Thursday, December 8, 2016

Should You Bother? Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clark

It's been a hot minute since I last posted, because Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was a LONG BOOK. At first glance, this book seems to be right up my ally. It's fantasy, set in Edwardian London, about magicians. Sold! 1,000 pages? About magic? Easy. Oh, there's a BBC show? Sure! Let me finish reading this book first!

I first bought the auiobook of this at first, and it was really wordy. I couldn't follow along as I completed work, so I had to put it down. Sometimes reading the book versus listening to it is more manageable, so I figured I would check it out of the library and give it a second chance.

I should have trusted my gut. It's not that it was bad. Clark is incredibly inventive and creative, taking Edwardian London and twisting it to include magic as if our universe always had magic.

But it was wordy, and about... 400 pages too long?  There were footnotes, that I skipped for much of the book. I don't remember a lot of what happened, except Jonathan Strange in the war, there was some beef with Mr. Norrell and Jonathan, and some women got into deep shit because of Strange and Mr. Norrell.

It soon became interesting about 7/8th of the way through, but I'm not sure if it's because I was excited to be finished the book, or actually the events in Venice were interesting. I could even argue that there should have been 2 books, but so much of Jonathan Strange was unmemorable that I don't think 2 books would have been wise.

So, should you bother? No. The BBC show was entertaining, and cut out most of the book to focus on the key points. It made for a more enjoyable way to experience the story instead of muddling through 1,000 pages of a book. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Prince Lestat by Anne Rice

I think one of my first posts on this blog was an Anne Rice book and funnily enough, reading through the Anne Rice's series was what made me want to start a book review blog in the first place. Anne Rice's style of writing has changed over the years, which is natural, but Anne Rice's quality of work has definitely been up and down over the years as well. The first three books of the Vampire Chronicles are most notably the top of the line, and then we have Memnoch the Devil and the Vampire Armand, which both were the biggest waste of time and space.

It's interesting when I read her books in quick succession, and how her real life, and her pursuit of God and spirituality, impacted her writing and her viewpoints. Vittorio the Vampire is all about spirituality and religion, and the existence of Angels, God and how it factors into humanity and the meaning of humanity.  She draws a very clear line from her fantasy series novel (in which she also tackles humanity, but in the context of the supernatural) to when she really starts to delve into Catholicism.

Anne Rice announced in early 2000s that she was done writing Vampire Chronicles novels and that she had no more stories to tell with either the Mayfair Witches or the vampires of the Vampire Chronicles. She wanted to focus on writing Christian literature and Rice did, producing 4 books centering around Catholic and Christian stories and figures. When I read her books in quick succession, it was very apparent her interests towards Christian Literature and Spirituality.

Of course, her fans called it when those books didn't sell very well, and she was back at it, writing fantasy about Werewolves. I haven't read those books yet, but you all know I'm going to try and find them at the Book fair next weekend. One reviewer titled it, "Vintage Rice" which leads me to the review of the Prince Lestat, a book I found at the library.

I glanced at some of the reviews on Goodreads, and man, a lot of people either hated the book or loved the book. I was under the impression that she had a good editor (I'll get to that in a moment), but many have said that her first draft is her only draft, and that her fans will buy and read the book regardless.

I don't know if that's true. One issue that many critics had was that she had a timeline, and a glossary at the beginning of the book to inform new readers the backstory of the Vampire Chronicles. From what I remember, she never did that before, and many of the "glossary" terms she used were never used before in any of her other books. Having different names for certain things wasn't always Anne's style, which makes me believe that she worked with someone to produce something like that.

Many critics also stated how nothing happens in the book, that everything was resolved really neatly, and that the vampires behaved like a bunch of old people. I can definitely see all of that. However, I think there are way worst books in the series than this one.

I rank my top Anne Rice Books (I'm not going to include the Mayfair Witches, just the crossovers) as follows:

  1. Queen of the Damned
  2. Interview with the Vampire
  3. Vampire Lestat 
  4. The Body Thief
  5. Blood Canticle 
  6. Prince Lestat
So, it's in the middle in terms of books to read. I wouldn't even waste my time reading Memnoch the Devil, The Vampire Armand, or Blood and Gold. Other than thinking that Rice lost the chance of exploring another family branch of the Mayfairs by killing Merrick off, I don't really remember much about the Merrick novel to have an opinion on it one way or another. 

Do I feel like Lestat is a Gary Stu? Absolutely. Did it take me a bit to get through? Well, yes. I found myself falling asleep while reading this novel, but since I read before going to bed anyway, I didn't find this as a bad thing. 

However, Rice introduced some new characters, offered some perspective on her vampire mythology that she hadn't explored before, and overall, I thought it was an interesting plot and path to take. Now that Lestat is the most powerful being in the world by the end of the book (which, in any other book series, I would call a spoiler, but the reader guessed what's going to happen as soon as The Voice appears), what will his next move be? What will her next book look like? 

The book didn't offend me, but I'm glad that I read it, instead of listening to the audio. When books don't have a quick paced sequence of events where something is happening, or someone is not talking in plain speech, it can get brutal, and I think I would have hated the book if I checked out the audiobook. 

So, if you spot it at the library, need a book to read before going to bed, and you liked early Anne Rice, then give Prince Lestat a shot. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I remembered reading on goodreads that a few of my friends read this book and enjoyed it. I tucked it in the back of my mind and immediately reached for it when I perused by my neighborhood's library.

Fangirl definitely brought me back to that time where even though I didn't write fanfic per say, I definitely dabbled in the same sort of "using the universe in which the author wrote the books" in the form of online forum role playing.

Though I didn't have the same trouble as Cath did adjusting to her new surroundings, role play "fanfic" was definitely a security blanket for me. It was a place where I went with my friends that I also met by role playing (and now are all, and will forever be my deeply close friends) and we were able to write stories with characters that we created within the confines of the universe of Harry Potter.

It opens up to a character named Cath, who is starting college with her twin sister, Wren. It's revealed that Wren wants to room with other people, which doesn't settle with Cath, who relies on her sister for most things. Cath has anxiety and depression issues, and does not do well with change (and really, who doesn't?). She has a roommate who is older and intimidates Cath and in the beginning, it seems like she is utterly alone. She hates it.

During her year at school, she juggles her writing, classes, her relationship with her sister and her father, along with the new territory of boys. Cath has a boyfriend at the start of the school year, but Wren dutifully tells her that he's more like a piece of furniture than an actual boyfriend and soon he fades into the background.

Throughout the year, Cath is peeled like an onion and her worldview is challenged, ultimately with good results. When I was reading the book, and immediately after, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Now, after getting some space from the book, I realized that though there are many, many good parts of the book, I love the character of Cath, I was rooting for Cath and Reagan's friendship, Cath and her sister's relationship and even Cath and Levi's relationship, the actual story doesn't really have a satisfactory conclusion, at least for me. It sort of drops off after Cath tells Nick to go kick rocks (after he basically steals her part of their story), and Cath goes to sit down and write her final story for her creative writing class. You're meant to draw conclusions and ponder how she finishes her fanfiction, and how she finishes her final paper, but I was disappointed that she got this great grade after hammering it out in 10 hours.

I don't know about you, but my schooling never worked out that way. I was never able to turn out a paper in a day and submit it without even proof reading it. My teachers knew and called me out on it every time.

I was also incredibly disinterested in the Simon Snow fan fiction. I found myself just skipping over all the interludes. I will not be reading the Simon Snow book she wrote as a complementary book to Fangirl.

So overall, it was a good read, if you don't read too closely, and enjoy the ride. Otherwise, the plot just falls through and you are left with more questions than answers... but then again, isn't that what growing up is all about?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

I read the first book in the series for a book club that only met once. To be fair, it was online and our schedules quickly didn't align to continue the tradition. Whereas my friend Ashley loved the first book (and even drew inspiration from the series to develop a character of her own), I remembered having negative feelings about the book... but since I read the second and then the third book in the series, clearly I forgotten how I felt and my negative feelings were flimsy at best.

I read the second of the series later on. I think I was looking for a book to read, and since Daughter of Smoke and Bone didn't offend me greatly, I decided to give the second book in the series a try. At that time, there was one more book that was going to be released, and I promptly forgot about the books until I spotted it in the library a few weeks ago.

The series follows the adventure of a young woman named Karou, who has a mysterious past life in a parallel universe ravaged by war. There are several characters that Taylor utilizes in the 3rd book, including her best friend Zuzana, her boyfriend Mik, her Romeo, Akiva, Akiva's sister, Liraz and Karou's "shadow," Ziri.

What Taylor does best is utilize this world she created. It's a very simple set up: "two houses, both alike in dignity" so on and so forth. It's a love story, it's full of action, and she's a great writer.

It's unfortunate, however, that I just couldn't stand both Karou and Akiva. Well, I take that back, it wasn't that I couldn't stand them, it was more like, they were boring to me. Karou and Akiva mirrors every single teenager in modern times: Karou has blue hair, is an art student in Prague, out of all places, and is "edgy" with her job of collecting teeth. Akiva is a mysterious, dangerous, born out of wedlock (that's a major plot point. I'm not mentioning that to be catty), brooding and a warrior. And it's not like they grow out of these rough sketches of character. No, they stay as they are, with rising and falling tides of lusting after each other but not able to speak to each other... cause you know, their races are at war with each other.

It took me a bit to get through it. I just didn't care whether Karou and Akiva lived or not, but I was glad I stuck it out, because 3/4th of the way through the book, I suddenly cared a lot about what was going to happen. I think the reason that I really cared about what was going to happen was not because of Karou and Akiva (of course they were going to live and spend the rest of their lives together) but because of the developing relationship between Ziri (in Thiago's body) and Liraz and the question of "will they, won't they?" anticipation. I didn't know what was going to happen, so I was on the edge when I read, hoping that Ziri's sacrifice wasn't in the name of vapid Karou and Akiva.

I do give Taylor credit though.She stopped (at this point) with a trilogy, and is currently working on other things. She even left the story in a place where she can easily pick it up again if she wanted too. I would personally like it if she centered it on Ziri and Liraz, the most unlikely couple ever, and just kind of carted Karou and Akiva out every so often to say something useful.

Overall, it's a decent series. Taylor's writing is great, and I can't wait to see what she writes next.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men by Molly Harper

Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men by Molly Harper is the second installment of the book series. I'm relieved that I was able to see past the stupid book titles and give the series a try, because I have been rage quitting a lot of books lately. The combination of a voice actor and book can either really make or break a book. At least when you read, you have the ability to skim past certain lengthy paragraphs or just mindlessly read past certain parts of the book. With an audiobook, you are trapped! You have to listen to every agonizing word!

With this series, I love the combination of the southern twang of the voice actor and the fluffiness of the series. I really liked the first book of the series, Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs, and was looking to get more into it.

So the verdict? It was good, but it wasn't quite as good as the first book. There is some of the outrageous humor, sexiness and circumstances that made the first book so great,  but the "mystery" of the book is super silly and easy to figure out, and some of the Mama Ginger mother-in-law interactions were so over the top that, if one could read it without rolling their eyes, it was hardly believable.

Yeah, yeah... believable for a vampire book series. I wish there was more to the story than the protagonist's best friend's mother dealing with control issues by hiring a witch to stop the wedding and instead of marrying the woman that loves him, marry the protagonist. In the first book, Misty at least wanted her property and they had a gruesome vampire fight at the climax of the book.

The author tried and failed to deliver the humor on terrible weddings. Even though Jane is called out on it quite a few times in the book, it got old after a while to repeatedly describe the awful, trashy wedding that Jolene planned with her hick family.

However, I still identify, laugh and love all the crazy family stuff that Jane has to go through. A lot of times stories deal with the importance of family, and how family will always be there for you... but it's refreshing to see the flipped coin of that, and look at the idea of, 'well, your family is nuts and takes advantage of you at every turn, manipulates you and makes you feel like crap all the time. Are you still obligated to be there for your family when you don't necessary like them and your friends do way more for you than they ever did?'

There are two more books in the series that I can't wait to read, and there are other spin off series of the Nice Girls. I like the cheeky fluffiness that comes with the title, and they are an easy listen at work.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Cursed Child by JK Rowling

Image result for cursed child bookOriginally, I didn't give Cursed Child that much thought. A few of my friends who live in the U.K got tickets to see the play, which I was insanely jealous about, but I figured I would hear it from them about how good it was and then move on with my life.

When it was revealed that The Cursed Child was going to be released as a book, my first thought was... 'that's odd. Isn't it a play?' Sure, we read plays all the time. It's the bulk of our English classes in high school and college. However, I don't go out and purchases plays to read for fun. I like seeing them but the phenomenon of reading plays are reserved for Shakespeare.

But, I was a bit curious to read what the contents were, especially since the play opened, and the play date of my friends to go see the it draws nearer and nearer. I received the book for my 1st wedding anniversary, so even if the book blew, it would still hold a special place in my heart.

I managed to stay away from all the think pieces and reviews of the book, and so when I read it, my initial knee jerk reaction was that... it was awesome. I took it for face value, I imagined seeing the play while I read it, I loved the characters and I thought that JK Rowling did exactly what she wanted to do, she wrote a sequel using a new medium to do it.

Even though I still maintain that JK Rowling never intended to write anything else after the books, or else she would have given Harry's kids better names, (Come on, Sirius? Hagrid? Anyone else?) I thought the characterization of Scorpio (another terrible name) and Albus were great. Both in Slytherin, both act heroic, like Slytherins are also capable of doing. I thought, the time turners, and the multiple possible universes were entertaining and gave the Potterverse a unique spin. Did I expect it to be exact? No. But the point of play wasn't to follow canon exactly. It's to entertain.

But man, fans are the worst.  I know everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, did people lose everything they were taught in high school English? Have they not matured as an adult at all? Doesn't anyone remember how to read a play?

I've read many fan critiques of how this wasn't a sequel, there wasn't any magic, Harry said things he would have never said, blah blah blah... I want to remind everyone that in this PLAY that was co-wrote with 2 of the most famous playwrights and show producers today, Harry is 40 years old. He spent a good part of his life doing more stressful things, holding down a very stressful job, being a husband and then learning how to be a father... you know, generally growing up and learning how to be a person. Many fans have stated that telling Albus that he was never his son was something Harry would never do. How do you know what you'll never do? How can you be the same person at 18 to 40? Did everyone forget how awful he was during the 5th book? Finally, it wasn't like Harry said something, and then refused to take it back. By the end of the play, they reconciled in a meaningful way that could only tackle the issue of being Harry's son.

This play about relationships and about growing up. This is about Albus' future, how he connects to it and how, being the son of one of the most famous wizards in the world, he becomes his own person. I'm not sure how that theme turned into a "a terrible sequel" but then again, super fans of all genres don't like it when their fictional universe expands in a way they didn't intended.

Fans, it's not yours. It was never yours. It's JK Rowling's world and we are just lucky to experience it.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Discworld #1, Rincewind: The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett's books have been in the peripheral of my "to read" books for a long time. I didn't really grow up with him, so when he passed away, many of my friends were devastated (he's a national hero in Britain), but since at that moment I hadn't read any of his stuff, I didn't feel a connection to him since I hadn't read any of his books. But the devastation (which was on the level that I presume will be my devastation when JK Rowling eventually passes away) peaked my curiosity, and when Josh and I joined the library, I thought now would be a good time to read some of his stuff.

Currently I have not acquired book number 2 of the series, (though I've read you don't have to read them in order, however, I'm not sure if my OCD can handle that), which is the only downside of the public library. Lots of holds and a lot of waiting.

Nevertheless, I am really excited to read through the rest of the series. Before I read the book, some of the reviews praised the creation and the utilization of Discworld and how innovative Pratchett was with hatching out and exploring Discworld. As someone who enjoys world building, fantasy and science fiction, it's very easy to find patterns in how authors create these worlds based off of trends in the market place. Dystopian "the one" novels (Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.), suffering vampires (Anne Rice, Twilight, Vampire Academy, etc.), so on and so forth. Discworld does not follow trends and there seems to be nothing else like it, even now, even years after this was written.

I was under the grave assumption that Discworld was a YA novel, so therefore, I had to work harder to understand what the heck was going on in the first 20 pages than I had all of Rick Riordan's YA book series... and Hunger Games combined.

However, once I got the hang of Pratchett's style and wit, which is inherently British (and therefore, made bit a bit homesick for Britain), I thought it was creative and funny. The Color of Magic follows two characters, a failed wizard and the first tourist to ever come to Ankh-Morpork, Twoflower and Rincewind, the wizard who failed out of magic school and only knows 1 magic spell (that will essentially end the world if he ever utters it). The bumbling pair, one plagued by ineptitude and the other by FOMO, get into all kinds of shenanigans where they almost died, but also, see a lot of Discworld that either of them never seen before (Rincewind does not care to see it, but Twoflower is elated too).

It's colorful, inventive and Pratchett does not waste a word. Those who've read the other books in the series state that there are much better books, but this one is good. I was entertained and I can't wait to read the others.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Which is Better? The Maze Runner

Finally! This post series is back! The movie was on HBOGO for a while, but then was taken off, and now it was put back again! It was a double feature of this movie and Scorch Trials (which will be discussed in another post), and I was very much entertained by The Maze Runner.

I was very pleased with the adaptation of the novel. The Maze Runner was a straightforward YA dystopian novel where the end of the world happened, but it's a mystery through the eyes of a young protagonist. Usually YA have a female protagonist (the one) but this time it's a guy.

Who has the personality of a foot, but we'll continue on.

The characters are expertly cast with Thomas as the blandly handsome one who the audience is supposed to identify with and Mr. GOT and Love Actually as Newt. He has definitely 12 year old face but since they were looking for young actors, he suited the role. It took me a moment to recognize the actor for Alby (Sens8), but he did a really good job of playing "younger."

I thought the maze, the glade and and the Grievers were really well imagined. Dashner wrote vague enough so that the reader could imagine it in their own way, and the movie also rendered something that's not offensive. The maze is imposing and confusing with lots of foliage and dead ends, though I wish they kept in the parts where Thomas outruns the Griever and climbs up the vines, and then the Griever learns and follows him the second time.

Much of the book was condensed in the movie, but the major plot points were hit. It was even a bit suspenseful because even the movie altered some of the action scenes in the book to just major ones.  

I wonder if The Maze Runner would have been better as a TV show. I understand that it was a movie, but a lot of the personal relationships and the strengthening of these friendships fell by the side, so when that pivotal moment when Chuck jumps in front of Thomas and sacrifices his life for Tom, you don't really feel the awfulness that you do in the book. It would have been more emotionally wrecking to build up that connection to Alby, and him being ripped from the reader's hands two/thirds of the way through the book.

I really liked the way they characterized Gally. Someone who wants order and believes in how things have always been done, but isn't necessarily a bad person. 

Before I saw the movie, I couldn't imagine why, or how they would change the book for the movie, since it was pretty action packed and clearly visualized. Sure, there were some things that were changed and sped up, but overall, pretty good. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Not my Father's Son by Alan Cumming

I first spotted Alan Cumming in the remake of Annie. Even though the original will always have a special place in my heart, I thought Cumming's performance out shined the others performers, and I quickly found out who he was. I drudged up the movie of the remake of Cabaret, and I was transfixed.

He wrote this book because at the same time he was on "Who Do you Think you Are?" on BBC where he was on a mission to uncover the mystery of his grandfather's disappearance, his own father, after several estranged years, informed him, through his brother, that their mother had an affair, and therefore, Alan was another man's son.

I never really followed "Who Do you Think you Are?" on BBC, nor it's American equivalent, but I do have a fond memory of watching the David Tennant episode in Liverpool with Ren and her mother, and at a point where he reaches in a tomb of a relative and touches one of the skulls, they both exclaimed that he needs to watched out or else he'll get cursed! Haha!

Alan Cumming is an eloquent writer and speaker, and I feel like, in theory, I should be annoyed at this book. He talks about his acting and his traveling around the world, but he's incredibly candid and whereas there are a lot of actors that take their craft incredibly seriously, he doesn't, and knows he's incredibly blessed. I was captivated from the beginning, and though I was nervous that his Scottish accent would hinder the easy listening of the book, it actually brought the listener back to where Alan grew up on an estate in Scotland.

Alan travels back and forth in the book, talking about "Then" with the horrible abuse of his father, and "Now" his journey with BBC along with the journey of discovering whether or not Alex Cumming was, in fact, his biological father. You're unsure where it's going, but you know, that no matter what, Alan would be OK.

At least for me, I thought that since his father said that Alan wasn't his son, then it was the truth, right? However, with the twists and turns of this story, on top of his BBC episode, I didn't know what to expect by the end of it. And though it should have left me with a feeling of emptiness and sadness, the way Cumming handles it, with poise and grace, it allowed me to feel OK. That, no matter what, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

It's a riveting listen, and I would highly recommend the audiobook, even if you are not into it. Alan Cumming is phenomenal.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs by Molly Harper

The title is awful. Yes, yes it is. At first, I didn't want to buy this book, but alas, it was on sale, and when one reviewer on goodreads commented that it was like YA authors had a checklist of vampire fantasy (brooding vampire lover caught in a love triangle, living in the south, werewolves, etc.). Well, that's not telling me something I don't like, so I figured I would give it a try.

It did not disappoint. After the awful choice of Discovery of Witches, this was a delight. I found that I need a specific kind of book when I'm at work. I realize that I can't listen to books where I have to pay rapt attention too--I actually have to concentrate every so often, and it stinks if I have to replay what I heard because I was busy trying to figure out a problem.

However, this book, fluffy and silly, fits the profile. It's about a librarian, or well, an ex librarian by the name of Jane Jameson. She was let go from the public library, and decides to drown her sorrow at the local bar, where she meets Gabriel.

It's fantastic, because unlike Discovery of Witches, where Diana slowly turns into a drooling toddler with tits who has be led by the hand by M'estat, Jane openly makes fun of Gabriel but also digging him too. He tries to be the brooding mysterious vampire, but she gets more and more drunk, effectively making an ass out of herself. Though at this time, Jane doesn't know he's a brooding vampire, which makes it all the more charming.

She leaves her car and decides to walk home when she is mistaken for a deer and is shot. Gabriel saves her, effectively turning her into a vampire. And that's when the hilarity begins.

Women in prominent heroine roles with romantic interests in media, sometimes, well, most of the time, don't really make new female friends. Or really, make many friends at all. It might be just that sort of action adventure role where it impacts men as well, but with female empowerment, ditching the patriarchy and calling for more representation of diverse females in media, I really notice it when women don't have other female friends, make new female friends, or just talk about the men in their lives to their female friends.

Which is why Nice Girls is really refreshing. She's multifaceted--she underwent many life changes, snared a new beau but also, made several new friends with varying success. She's presented with a problem, messed a lot up but ultimately solved everything on her own. Jane also befriends both female and male alike, and though she's had a rough love life, she doesn't alienate her new friends for her vampire boyfriend, Gabriel.

Sure, is it eerily like the Sookie Stackhouse series? Yes, it is almost parallel to those books, except Jane Jameson isn't someone who is completely helpless. She makes a lot of mistakes, she makes fun of herself but she keeps on trying and learning. She's smart and wants to solve problems but like a person, she doesn't do it right the first time and doesn't get a guy to help her fix it. Sookie Stackhouse wasn't completely helpless either, but whereas Sookie was a waitress with no aspirations to be anything else (and that's fine), I identify with Jane because she went to school (two advanced degrees, get it girl) but her life veered off in a way that was unexpected, and she has to cobble together something after her transformation. Jane does so, after a few failed attempts at other jobs.

Boy do I relate.

The audiobook is a great listen and by definition the accent should be annoying, it really lends itself to the story. Give it a try, despite the terrible (but kind of growing on me) title.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Scorch Trials by James Dasner

I listened to the first book, The Maze Runner on audiobook. Actually, it was my first book ever that I bought on audiobook and listened to it when I worked at Rite Aid. In a way, I will always look at that book series with fondness, even though I've heard better books since then.

Josh got me this book from the library, and in order to meet the deadline to return the book, I put aside another book to get started on this one.

It's a quick read for an adult, considering it's a YA novel. It's about a group of boys who are unwilling participants in some kind of government experiment in order to save the world. The first book ended with Thomas, Newt, Minho, along with a girl named Theresa, who activated the ending of the Maze, being "rescued." They are transported in a bus to a new location, fed, showered and shown their rooms.

However, not all is well for the group, and Theresa is whisked away during the night and replaced with a boy named Aris. Oh, Theresa, Aris and Thomas are telepathic, and can speak to each other. Aris reveals that there was a Group B, just of girls, and Aris was the activator to ending the Maze. Thomas assumes that Theresa and Aris were switched, though they aren't sure why.

A man arrives and informs them their task: to go to the surface and go North past the mountains. They are all infected with The Flare, a disease that has overtaken Earth. They all have it, but if they make it to the "Safe Haven," they will be given the cure.

This book is definitely a step up from the Maze Runner. There are more characters, and this time, there are girls, instead of just Theresa. It is centered around Thomas, who's best friends with Minho and Newt, but there women to identify with this time around.

To be honest, this book is also a bit scarier than the first book. So, Thomas and the other male gladers arrive to a run down city where the current government disposes people who are infected by the Flare, which makes people act insane. Thomas is separated from the rest of the gladers after an explosion but he's with a new girl by the name of Brenda. She knows the city and she takes Thomas under the tunnels to try and get out of the city to meet up with everyone else.

Well, since they are in the dark tunnels, of course people with the Flare, or "Cranks," track them down and want to kill them. It was terrifying, especially the part where Thomas and Brenda were hiding from them in a small cubbie.

It helped this time that I read the book instead of listening to it. I was able to read as fast as I wanted, and I was able to get through the book in a few days, instead of a few weeks.

Josh and I are going to watch The Maze Runner and Scorch Trials this weekend, so "Which is Better?" posts are coming up!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee

I remembered the movie coming out, and me thinking, "Ugh, that looks so stupid." Years later, I buy the audiobook. It was on sale, and I forgot that Matt Damon was in the movie, so I figured, why not? I think also Scarlett Johansson is also in the movie, but I don't know who she plays.

The audiobook opens with a British narrator. Oh sweet, it's a British family who bought a farm in the UK. Cool. A family who decided to take a risk by buying a farm! Interesting!

Uh, this book opens with a major bummer. Benjamin, Katherine and family moved to France... because, well... just because? I think they just wanted to move there, and both Benjamin and Katherine could work remotely. They purchased a house where Benjamin could fix up when Katherine started to become listless and not herself.

She has a brain tumor, and it's one of those really tough, rare brain tumors that no matter what a person does, it comes back.

This book is going to be devastating.

The first 50 pages of the book is not about the farm at all, but the set up Katherine's eventual passing. You hope, despite of all the odds, that her brain tumor is not going to come back after it's removed, but 3/4th of the way through the book, after they struggle their way through buying the farm, the brain tumor comes back, and Benjamin describes in heart breaking detail of his wife's demise. The way he wrote her was so tender, and even some of the grosser aspects of him taking care of her.

I loved the way he wrote, and of course, I always have a fondness of dry, British humor. Benjamin goes through the process of buying a very run down zoo, with the intent of giving the animals a good home. His entire family, his mother and his siblings, put a lot of money into it. It was a bit stressful hearing how many loans they had to take out, as well as the all the loans that kept falling through.

He had many antidotes about putting together a working crew, dealing with their personalities as well as accumulating money in order to get the zoo up to working order. I also enjoyed the bits about the various animals and their circumstances, with Benjamin's dash of absurdity.

Some of the reviews state that he was dry, but I didn't get that at all. It's possible that it made a better audiobook, with a sweet British accent that could read the British sarcasm and wit; capturing the absurdity of life, and the inclination to not take it so seriously.

I definitely like audiobooks where you can zone out and come back to them, without really missing a whole lot. What I've also realized that I like audiobooks where the plot is a bit simpler, so I can work and listen at the same time.

So, overall, it's a good book if you want an emotional wrecker with the pick me up of saving animals.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

AWOL on the Appalachian Trail by David Miller

David Miller frustrated with his job as a computer programmer and the limitations of now 3 weeks paid vacation, drops everything, his job, his family and decided to go on a thru-hike of the Appalachian trail, or, as it's referred to: the AT.  Thankfully, his wife fully supports him, though his job does not grant his leave, and he resigns.

A thru-hike is where a person hikes by foot for the entire trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. There are different interpretations of this, which David goes into for the book. A "White Blazer" which sticks to the original trail and a "Blue Blazer" which has some short cuts. There are national parks along the way, with shelters, designated camping grounds as well as trail towns where hikers can go to resupply, pick up their posts and rest. 

It's refreshing to read a book about a man who essentially abandons the expectations of what a man in his 40s needs to do, and decides that life is about adventure. He repeatedly states that his wife supports him absolutely, and mentions that he wouldn't have gone if it wasn't for his wife's blessings.

Which is good, because this would have been a different book if it had ended with his wife divorcing him. I felt bad that the only time they hiked together, he decided to hike 20 miles with her, and of course she burned out. I would be so angry if my husband did that to me. Like, not only did she have to hold the fort down, the only time they ever hiked together, he did it to prove a point to her. Sure, he sort of apologized for it, but he seemed a bit dimwitted about it. Like, of course someone can't hike for 20 miles in one day.

He's very blunt about the woes of hiking and his mindset of nearly quitting a few times. He discusses the tolls it takes on his knees, ankles and feet, as well as his back from carrying the 35 pound  backpack. Even though he doesn't shy away from the pain of hiking, he does make it sound romantic, walking into the wilderness in order to get in touch with what really matters; what life is all about.

It makes me want to do it as well. However, I am realistic. I could probably never do the thru-hike. Josh would want to do it with me and the both of us couldn't just quit our jobs and hike for six months with no income. I'm also not sure if I could go that much time without a space to call my own.

David encounters many different hikers; some are thru-hiking like he is, and others are sections hikers (hike a section over several years) and others are weekend or day hikers. However, it's interesting that David actively keep to himself and even though he meets many people during the course of the trail, he doesn't stay with them, instead deciding to walk much of the trail by himself.

Even though I found the book fascinating, I couldn't relate to him walking the trail alone. I think it's a part of being a woman now, even though it's not correct at all, is being wary of traveling by herself. He also talks about hitchhiking, and going into random stranger's houses for a bed and a meal, something he chalks up to "trail magic." I don't know about all of that.

I would most likely would like to travel with someone anyway, I don't think I would have the luxury of traveling alone: no one to financially support me while I was away, along with not feeling safe enough alone on the trail.

It's a soothing book to listen too. I'm not sure if I would have felt the same way if I had read it, but listening to it felt like I could zone out, do some work, and come back to it, and feel like I have not missed anything. That might not be the best thing to admit but it was a good enough book to listen too during the work hours.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

This is... this is a piece of work. I wish I had read some goodreads reviews before getting the audiobook, but I don't usually like to do that. I do listen to the buzz surrounding books, and suggestions, but you never know what you're really going to get when you read reviews of it, because there are some books that the goodreads community HATES, but I absolutely adore, and vice versa.

I was first drawn to the half-off book sale on and I was intrigued by the interesting book title and the blurb. It was also 23 hours long, which, at the time, thought it would be a good way to pass a few days of work.

Boy was I wrong.

This book is absolutely terrible. At first, the reader is lured into the prospect of an exciting book. It's about a woman who is a legacy. Her family come from a long line of Salem witches, but Diana Bishop, however, refused her birthright after the death of her parents. After trial and error, with enormous power that she couldn't control, she abandons it to become a historian. The set up reeks of elitism, because she goes to Harvard, or Yale, and gets her doctorate and becomes a tenured professor... before she's 30, I presume.

The book opens up and she's at Oxford. Yes, for the summer, researching alchemy. I don't particularly care about what part of alchemy she's researching, because no one really "researches" alchemy anymore. However, that's not the part of the book that goes completely south. The set up, no matter how eye roll-y it is, doesn't hold a candle up to the shit show that happens after that.

And I don't mean shit show like it's exciting action. Literally NOTHING happens in this book.

So, she's researching alchemy, and she pulls up this manuscript. The amount of times they mention manuscript in this book is mind boggling, but apparently, since she has all the magic, she finds this special manuscript, which sets off the magic spell that was on it, and alerts all the magical beings. I don't know why all the magical beings wanted this manuscript, and maybe it would have been interesting to me if Harkness hadn't felt the need to concentrate on boring subjects like:

  1. Everything Diana Bishop eats
  2. Everything Diana Bishop wears
  3. Diana's exercise regimen, including a 10 page description of a yoga session
  4. How Diana and Matthew both smell at any given time

Now, before, Diana Bishop and the New England backstory was eye roll-y. Visiting Oxford to do research? Eye roll-y. But the appearance of Matthew... what's his last name? Crawford? L'estat? Who knows, but he's a vampire who felt the magic book and ran into Diana. At first, she is bothered by him and ignores him. But like all possessive vampire romance novels, it quickly turns into something cringe-y and repulsive. My blood ran cold as their relationship progresses, and Diana, someone who seems to be a smart, capable, Mary Sue, turns into a drooling toddler who can't think of herself. Some things that Matthew does:
  1. Drug her because he thinks she needs to sleep and she doesn't want too
  2. Holds her in his arms by her wrists despite her repeatedly telling him, "no" and to "let me go" and "stop it" 
  3. They go horseback riding and she momentarily thinks about jumping the fence, and Matthew turns and tells her, "we will be done horseback riding if you had jumped the fence." 
  4. Constantly corrects her but also tells her how flipping fantastic she is all the time
  5. Stalks her 
At the horseback riding incident in France (yes, they are in France, not sure why), I had to stop this book. I realized a lot this year about the meaning of my time... and life is too short to hate listen to a an audio. At one point, I sped up the audio, and a lot of times, I zoned out to do various work things... and I didn't miss much. When the characters give you goose chills, it's time to stop. 

Don't get this book. It's the worst. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman

I'm really glad that I didn't wait to read the final installment of the Magician's trilogy. It's interesting to read other's reviews of the books, especially on goodreads. I personally loved the snark of Quentin and co, simply because I'm full of snark and salt, and  I'm just getting saltier with age.

It starts off with Quentin 30 years old. That was a reality check for me, since I turned the big 2-9 this year, and staring down the face of 30. Whereas in the second book he's still dissatisfied with life (and despite all that he went through with the first book, has not learned a thing), he's finally humbled, and is at peace with how the events of the second book turned out. He goes back to Brakebill's and becomes a teacher, a choice where normally, I wouldn't agree with (education always seems to be the backup career) but he settles into it, and enjoys it. He is also finally given a discipline, "repair of small objects."

Meh. I'm not sure about all of that but I'm sure it'll come in handy later on.

A few other things happens that signals the change of life for Quentin: his father passed away, and Quentin, though matured, has a hope that his father was also a magician, and goes looking for this "final quest" in his office, searching for meaning. When he figures out that his father wasn't a magician, and his death was just a part of life, Quentin is distraught, but moves on and goes back to Brakebill's.

Until Alice. He rescues a student when she encounters Alice the Niffin when a prank goes wrong. Plum is expelled from Brakebills and Quentin is fired for not following teacher protocols. From there, they start their weird partnership, seeking out a job stealing a suitcase.

What is also different about this book is the perspective of Elliot and Janet. Elliot was a prominent figure in the second book, but Janet took to the sidelines when Julia became a main character. I was really intrigued by Janet's story, even though interestingly enough, Grossman didn't go back to the beginning and describe how she even got to Brakebill's, which I guess is a moot point now. Janet is unapologetic and capable, which makes her a fun read.

Elliot has definitely matured. Even though this is the first time we're able to read his perspective, he's mostly a main character, so I feel like I know him. He's thinking of Fillory, and the destruction of the world, and everyone in it. When leadership is thrust upon him, Elliot doesn't buckle and instead uses his kingship to try and solve the problem. I love their friendship, I love how they work together, and Janet is a BAMF.

There are a lot of strong opinions about this series, but I loved it. I loved the stupid, silly meta references and again, the snark has matured, but there is still lots of snark in there. I really liked the ending, and how Quentin found what he was looking for, despite losing everything in the second book.

Enjoyable read.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

I guess I wanted to see what the big deal was. The mystery of the first book was ruined for me since I saw the movie and the TV show before the book, so I figured before the second season aired, I should read the second book and see if... maybe my feelings had changed? Maybe it's actually a diamond in the rough and we had it all wrong with Cassandra Clare?

I've read some really great YA books, and I've read some really shitty YA books that I couldn't even finish. This... is in the middle. If someone were to ask me if they should read this series, I would shrug my shoulders. It's a "meh" book. If you want something easy to read while you're on the plane, and can pick it up whenever, this is the series for you.

It's YA fluff with action, fantasy, romance with some themes of friendship and resilience. It's a good set up with a protagonist who has a complicated family life (because who doesn't) and wants to learn about her past. Clary is her own person and makes silly decisions like other teens her age. There is a love triangle, but it's not really a triangle... it feels like a bunch of teenagers trying to navigate their feelings, which is more realistic than 2 guys vying over a girl. Jace turns out to be her brother, which has loads of weird, unusual feelings, and the Simon/Clary ship is mercifully finished by the end of the book, when Simon breaks up with Clary when he realizes that Clary doesn't feel the same way about him.

Magnus and Alec are dating and Clare gracefully navigates all the feelings of being in a  gay relationship or the first time. I wish I could say that "coming out" seemed a bit outdated, but in light of the Orlando shooting, it's not. I'm glad there is representation in the series.

Like the first book, the plot is contrived and instead of a Mortal Cup, there is a sword, and the evil Valentine is going to use the sword for... something, I'm not sure. I think an army to take down the Shadowhunters and then the rest of the Down world? The team has to get it back and Clare reveals that both Jace and Clary have special powers that Valentine has given them. Mmmmk. Sure. We'll go with it. Clare also foreshadows a big reveal about Valentine and Jace. We don't know what, but it's coming!

With my lukewarm reaction to the book, there were some notable things that I disliked about it.

I found it strange that Clary does not have any other female friends and in one part of the book, states that she is jealous of how another girl looks, and that is why she always had male friends. I'm not saying that it's not true to reality that sometimes girls don't have female friends. But that type of behavior is harmful and patriarchal. It's not good to not like your own gender, and though points for Clary to own up to not liking other women because she sees them as potential competition, it's also kind of weird. This thing about women not having female friends extends to all the other women in the novel, including the Isabelle's and Alec's mother, whose peer is the Inquisitor, a hostile angry woman who lost her son to Valentine. Kind of weird, Cassandra Clare.

Along that strain of disliking women, there is a scene, a very plot motivated scene where the Fairy Queen (yes, you've read that right) demands, through a riddle, that two in the group (Simon, Isabel, Jace and Clary) kiss because, I guess, love. The group goes through pairings, including the "hilarious" pairing of Simon and Jace. However, there is never any mention of Isabel and Clary kissing.

Weird, right? Cassandra Clare seems to reallly hates women. Women can't be friends and they most definitely can't kiss each other.

Also... Simon doesn't die? He turns into a vampire (soz, spoiler, but if you watched the show, it already happened) and after the big boss battle, he is trapped in the middle of the lake on a truck bed as the sun is going up. I thought it would have been a very bold move if he died, but instead, he is able to withstand the sunlight. It's a mystery for the next book and it's not romanticized at all but... I thought the twist was a bit lame.

Finally, the themes of the book also didn't resonate with me. It's a YA novel, so naturally, it's geared towards young adults, and I am no longer a young adult. So themes of "not letting your past define you" and "choosing your own family" are just moot points to me, but are valuable lessons for youngsters who are trying to navigate this little thing we like to call life. Clary, Jace and the others desperately try to do this, with varying results throughout the book, and undoubtedly, Clare will come back to it later in the series as they all get older and the plot develops.

Clare set herself up well with this universe and is starting to get her footing with this second book. Since Josh is now a regular at the library, I'm going to have him get the third book (I'm invested now, don't look at me) but not pay for it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Rosemary,The Hidden Kennedy Daughter by Kate Clifford Larson

It took me a couple of days, and a few post rewrites to finally figure out what was giving me pause about this book.

It's actually not about Rosemary.

Oh sure, her name and picture is on the title, and she is mentioned throughout the book, and there are events and memories that involve her, but it's never about her. 

It's impeccably researched, but the problem is that there isn't much about Rosemary's internal thoughts and experiences. Of course there isn't, because she undergoes a lobotomy in her early 20s and spends the next decades of her life hidden away. As well, before that, Joe and Rose do everything in their power to cover up Rosemary's shortcomings, and keep her letters under lock and key.

So instead, Larson uses Rosemary to promote her viewpoints. Instead of the book being about Rosemary (seriously, couldn't you have made up something in a fictionalized account?), it's about how The Kennedy's real triumph is through the passing of various state and federal disability legislation that promoted and protected disability rights.

If you are an able-bodied person that doesn't encounter those with disabilities in their daily life, this may be an eye opening book for you. However, I am very familiar with the disability narrative, because not only do I have a masters in special education, I am also a part of the tribe. (Though John Nagle and I declared a sub-tribe for just us two).

John Nagle and I clearly do have matching overalls. But Larson didn't tell me anything knew, and she went over at length to which I practiced my eye rolling skills.

Finally, the tone of the book was just... condescending? I write that with a question mark because I can't really put a finger on it. One moment she's lauding Rose for caring for Rosemary, the next minute she's chastising the Kennedys for believing in eugenics, and finally, she's showing the readers the horrors of institutions! It felt like she was all over the place, trying to put a place for each letter she read as well as put in her own thoughts and feelings.

Overall, this book blew. I'm sure there are better books out there and ones that treat Rosemary as a person instead of a mantel that the Kennedys had to carry.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

I think our friend Scott brought it over with Wicked and Divine, and it was just put in my book pile. So instead of reading some of the biographies or non-fiction books, I figured I would give this a shot. There is a quote by Neil Gaiman, and that's cool, right? 

However, when I went to pick it up, however, Josh looked at me, and just went
He has some strong hate feelings about Sculptor, which of course made it all the more interesting.

So... it's about this guy who lives in New York City who is an artist, a SCULPTOR to be exact.
We're off to a smashing start.

He's a sculptor, but he's a struggling artist, and hasn't sold any pieces. He use to have a patron, but he no longer funds him because the Sculptor,  David Smith, is a huge dick. And realistically, probably on the spectrum? Or maybe a bit emotionally disturbed? Or probably just has a big case of the fuccbois.

Whatever his problem is, he's running out of money and is failing miserably in the most expensive city ever: NYC. He has no idea what to do, but getting a job and maybe getting a roommate is out of the question, apparently.

So he's in this diner dive, and in walks his Uncle Harry. They have this conversation, and Uncle Harry talks about what would exactly happened if he just moved out of NYC, got a job, got married and essentially give up his dream.

"No!" Dick McGee cries, and says he has to make art! Then Uncle Harry, who is really Death who sometimes wears the skin of  deceased Uncle Harry, says that he will be given a gift to create, but will only have 200 days to live. He will receive his gift at sunrise.

Rick McDick takes it and when he walks home, an angel seemingly appears out of nowhere, kisses him and tells him he's going to be alright.

Well, Fuccboi Slickrick is in love and he's super happy.

Then some bullshit happens after this where this guy, who is Ron Ramrod's best friend, tells him that he needs to get out more and drags him to a party. Some more bullshit happens and Fuck Fuckstein realizes that the angel that came to him was part of a Flash mob. He feels tricked.

Apparently David Smith... or I'm sorry, Rick Schlong, isn't too bright either.

He also does this annoying thing where he makes "rules" and he has to abide by them. "I don't take charity!" is definitely a thing he does, and I HATE it when that's a thing... because it's never a good person that says that, right? They are always super annoying and I never understand the not taking charity deal. If people want to give it you, take it! What's the big deal?

Anyway, You all probably guess how I feel about this comic.  There is a Manic-Pixi-Dream-Girl who Slick Dick falls in loves with, who is the same girl that played the Angel in the beginning of the story, and there is a lot drama and emotions along with the countdown to his death date.

Somewhere in this story Blunt Bangs girl reveals she is bipolar. She also apparently hangs out with her ex boyfriends... which are her only defining characteristics. BTW, girls that "hangs" out with her ex-boyfriends means she's still sleeping with them.

So, she loves David and tells him she's preggers, so the horrifying vision of him moving to the suburbs and having a family suddenly becomes appealing because the grass is always greener when you have a pretty booby lady with zero personality traits who wants to move into a nice house with you.

WOOF. There is a dramatic ending that doesn't pull any heartstrings. Spoiler: he dies, which kudos for McCloud for pulling the trigger so there isn't a Sculptor Two: More Sculpting.

I'm so clever sometimes.

It says something that I finished the comic since I ragequit both Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne in a week, so it's at least an entertaining way to spend a few nights reading.

I think there is a message about following your dreams... or not flying so close to the sun... or maybe not make a deal with the devil... or happiness is least where you expect it... You know? I don't know.

So if you find the comic book in your house I like I did because a friend really wanted your husband to read it, read it. Otherwise, don't spend money on it.