WWI wasn't a historical period that particularly drew my attention, but I decided to read this book because I enjoyed Larson's previous book about the Chicago Worlds Fair. While this story in no way measures up to his first book, I found myself totally in engaged in this story about the Lusitania and WWI. In case you were curious, this book isn't a typical chronological start to finish story of the creation and then destruction of the Lusitania. Larson threads together countless historical stories that include the tension between Germany and the rest of the world, the life of the Lusitania's captain, President Wilson's own personal life, and the countless personal histories of the passengers. All more captivating than the last. I ultimately walked away from this book knowing far more about WWI than I did previously and now I'm just hoping Larson is in the process of researching his next book because I need him to keep making nonfiction and history just as engaging as the fiction books I read.
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
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I was more than a little nervous when I made up my mind to read Uprooted. Everybody has been praising this book and normally when I read popular books, 98% of the time they turn out to be horrible. Uprooted is anything but horrible. In fact this has to be one of the best fantasy YA books I've read in a long time.
And here is where blogger decided to glitch out on me, thereby deleting the rest of the fabulously written review I had for this book. My rage over it is kind of the reason why this wrap-up came out later than usual. Please enjoy this rage gif, which in some way accurately represents my feelings. After that will be my sad attempt to rewrite my thoughts on this great book.

Uprooted centers around the story of Agnieszka, a girl that lives in a village that is constantly threatened by the nearby dark forest and the creatures within that either corrupt or take villagers. The population's only protection from that evil is the Dragon, a male magician, whose only request for protecting the villagers is that every ten years they allow a woman to go and live with him. After those ten years are finished, the woman is released unscathed, but noticeably changed into a more polished person. The women also leave the Dragon with a fortune, which many of them use to leave the village permanently. That's all the synopsis I want to give you because to say more would spoil your reading experience of this book. Even though that description should be enough to convince you to pick up Uprooted immediately, I would like to add that what makes it so special is the fact that the characters are well developed, the world building is solid, and the romance doesn't overshadow or take the place of the plot. I almost wish I could get the chance to read this book for the first time again just so I could recapture the awesomeness. All I have left to say is that you need to read this and I hope that Novik will release another book soon.
  • One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
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About four years ago, I read Jojo Moyes' The Last Letter from Your Lover and I really enjoyed it. I decided to read something else by her and One Plus One is the book I settled on. Originally I rated this 3 stars right after I finished it. This wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't that great either. Then when I came back to write this review, I couldn't remember the book. As in I spent all that time reading it only to completely forget about it a week and a half later. While this could just be my poor memory, I think your book really shouldn't be that forgettable and that's why I knocked off half a star. Plus side is when I read the synopsis on Goodreads, everything came back to me. One Plus One is basically a hallmark or lifetime movie in a literary format. The story centers on Jess, a struggling single mom that cleans the house of a tech millionaire, Ed. She finds out her math genius of a daughter has a chance at getting into a prestigious academy, but Jess can't afford the entrance fee even with the scholarship they've awarded her daughter. Out of nowhere the daughter is invited to an academic competition where the prize money could pay for her schooling. What results is a crazy road trip to the competition with Ed. If you've read any romantic book, you know exactly how this ends. It was still a nice light afternoon read though. 
  • These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
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These Broken Stars is another one of those books that has gotten a lot of great press lately and as you know, I had to check it out. While the norm for these kinds of books is that they turn out to be horrible, but for this book I just felt kind of lukewarm about it. I didn't hate it, but in no way did it blow me away. The story focuses on Tarver Merendsen, a war hero, and Lilac LaRoux, an heiress, who are both on a luxury spaceship named Icarus. Anybody with even a basic understanding of mythology and the Icarus/Daedalus story knows what's bound to happen to the ship. As a result, Tarver and Lilac are stuck together on a foreign planet and most of the book deals with their romantic relationship, survival efforts, and of course an intergalactic conspiracy. While the romance in the story got a little heavy handed at times, the plot does keep you engaged. The one glaring problem to this book is the lack of world building, which seems to be the curse of the majority of sci-fi ya romance series. That's why I gave it a lower star rating.
  • This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

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After finishing the first book and looking up the synopsis for This Shattered World, I got the distinct impression that this series feels like a lesser copy cat of The Lunar Chronicles. I mean they are both sci-fi ya romance novels with each book centering on a different romantic pairing and each adds to the overarching series plotline. Or maybe I just like The Lunar Chronicles so much that I can't completely accept another series that occupies the same genre/plot set-up. Anyway, This Shattered World takes place on a different terraformed world named Avon where the two romantic leads are Jubilee (what a stupid name), a military captain, and Flynn, part of a rebel force of colonists on the planet who are tired of the poor living conditions. Again the story deals with an intergalactic corporation conspiracy, with a distinct sci-fi plot element thrown in that, were I to reveal it, would spoil the series for those that haven't read it yet. Unlike the first book, this second installment seemed to drag plot wise and I wasn't a huge fan of the romance either. Plus side is there hasn't been a love triangle yet! The story is also interesting enough that I definitely plan on reading the last book in the series and I'd recommend it to anyone that wants an easy sci-fi read for a lazy weekend.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
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On to the classic read for this month and it's one I've always felt bad about never reading. Thankfully, I can now say I've read Little Women, but I have to admit I am a little underwhelmed by it. Before reading the book, I watched the movie version with Katharine Hepburn and everything about it captivated me. The book in direct contrast was kind of frustrating. So much of it was full of obnoxious moralizations about life that it alienated me from the story. It wasn't really about the girls' lives so much as what their experiences could teach to the reader. The bright spot throughout the whole reading experience was Jo, but then she finds her perfect and appropriate place in society just as the moralizing Alcott intends. I think this is one of those novels that actually benefits from its movie adaptations. At least Alcott herself recognized that she was basically releasing moral drivel for young girls. If you decide to take on the challenge of reading this book, you're going to need something funny to lift you up again and Lil Women is the video series I'm wholly endorsing to do that. See for yourself

  • Timekeeper by Alexandra Monir
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Often on this blog I like to talk about how reading tastes always change over time. Sometimes the books you liked to read in high school won't always be the books you enjoy later in life. My own reading tastes are a testament to this fact. Timekeeper has been on my TBR list for quite a long time. Over five years if I'm not mistaken. When I was in high school  and completely in love with ya supernatural romances, I read Timeless by Alexandra Monir. It was basically the story of a girl who falls in love with a boy from the past and Timekeeper was the sequel to that book that I never got around to reading until now. I knew going in that rereading the first book and then reading this could be potentially disappointing and indeed it was. The writing felt juvenile and obviously catered to a very young audience. The romance was of course insta-love and the time travel romance was resolved in the same way all time travels romances are resolved in movies, so the book really lacked originality.
  • Arthurian Chronicles
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As I mentioned in my TBR post, this is one of the books I started to read for a course in college and then never got the chance to finish. Granted both Wace and Layamon are derivatives of the same story. Since they are in part inspired by Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain (Historia Regum Britanniae) they read more like a history than exciting episodic adventures. Regardless I really enjoyed reading them and I would encourage people who like the King Arthur stories to check them out.







Those are all of the books that I read during August and I hope some of them inspired your own future TBR choices. Feel free to check back here soon to see what books I'm planning on reading during the month of September, including my classic pick of the month. For all those back at school, I offer my condolences and wishes for success. For those of us no longer in school, I'd just like to say "Isn't life grand this time of the year?" I know I think so.