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

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

Title: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Genre: Fantasy/Retelling
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Length: 388
Original Publishing Date: May 12th, 2015
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #1



Synopsis from Goodreads: 
 

One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.
 





I didn't do any research on this book before reading, so I was a little surprised when I found out it was a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights (or at least, I thought it was). The synopsis says "inspired", and I think that's a better description than "a retelling". It may start with what you know, but it definitely changes as the novel goes along. 

I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. I think the best word to describe it is "sumptuous". Read just a little bit and you'll see why. I don't usually care for the overly detailed and "pretty" language, but even I was blown away by how gorgeous Ahdieh's writing was. 


Positives:

  • Unique take on Well-known Tale: I had to read A Thousand and One Nights in school, and when I discovered this was a "retelling", I was a little upset. Their divergence confused me a little at first because I wasn't expecting it, but I ended up really liking where Ahdieh took the story. 
  • Sumptuous Writing: So gorgeous. “Some things exist in our lives for but a brief moment. And we must let them go on to light another sky.” Literally, the whole book is like this, and even prettier. 
  • Intricate World-building: I felt ensconced in the world that Ahdieh created. All the descriptions were spot on and I could imagine myself there with the characters. 

Negatives:

  • Confusion about "Retelling" or "Inspired": This is really something that just threw me off for a moment, but I feel compelled to mention it. I was taken back a little when the story changed, since it was following it so closely for a little bit. And then there was the fact that there were magic elements. Given that the story was so realistic and gritty, I wasn't sure if I liked that fantasy aspect. It grew on me, but it definitely was jarring, for me. 
  • A Few Stereotypical Romance Parts: Every once in a while, I felt like the characters seemed a little stereotypically "in love" or fell into that trope of forbidden romance. Like, "I hate him, but I can't help falling in love with him"! Or the love triangle. How many times have we seen that done before? Of course she was engaged to another guy and then ended up falling in love with Khalid. Of course. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: The 100 by Kass Morgan

Title: The 100
Author: Kass Morgan
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Dystopian
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Length: 323 pages
Original Publishing Date: September 3rd, 2013
Series: The Hundred #1



Synopsis from Goodreads: 
 

No one has set foot on Earth in centuries -- until now.

Ever since a devastating nuclear war, humanity has lived on spaceships far above Earth's radioactive surface. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents -- considered expendable by society -- are being sent on a dangerous mission: to recolonize the planet. It could be their second chance at life...or it could be a suicide mission.

CLARKE was arrested for treason, though she's haunted by the memory of what she really did. WELLS, the chancellor's son, came to Earth for the girl he loves -- but will she ever forgive him? Reckless BELLAMY fought his way onto the transport pod to protect his sister, the other half of the only pair of siblings in the universe. And GLASS managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find that life there is just as dangerous as she feared it would be on Earth.

Confronted with a savage land and haunted by secrets from their pasts, the hundred must fight to survive. They were never meant to be heroes, but they may be mankind's last hope.





This book may have one of the coolest premises ever, only to be sabotaged by the writing and the plot. I'm sorry, Kass Morgan. Forgive me, but you done messed up with the coolest idea ever!

Positives:

  • The premise: I know, I know. I already talked about this. But what more can you ask for? You have people in space, having escaped from the radioactive wasteland that is earth. Then you have criminal children being sent back down to earth to test it out and make sure it's livable! Pretty dang cool. This could have gone the route of The Maze Runner, or even Lord of the Flies. So much potential. 
  • Spacing of information: I don't know how else to phrase this but it's the opposite of an information dump. Morgan did a great job of spacing out the information and the secrets. 

Negatives:

  • Sad and boring characters: The characters were boring, underdeveloped, and bland. There was no grit or intensity to them, like you would imagine (they're criminals for heaven's sake)! Their backstories make them sound like whiny, bratty, melodramatic children. 
  • Nothing happens: No, seriously. Nothing happens.
  • Crazy cliffie: Butttt.... we all saw it coming!!! Tell me you didn't see that one coming. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Title: Saint Anything
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Viking
Length: 417 pages
Original Publishing Date: May 5th, 2015
Series: Standalone



Synopsis from Goodreads: 
 

Peyton, Sydney's charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion's share of their parents' attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton's increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.
 





I've read a couple Sarah Dessen novels before and they've always been cute and fun, but never mind-blowing for me. They all seem to run together in a mix of young love, slightly forgettable heroines and cute boys.

This was not the case with Saint Anything. I can't tell if it's because I'm a bit older now and they are connecting with me in a different way, or if Sarah Dessen just really killed it with this novel. Maybe both?

Positives:

  • The opposite of instalove: I was actually getting antsy with the lack of romance, believe it or not! But I liked it. I like the waiting and the creation of friendship before romantic attraction. It creates a complexity to the relationship that you wouldn't otherwise get, and in this case it teaches you a lot more about the characters. 
  • The adorable Chathams: They are great. They are all quirky and fun and complex and beautiful. That's all.
  • Intriguing family dynamics: Intriguing not only with the fun Chathams, as I've mentioned, but also for Sydney's family, dealing with the aftermath of Peyton's accident. 

Negatives:

  • Boring & bland characters: I think Sydney could have been explored more. We get a lot of her feelings about Peyton, but not much development of her as a character otherwise. I know to a certain extent, this is what Dessen intended, but I really couldn't connect with Syndey because there was literally nothing else going on there. Also Mac was great, but he was literally perfect. WHERE ARE HIS FLAWS??