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??

Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

Title: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart
Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Length: 304 pages
Original Publishing Date: November 3rd, 2015
Series: Standalone



Synopsis from Goodreads: 
 
Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Leonardo da Vinci’s footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix’s own family’s closet tear them apart?


Yay! There is a lot to like about The Anatomical Shape of a Heart. Most notably, Jack and his tattoos, as I will go into so much more detail about. Basically, I ship Bex and Jack really, really hard. They are super great together. And all the quirky fun elements that I'm pretty sure Bennett just threw in there because she thought, "Why not include lasagna"? Also just, yay Bex's family. Yay to her mom, yay to her brother, yay to their house. Bennett was great about really creating well-rounded minor characters who have depth and wit. Cause everyone has wit in this book! I wish I was this witty on a day-to-day basis.


Positives:

  • Wit and banter: I love the fun dialogue between characters! Bennett is really good at including witty repartee without it feeling too stiff and false. I especially loved Bex's family and how they interacted with each other!
  • Swooniness: So, yes. Jack and Bex are perfect. End of story. 
  • Cool premise: I dunno! I have never really encountered a story with a girl who likes to draw corpses and a boy who draws graffiti. I liked all the cool aspects that Bennett included in the premise, and the inclusion of some thought-provoking real stuff too. 
  • Pacing: Yes, I know! I either love it or I hate it. But this book never felt too long or too boring. It read so easily and quickly that I was surprised when it was over? 
  • Ending: Perfect!

Negatives:

  • Instalove: Okay, minor nitpick here? The instant adoration that Jack and Bex had for each other was a little silly. It wasn't as bad as your classic example (*cough* Twilight *cough*) but it was there. And a little ridiculous. 
  • Characters bordering on stereotype: Yes, sometimes Jack was too hipster for his own good. I mean, come on... prayer beads and Buddhism? And Bex is a little much at the beginning in her "Feel sorry for me, I don't fit in anywhere and people call me Morticia Addams" shtick. 

Rating: 4/5

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Upcoming Race: Ducks vs. Beavers Rivalry Clash 5k



How fun is this? I'm a die-hard Oregon Ducks fan, so I'm beyond thrilled to run in the Ducks vs. Beavers 5k this Sunday. I'm running it with two close friends, so hopefully they can motivate me to run a little bit faster than I normally would!

As always, I'm sad when I can't run a race with my trusty Rottie pup, Ruby.
This is her "why are you taking pictures of me" face
But... I'm excited for the post-race celebrations and tailgating!

In terms of time, I think this one will be pretty relaxed, but I'd definitely like to keep under 34 or 35 minutes, and maybe edge closer to 31 or 32 if I can get a good pace going. That's where I've been on my practice runs, but my friends said they weren't even sure if they would run the whole thing, so who knows.

Should be fun though! Go Ducks!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Title: Career of Evil
Author: Robert Galbraith
Genre: Mystery/Crime
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Length: 489 pages
Original Publishing Date: October 20th, 2015
Series: Cormoran Strike #3



Synopsis from Goodreads: 
 
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman's severed leg.

Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible--and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them...

Career of Evil is the third in the highly acclaimed series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A fiendishly clever mystery with unexpected twists around every corner, it is also a gripping story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives. 


Yay, the next Cormoran Strike book!

But I gotta bone to pick with JK Rowling. It's about how she creates her mysteries and reveals the endings. Have I told you all about this?

Writing mysteries are hard. It's a delicate balance between surprising the reader at the end and dropping enough hints that the reader doesn't feel completely blindsided. I like to feel surprised at the end (eg. not have guessed who the killer was) but be able to track all the clues along the way that led up to the unveiling of the killer.

Rowling makes it literally impossible (this is not a metaphorical use of the word literally) to find out the answer to the mystery on your own. And that makes me mad. For me, the mystery genre needs to include the chance (even a 0.1% chance) that you can figure out the mystery on your own with the clues that the author provides.

When Rowling gives her reveal, she tells you the way that Cormoran finally solves it: by finally including information that he had that the reader is never privy to. Maybe if Rowling had snuck that piece of information in, there would have been the slightest chance that I could have figured it out. Probably not, but maybe!! But no. And that's what really pisses me off when I read this series.

Positives:

  • Character development: Three cheers for Robin's backstory! I mean, it wasn't really puppies and roses. What I mean is that it helped grow Robin as a person and I discovered a lot more about her that made me really admire her tenacity and what she went through to get to where she is today. Also, more from Cormoran! Always good to get to know more about our main guy.
  • Writing: As always, Rowling has a masterful grasp of writing. She is purposeful in developing characters and plot, and her sense of humor shows through as well. 

Negatives:

  • Pacing: Rowling's writing is normally spot on, but in Career of Evil I had a minor problem with the pacing. I've never had a problem with this before, but every once in a while this book would start to drag a little. 
  • The Mystery! I don't mean the killer himself and who it is, but the clues and the big reveal as discussed in my earlier rant. 
  • The ending: Ugh, why did Robin and Cormoran's relationships turn into a soap opera? And the cliffhanger was a little ridiculous. 

Rating: 3/5

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Review: The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens

Title: The Lies About Truth
Author: Courtney C. Stevens
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Harper Teen
Length: 336 pages
Original Publishing Date: November 3rd, 2015
Series: Standalone



Synopsis from Goodreads: 
 
Sadie Kingston, is a girl living in the aftermath. A year after surviving a car accident that killed her friend Trent and left her body and face scarred, she can’t move forward. The only person who seems to understand her is Trent’s brother, Max.

As Sadie begins to fall for Max, she's unsure if she is truly healed enough to be with him — even if Max is able to look at her scars and not shy away. But when the truth about the accident and subsequent events comes to light, Sadie has to decide if she can embrace the future or if she'll always be trapped in the past.
 


The story of a teenager overcoming grief and trial is honestly nothing new. So Stevens had a lot to contend with in creating a unique and new voice in this sub-genre. There was a lot that she did well, even masterfully. I think my major issues with the story in general came with the pacing and the lack of connection to Sadie. 

On a random note, the cover and the title are interesting. I'm obviously a huge fan of cool typography and I love the Polaroid that has been ripped in two. The title, I'm not so much of a fan of. I feel like it doesn't completely represent what Sadie was going through and the whole situation. Because it's not that the group was lying to each other, but that they left so many things unsaid and kept so many secrets.


Positives:


  • The Secrets: The way that Stevens sneaks in these secrets and gradually builds the scenario and the past is pretty impressive. It is pretty difficult to slowly build your way up to the reveal of these secrets without alerting your audience, but Stevens rocked at that. The two secrets were pretty game-changing. 
  • The Grief: I don't have a lot of experience in dealing with grief and trauma, so I'll admit that I might not have any leg to stand on by asserting this next statement. But the way that Stevens dealt with the car accident and Sadie's grief seemed realistic and heartbreaking. 
  • The Relationship: Max and Sadie were perfect, especially because it wasn't one of those hot and bothered relationships that's all about the physical. Steven's really grows their relationship as one built from history and pain and shared grief. The emails were on point, as well. 

Negatives:

  • The Pacing: It wasn't all bad, but it wasn't great all the time. There were some points where I started to get a little bored. Yes, I'll admit my bias and state that I get bored easily. But in all honesty, I think Stevens could have added some meat to the bones or just taken out the fluffy scenes. 
  • Sadie: I liked Sadie, I did! But sometimes she seemed a little flat for me. A little stereotypical. 

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mini Review: 99 Days by Katie Cotugno

Title: 99 Days
Author: Katie Cotugno
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Length: 384 pages
Original Publishing Date: April 21st, 2015
Series: Standalone




Synopsis from Goodreads: 
 

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.

This book is like watching a train wreck. So bad but so good.

I've read other reviews on this book and I understand some of the hatred of the main character, Molly. But, and maybe I'm just a shitty person, I understand Molly. I get liking people that you have no business liking. So when other readers and reviewers are talking about how she makes the same mistakes over and over again... Well to me that's just realistic character building. We may like to believe that we all would be different than Molly, that we would make different choices. But I feel a real connection to her. Even when I hate her, when I'm yelling at her and her choices, it feels real. 

So, /rant over. Let's get down to business. 

Positives: 


  • I love the concept behind Molly's life. Not just her little love triangle thing, but her mom, the author. And how the truth comes out. This creates really interesting conflict between Molly and her mom, and I loved reading that conflict and how Molly processes all of that. 
  • Cotugno creates a strong sense of location and setting. I could feel the small town, and especially the lodge. There was a very clear image in my mind of what this all looked like, and I really love that in a novel. 
  • All the characters are soooo messed up. And that makes them so realistic. You literally hate every single character in this book at one point in the novel. Especially Molly. And Patrick. And Gabe. And JULIA!

Negatives:

  • I'm a little lukewarm on the ending, but I can't really point to a real reason why. I like that it has some threads of being open-ended and unresolved, but I feel like there could have been a few more clues to what happens in the long run. 
So, yes. I approve of this book. I would even go so far as to say that I love this book. There's a lot to love, including (and especially) the fact that you hate everyone and everything in it. 

Rating: 4/5






Saturday, November 7, 2015

I'm Obsessed With...

Wow, I gotta tell you guys! I have been watching American Horror Story and I am obsessed.





I absolutely hate horror and scary movies, so I surprised myself by wanting to watch this show. But I figured that I had been doing so well on Supernatural that I wanted to give it a try!

Full disclosure, I totally made my dad sit and watch the first two episodes with me to make sure I could handle it. But once I felt comfortable with the characters and the "fright level", it was all in!

It has literally everything. Romance, creepiness, jump scares, emotional moments, touching parts, and more!

And how about these two:




I've heard that Asylum is the scariest and that some people literally couldn't watch it, so I'm not sure how that will go. But for now, I've impressed myself with my bravery and AHS is literally perfection.

I'll let you know more as we move forward!