Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review: Hold Back The Stars

Hold Back The Stars Hold Back The Stars by Katie Khan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As others have said on this book, it was pure romance, despite the post-apocalytpic, future space setting.

That being said, I wasn't mad about it. Despite its less than complex nature, it was entertaining and left me interested. The dystopian/utopian aspect of the worldbuilding was fascinating, although I wish that Khan had delved more into this piece.

The characters were fine, but I would argue that they were slightly surface level in nature and Khan could have done more to develop them fully. It felt like some of their characterization came from the nature of their relationship and romance, rather than from Carys and Max as separate individuals, which is certainly a big pet peeve.

I think the part that I liked best came toward the end when Khan attempted (view spoiler). I thought that this technique added an extra layer of tension and interest to an otherwise simple novel.

My biggest negative would be a lack of any forward motion in the action in the present moment. Most of the novel was told in flashbacks, which is fine, but the flashforwards to present seemed unnecessary because nothing was happening, and the dialogue seemed overdramatic and circular.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review: Disappearance at Devil's Rock

Disappearance at Devil's Rock Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Gosh, my luck with books lately has been tough.

I read Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts and fell in love. It was one of the early books that really turned me onto horror, a genre I never thought I could enjoy because I'm such a scaredy-cat. The novel was so well-done, with so many references to other works and layers.

So I excitedly moved onto Disappearance at Devil's Rock, hoping that it would meet my expectations, and it didn't.

To start, the premise was, from the get-go, not as interesting as A Head Full of Ghosts, so there was some ground to make up, but it was possible to salvage a great plot from the child disappearance premise. Grady Hendrix did it in My Best Friend's Exorcism, and created a great and suspenseful story. However, Tremblay failed here to keep my interest because Tommy disappeared and then nothing really happened.

Further, the character development was incredibly weak. I would get Tommy, Luis and Josh mixed up for longer than was acceptable, and I didn't feel that any of the other characters were adequately characterized either.

The plot points that could have been cool: torn diary pages, a mysterious devil-like figure, just fell flat. I was so uninspired by the book that I almost stopped reading, but at that point I was so deep in, that I just kept plodding through.

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Review: American War

American War American War by Omar El Akkad
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. I had to take a bit after I finished American War and just sit there, soaking it all in. What an utterly timely and brutal novel to read.

I am constantly fascinated by post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and futuristic fiction. I love people's conceptualizations of a world in ruin- for whatever that says about me. I wasn't disappointed by El Akkad's ideas. The ravages of climate change on the United States seemed probable and terrifying. There were a couple points where I had to suspend my disbelief- the fact that the North and South split over the ban of oil was debatable, in my opinion, and I find that there are far more believable reasons for the secession to take place (although perhaps the choice was oil was intentional, regardless of believability).

The characters are beautifully depicted and complex, but I didn't feel an emotional attachment to them, which is perhaps my only knock on the novel. Regardless, the deft way in which El Akkad crafts the story left me gasping at the end as we find out more about key characters and decisions they make which change the course of history.

The more I read the reviews of others, the more that I let this novel ruminate with me, the more I come to realize that it has so many layers. The depth of emotion and thought in this novel left me breathless.

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Quick Reviews: Signs Point To Yes

Title: Signs Point to Yes
Author: Sandy Hall
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Length: 288 pages
Original Publishing Date: October 20th, 2015
Series: Standalone
Rating: 3 stars 

Cute, but definitely didn't have the same personality, uniqueness and vibrancy as "A Little Something Different". I liked the conflict, and I had some swoon moments over Teo. Honestly Ravi just reminded me of the brother on "The League". And not in a good way. There was a lot of interesting stuff in this book though that was thought-provoking and different. Ultimately, pretty run of the mill.



Title: Walk on Earth a Stranger
Author:  Rae Carson
Genre: YA Historican Fantasy
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Length: 432 pages
Original Publishing Date: September 22nd, 2015
Series: Gold Seer Trilogy #1
Rating: 3 stars

Love the concept but I feel like Lee's "gold sense" was under-utilized. Also, very typical set-up for the journey, in my opinion. I won't ruin it with spoilers here but all the initial conflict was nothing new and merely there to provide incentive for Lee to run away to California. Some parts of the novel were slow too, and seemed to be lacking in conflict. Like, okay, I get it- they're on the trail. Still on the trail. Waiting. Still waiting.

That being said, SOOO cool to combine historical fiction (especially Oregon Trail stuff) with some magic. Love it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Quick Reviews: Blood Red Road and All Fall Down

Title: Blood Red Road
Author: Moira Young
Genre: YA Dystopian
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Length: 459 pages
Original Publishing Date: June 7th, 2011
Series: Dust Lands #1
Rating: 2 stars 

I was so disappointed by Blood Red Road! 

I'll give you two reasons that I believe contributed to it. 

1) The audiobook sucked. No offense to the narrator, but I wasn't really digging the way that she read. There was a lot of action and yelling in this book. Normally, I don't really notice the way that narrators portray yelling, but this narrator did a "whisper-yell" that was really bothersome to me. If we're in a high pressure moment, I'm not down with the narrator whispering "Jack" and pretending that it's yelling. 


2) I wasn't reading it when it first came out. In 2011, it was a completely different landscape for YA Dystopian fiction. This was the height of our obsession, and I think I might have been more excited if I had read this book back when I wasn't judging dystopian books so tough. Now, there is little that I see in Blood Red Road that I haven't seen a million times before, and I was so disappointed by the lack of originality. 




Title: All Fall Down
Author:  Ally Carter
Genre: YA Thriller
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Length: 310 pages
Original Publishing Date: January 20th, 2015
Series: Embassy Row #1
Rating: 3 stars

I wasn't expecting a whole lot from All Fall Down, which may be why I was pleasantly surprised. Turns out, there's a lot of drama and fun that can take place on a fictional Embassy Row in a fictional foreign country. 

This book has a lot of things that I love: quick pacing and a lot of action, awesome world-building, and an awesome psychological thriller aspect that I'm obsessed with. 

The weaknesses? I was less impressed with Grace than I think I ought to have been. Part of that was because she didn't feel fully developed to me. We just have a boring ol' regular girl with not much characterization and then the situation she was slammed into. So, not a lot to make her complex. 

The relationships with the other Embassy kids were definitely a little juvenile, and I can't tell if that's weak writing or if that's the fact that the book was written for a younger group of teens. 

Basically, expect the unexpected from this book, and I can't tell you much more than that!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Are Audiobooks Considered Reading?

Here's a question that I'll throw to others out there: do you consider listening to audiobooks "reading"? I ask because I was one of those people who scoffed at audiobooks and railed on them. And then I started working at Nordstrom and now I listen to LOTS of audiobooks (eg. 15-20 a month).

So I still say "reading" when talking about the books I listen to. But the other day, my dad scolded me, saying that I wasn't actually reading. 

Here's my argument: no, I'm not actually sitting and reading text. But since I've started listening to audiobooks, my comprehension has gone way up. When I was much younger, I was a "speed reader", but that actually just meant that I skipped the boring paragraphs in books. SMH. So when I was 14 and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince came out, and I finished it in 2 days for my book club, I patted myself on the back. But when it came time to discuss what happened, I couldn't remember anything that my fellow readers were talking about! This is because I skipped it all! And while I stopped doing that as much as I got older, I still skipped stuff. 

With audiobooks, I cannot skip parts. So I remember things far more clearly and get a better idea of the book as a whole- whether good or bad. I may not be able to read the book, and thus I can't always learn new words and how to spell them, but luckily my vocabulary is pretty high already so it's not like I am often encountering words that I don't know. 

Ultimatley, it doesn't really matter whether audiobooks are considered reading or not, because they're the only way I can satisfy my craving for books these days when I'm working two jobs. Luckily (or unluckily for my reading habit), those days are coming to a close. I'll keep you updated whether I stick with audiobooks or slowly transition back to ebooks and physical books. I will say this though: now that I've become accustomed to them, I really have a special place in my heart for audiobooks and hearing what the narrators come up with. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Length: 310 pages
Original Publishing Date: July 8th, 2014
Series: Standalone



Synopsis from Goodreads: 
 
Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts...

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

 
Rainbow Rowell and I have an interesting relationship. I feel like while everyone else was raving over Eleanor & Park, I was lukewarm. I enjoyed Fangirl more, but still feel like Rowell and I haven't connected as well as I'd like. 


Landline was like that too. Part of the problem was that this book is classified "Adult", and I feel like it was speaking to a generation that I'm not necessarily a part of. I remember landlines, obviously, and I have used a rotary phone before, but cell phones are still more prominent in my memory. For Georgie, the landline is this connection to her younger self, her college-aged self. And I just don't have that tangible memory. 

There was a lot to like in Landline, but enough about it that didn't resonate with me that it wouldn't stand out in a pack. 


Positives:

  • The premise: Yeah, I think it's a cool idea to be able to communicate with your husband from the past. Rowell does an expert job of blending the fantastical element with the emotional complexities of marriage, and making it a book with real depth.
  • Georgie: I found a lot to connect with Georgie about and I thought she was a well-conceived and complex character.
  • The humor: The pug birth scene literally had me cracking up at work. My coworkers were staring at me. Thanks Rainbow Rowell! They all think I'm crazy now. 

Negatives:

  • The pacing: This was a slow novel. I definitely liked being able to get to know Georgie and Neal, and especially Georgie's crazy family, but I got bored in the middle! Honestly, not a whole lot happens in this book. 
  • Predictable: Nothing new happens here. As much as I like the concept, it has been done before. If that's the case, you need to throw something new in there. And nothing really caught my eye! Especially the ending. I mean, sure it was cute. But I could see it coming from a mile away. 

Rating: 3/5