Sunday, December 6, 2015

November 2015 Wrap-Up

Hello readers! Another month has come and gone. Now that I've recovered from my food coma and sadly went back to work (which is why this post is so late), it's time to tell you about all of the books I've read in November. I didn't realize just how long this was or how many books I actually read this month, so get comfortable. Grab yourself a beverage and a snack. I'm here enjoying a cup of coffee with peppermint mocha creamer, which is my December/Christmas standard. Now it's time to get reviewing!
  • The Amazing Book is Not on Fire by Dan Howell and Phil Lester

I'm a YouTube addict. Yes I'll admit that right now. A good chunk of my day is spent watching all of the videos in my subscription box and that addiction has gotten worse now that some of the channels I subscribe to are doing vlogmas, where they vlog every day in December. I spend almost an hour a day watching those, which is terrible, but at the same time awesome. Two of my favorite outubers are Dan Howell from Danisnotonfire and Phil Lester from AmazingPhil. The two of them create hilarious videos that I love watching and because they are friends and roommates, their videos usually feature the both of them. This year, since it is the year publishing companies have decided to give youtubers book deals, the two of them released The Amazing Book is Not on Fire or TABINOF as it's usually referred to. Since the ghost writing scandal that surrounded Zoella's book had such huge press, I think the two of them went to pretty great lengths to show audiences that this book was in fact written by them, which is something that I really appreciate.

I'm going to say this now. If you haven't watched Dan and Phil's videos, you probably might not enjoy this book. In fact, TABINOF seems like a book created especially for their fans (phans?). What's so refreshing about this book is that it doesn't try to give you life advice like the other youtuber books. I'm sorry but if you are under the age of 35 or maybe even 40, I don't think you've lived long enough to give me life advice. I'm just being blunt here. What this book does have are great full color photographs (which is to be expected in this type of book to fill out the page count) and tons of hilarious passages. Some of them are old diary entries, old messenger conversations, and chronicles of their trips abroad. Every section has another great story that helps viewers of their channels get to know Dan and Phil a bit better.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Illustrated Edition) by J.K. Rowling

Even though I recently re-read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I knew I had to read it again now that I have the illustrated version. All I can say is this purchase was totally worth it. The entire book is full of detailed, full color illustrations that really bring the story and characters to life. It's nice to have a point of comparison to the story presented in the movies. Honestly, you could spend forever just looking at the pictures and not even get to the story. This book even has illustrations of the different types of dragon eggs and the various species of trolls. I, of course, have some favorite illustrations that I kind of wish I could get as separate prints. I loved the picture of Harry in the cupboard under the stairs and the illustration of him with the mirror of erised is so beautiful and so heartbreaking. All I have to say is if you are a Harry Potter fan, you will LOVE this book. I can't wait to get my hands on the next illustrated edition in the series.
  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Oh Rainbow Rowell, why are all of your books so good!? She writes some amazing contemporary novels and now she churns out a fantastic fantasy book. For those that don't know, Carry On grew out of Rainbow Rowell's ya contemporary book, Fangirl. In the book, there is the Simon Snow series that exists in that world and the main character of Fangirl, Cath, writes a fanfiction based on that story. This real life version, Carry On, is basically that fanfiction. What makes this even more screwy is that it is also inspired by/a fanfiction of Harry Potter. Even after all of that, if you can keep it straight, this is a great book. It has that all too often hard to achieve balance of action, world building, and romance.

This story takes place at the Watford School of Magicks where Simon Snow (aka our Harry Potter double) is struggling with his powers, pressure from The Mage to leave the school, and the threat of the humdrum. On top of all of that, he is having relationship troubles with his girlfriend, Agatha, and his roommate/enemy/vampire, Baz. hasn't returned to school. This book basically chronicles Simon, Penny, and even Baz's efforts to defeat the humdrum. Not to mention there is some awesome LGBT+ representation going on here. It's not to often that we get mainstream books whose main romance is an LGBT+ one and I love it. If you're a fan of Harry Potter and ya contemporary romances, you really need to read this book.
  • Night Film by Marisha Pessl

When I first started reading Night Film, I expected it to be a book with a innovative format, but for the most part it was a traditional novel, with the exception of the Night Film app. Night Film centers around an investigative journalist, Scott McGrath, whose whole career was ruined when he accused Stanislas Cordova, a director, of having a corrupting influence on people and an unsettled mind. He looks into Cordova's life again when the director's daughter, Ashley Cordova, is found dead. What results is a twisting and turning investigation into the director's life, his movies, and the supernatural.

Within the story there are a few pictures of articles and copies of records. If you download the special app on your phone, you can use the app to scan the specific bird illustrations to unlock content. While awesome in theory, the app is very testy and sometimes it will take numerous tries before the app recognizes the illustration. Not to mention the content that is unlocked is just bonus content like audio clips and poster concepts of Cordova's films. If you don't download and use the app, you aren't missing anything.

I think the one glaring fault to this book is the fact that it is just too long. All of the weird supernatural stuff that Scott experiences or uncovers draws you in and then the next second it gets boring again. Then you have to slog through a tons of pages to get to another exciting part. Had this book been edited down a little bit, I think it would have made an awesome mystery/supernatural thriller book.
  • Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier

I'm going to be honest. Sapphire Blue is like the sophomore slump of this whole series. This is the second book in the Ruby Red Trilogy which centers on Gwen, who discovers that she has the power to time travel. As a result, she becomes a part of this secret time traveling society lead by the Count de Saint Germain. Using the Chronograph, which is a device that allows her to control her time traveling, she travels with her partner/love interest, Gideon,
in order to get the blood of all the 12 time travelers into the Chronograph and fulfill the prophecy. Part of the conflict in the series is the question of whether or not the Count is abusing the time travelers for his own evil reasons.

While the first book, Ruby Red, had a nice balance of action, world building, and romance, this book does not. Most of the content in this story is of course the romance between Gwen and Gideon. Not to mention the pitiful love triangle of Gwen, Gideon, and Charlotte. I was ready to learn more about the prophecy and get deeper into the history of this organization. Not to mention I wanted a little bit of character development with the secondary characters. Sadly, this books is pages and pages of "Does Gideon really love me?". Not to mention the majority of the action in this book is a build-up to a ball. Just when the book starts to get interesting, the next moment it's over. I was shocked that there wasn't more left to this book. As a result, I started reading the last book in the series straight away. Speaking of which...
  • Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier

I'm going to skip over the usual plot summary for this one because you already read the premise above and I really don't want to be too spoilery. Basically all this book boils down to is more Gwen and Gideon relationship drama and the end of the series conflict with the Chronograph and what happens when the blood of all of the time travelers is placed within it. While the final book in the series was enjoyable, I'll give it that, it was so underwhelming at times nor was there any build-up to a final clash. There are a lot of character revelations in this book that you could see a mile away. Not to mention the characters don't act so surprised and shocked as you think they would to these revelations. I think the best parts of this book, or really just the whole series in general, are when Gwen interacts with the secondary characters. Those relationships are more interesting and feel more authentic. I love the conversations she has with Lesley and James. I think the best moments happen when Gwen is talking with her grandfather in the past. The Ruby Red Trilogy started out with an amazing concept, but fell prey to the usual ya genre stereotypes.
  • Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

Lair of Dreams is the sequel to The Diviners and like the first book, takes place in the 1920s. Another important setting backdrop to this story is the xenophobic tensions surrounding immigration, particularly in regards to Chinese immigration. This included denying citizenship to Chinese men and women, not to mention the Chinese Exclusion Act. Now on to the story.

This book picks up after Evie O'Neill, a girl who can see the past by reading objects, reveals to the world that diviners exist. Diviners are people who have any type of supernatural power. Evie in her self absorption, alienates herself from her uncle and is now the star of a radio show where she showcases her powers. She uses her wealth to throw lavish parties and then consequently gets thrown out of numerous hotels. But if I'm going to be honest, this book isn't about Evie.

Lair of Dreams takes the time to tell the stories of all the other diviners. All of these secondary characters turned main characters are forced to come together when another supernatural force is menacing New York City. Many people in the city are falling prey to the sleeping sickness, where people go to sleep and never wake up. The bulk of the story focuses on Henry DuBois and Ling Chan, two dream walkers who bond over trying to reclaim the past through their dreams. Their lives get worse when the public starts to blame the Chinese for the outbreak of this sickness. Even though this book is quite large in size, I was completely captivated and there wasn't a single boring moment. During the work week when I was reading this, I was totally antisocial on my lunch breaks because I spent them reading this. All of the characters are fully fleshed out, the would building is seamless, and I love the historical background to it all. I'm just annoyed that I don't have the next book in the series in my hand right now to read. If you haven't already, you need to look into The Diviners series. You won't regret it.
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Now it's time to review the classic pick of the month. Mansfield Park is the last Jane Austen book that I had left to read, with the exception of Sandition, well if you really want to count that book. I really had high hopes for this book because I didn't like Sense and Sensibility that much. Sadly, I wasn't a huge fan of this book either. In fact, it took me so long to force myself to read this that I didn't actually finish this until the first week of December. I'm still including it in this wrap-up anyway.

Mansfield Park centers on Fanny Price, a young girl whose care has been taken over by her aunt and uncle who live at Mansfield Park. The two of them considered removing Fanny from her overcrowded and poor family to bring her up in gentile society as an act of kindness. She's raised with her cousins: Thomas, Edmund, Maria, and Julia. She grows up into a meek woman, who is always reminded of her place in the house as a ward. All of their personal relationships are complicated when Mary and Henry Crawford come to the area.

The intellectual in me understands how great this book actually is when you consider the characters. Fanny isn't mean't to be like the other spunky, outspoken Austen protagonists. She is the lens through which the reader gets to see all the faults of the other characters and upper class society in general. Their loose morals, shallow relationships, and excess. The other part of me just thinks this was a boring book and Fanny was such an uninteresting character that I really didn't care what happened to her. Not to mention the main romance of the story was barely mentioned or even wrapped up by the end of the novel. All I can say is that I did like this book better than Sense and Sensibility and now I'm ready to move on to my next classic pick.

Those are all of the books that I read in November. I hope that you enjoyed all of these mini reviews and that you'll check out some of the higher rated titles in this post. Now that November is over, I guess it's time to start thinking about Christmas decorating and looking forward to all of the new books I hope to get before the end of the year. Stay tuned to read about all of the books that I hope to read during the festive month of December!