Monday, July 27, 2015

Weekend Reads: Kiersten White and Jamie Mcguire

Between helping a friend move out at the last minute and going to a comedy club with another friend, this weekend has been kind of crazy. Regardless, I was able to get some reading done!

I started by reading In the Shadows by Kiersten White and Jim Di Bartolo.

This book went back and forth between text and graphic novel. I had a really hard time getting in to this book. The first couple of text chapters jump between several characters and the graphic chapters don't seem to fit in the beginning which made understanding what was going on really hard for me. The theme of the story is also pretty dark which is something I wasn't really in the mood for. The writing and art is gorgeous but I just didn't enjoy the story and ended up giving it 2 out of 5 stars.

The second book I read was Beautiful Redemption Jamie McGuire.

I have been a fan of the Beautiful/Maddox Brothers series ever since I read the first book in 2013. I actually wasn't sure how much I would love this book for two reasons. First, while I love all three of the previous books in this series, the last one wasn't quite as good as the first two. Second, the main Maddox Brother, Thomas, made a cameo in the last book and I kind of didn't like him. But seeing things from his point of view, and the rest of his story, in this book changed my mind. I really loved the plot of this book because it felt new and intense when compared with the others. This is tied with Beautiful Disaster for my favorite Jamie McGuire book. I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars because there were a few plot holes that I just couldn't get over.
After loving the last book so much, I decided to jump right in to Beautiful Sacrifice by Jamie McGuire.

As with Beautiful Redemption, I was worried about how much I would like this book because the two main characters, Falyn and Taylor, had a cameo in the last book that made me dislike them. Unlike with Beautiful Redemption, this book did not make me change my mind. The plot was boring and Taylor just did not fit in with the Maddox Brother image. Additionally, I hated Falyn. I thought she was conniving and ugly spirited (if that makes sense). This is, so far, my least favorite addition to the Beautiful/Maddox Brothers series and I gave it a 1 out of 5 stars.
The last book I read this weekend was Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White.
Can I start off by saying that I absolutely adore this cover! I did find it a little misleading though because I think it looks more like a contemporary fantasy while the story is more historical fantasy. I really loved this book! Jessamin was a feisty, no-nonsense protagonist that really made you feel for her. Finn was an interesting male character and Eleanor is the type of side character that you want to pull off the pages and become friends with immediately. I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. I would have given it 5 stars except for two problems. First, I felt that Kelen needed more development as a character. Second, there were two scenes in the book (when Jessamin and Finn first meet and when Finn is showing Jessamin around his house) that were exact copies of scenes from Howl's Moving Castle and House of Many Ways by Dianna Wynne Jones. Still, the rest of the story was unique and I enjoyed it.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

TBR Takedown 2.0: TBR

For those of you who don't know, a TBR is a To Be Read list and it gets longer the longer you're around. For me, I have two TBRs. I have the TBR that I actually own and are sitting on my shelf and I have a goodreads TBR that exists in the vastness of the internet but that I cannot complete until I purchase the book or borrow it from my library (this TBR numbers somewhere in the 2000s while the former is only a handful).

Many people have come up with different ways to shrink their TBR including getting rid of books and (the subject of this post) readathons. I decided to take part in the TBR Takedown 2.0 readathon which was started by Shannon of leaninglights. The dates are July 24th to July 31st, so I am several days late, but I am excited to give it a try. One part of readathons is the challenge or theme. This readathon has 5 challenges to complete. So, here are my selections for the TBR Takedown 2.0.

1. First Book in a Series
      For this challenge I will be reading Callum & Harper by Fisher Amelie.

      I have been wanting to read this book for a long time and decided to just go ahead and read it for
      this (the second book, Thomas & January, is also out now). This is one of the books that has been
      on my goodreads TBR for some time (I added it in December of 2012) but I only acquired a copy
      last month.

2. Sequel Book in a Series
      I will be reading Dark of the Moon by Rachel Hawthorne.

      This is the third book in the Dark Guardian series. I absolutely loved the first two books
      [Moonlight (4.5 out of 5 stars) and Full Moon (3.5 out of 5 stars)] in the series and have been 
      wanting to read this one for a while, but I got sidetracked with other books.
3. Out of Your Comfort Zone
      The only book that I own that really fits this bill is An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.
      This book is out of my comfort zone because of all the hype it has gotten on booktube. For some
      reason, the books that get a lot of attention on booktube are the books that I end up really
      disliking. I only purchased this book while I was on a trip to visit my cousin about 2 months ago
      but it seems like a book that will sit on my shelf for a long time if I don't just go ahead and read it.
      I did read the synopsis on goodreads and the book jacket, and it sounds like something I might
      like, so I'm just going to bite the bullet on this one and hope for the best.
4. On Your Shelf Over a Year
      I'm usually pretty good about reading the books on my shelf before they sit for too long, so I only
      had two books to choose from for this challenge. However, one of the books is a textbook that I
      picked up for personal reading. So, I'll be reading the other book, which is The Triumphant Cat:
      Verse, Prose, & Pictures; Gathered from the Ancient & Modern Authors; Selected & Edited by
      Marmaduke Skidmore, Esquire.
      I bought this book at a Library used book sale 2 or 3 years ago because I thought it looked cute,
      but just never got around to reading it.
5. Most Recently Hauled Book
      The book I chose for this challenge is from a haul so recent it hasn't even arrived at my house yet,
      The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter.
      This is another book that I have been wanting to read (I added it to my goodreads TBR in January
      of 2013) but only recently purchased. I'm looking forward to diving right into it when it gets here!
So there you have it, my selections for the TBR Takedown 2.0. I'd love to know if you are going to participate and what you are planning on reading if you do! Leave a list of your TBR or a link if you do a blog or vlog post. I'll do another blog post with my reviews/completion rate at the end of the readathon too.
Shannon's TBR Takedown 2.0 vlog:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Weekend Reads: J.K. Rowling, Gabrielle Zevin, and Katie M. Stout

Being a college student, weekends are the time when I am able to read the most. Some weekends I read more than others, depending on homework, sleeping patterns, and volunteering, but I always get my reading in. Therefore, I have decided to start a new series, Weekend Reads, that I will publish every Monday morning detailing all of the books I read during the weekend (Friday Night - Sunday Night).

J.K. Rowling gave the commencement speech at Harvard in 2008. Of course, videos of the speech have been making the internet rounds since then and quotes from the speech pop up just about everywhere. It seems only natural that they would turn this speech into something tangible and lasting, a book called Very Good Lives, which is the first book I read this past weekend.
This is the second commencement speech turned book I have read, the first being Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman, and I have to admit I was wary to start it. Based on my limited exposure, I believed that commencement books were less about conveying the speech to future generations than making a visually pleasing piece of memorabilia, all at the expense of readability. But Very Good Lives was not like that at all. While the book is visually pleasing, it is also simply designed with easy to read text. The book itself is very short (I read it during the 15 minute car ride from the library to my house) and very enjoyable. It goes without saying that this book was also very inspirational. I gave this book a 5 out of 5 stars.

The second book I read this past weekend was The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.

This book is not YA but that really doesn't matter because it is fantastic. I picked this book up because it was recommended by a booktuber I watch a lot, Regan from PeruseProject. The story itself is not full of roses, it's actually kind of angsty throughout most of the book. The characters weren't likeable either, which is actually what made me like them. The characters and the stories were human and gritty and real. The plot is like nothing I've read before and the fact that the story has closure while being circular is refreshing. I read this book in a couple of hours, it's not a big book by any means, and will definitely read it again! I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. 
The last book I read, tried to read, was Hello I Love You by Katie M. Stout.
I started reading this book because of the promise of hot Koreans and Kpop but I actually did not finish it because of some serious issues with the book. The main character, Grace, is the definition of a spoiled, rich snob. There isn't a single second where she doesn't give Americans a bad name. I cringed every time she spoke due to the sheer ignorance and borderline (sometimes outright) racism. Despite the fact that she continually professes she knows nothing about various subjects (including music and fishing), she acts superior to everyone and constantly tells them what they are doing wrong. There isn't a single second where she doesn't give Americans a bad name. I cringed every time she spoke due to the sheer ignorance and borderline (sometimes outright) racism. The Korean characters (all of them) were odd too. They were....jerks is really the only way to say it. The story itself was also very derogatory towards Kpop. Ultimately, I was only able to finish the first seven chapters but, given the overwhelmingly negative tone of the story and the unlikeable characters, I would probably have only given this story 1 or 2 out of 5 stars.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bookish Goodness: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

I am an equal opportunist when it comes to reading. I will read just about anything with words on it: books, menus, manuals, shampoo bottles, anything! More often than not though, I find myself reading YA. Now don't get me wrong, I love YA. YA is by far my favorite genre. But sometimes reading YA can get a little redundant. Especially lately, it seems that all of the books I read have the same general plot, the same types of characters, and the same endings. So, I have been branching out into other genres. My forays have not always been successful but I have read several very good books. My most recent kick has been reading books written by Japanese authors. I've read several that were okay and several that were not okay. One author that I had been looking forward to reading books by was Yoko Ogawa. I started by reading The Diving Pool: Three Novellas, and absolutely hated it. I was almost too scared to read another book by Ms. Ogawa but I decided to try reading the book that had originally piqued my interest and I fell in love after the first chapter. This book was The Housekeeper and the Professor.

Going into reading The Housekeeper and the Professor, I assumed that there would be romance. Actually, I assumed it would mainly be romance. I assumed that the professor would be younger and the housekeeper would be older. Neither of my assumptions were true, and it was a pleasant surprise. This story was extremely bittersweet. I love the bond between the Housekeeper and the Professor, the Housekeeper and the Son, the Son and the Professor, and all three of them! The progression from complete stranger to integral parts of each others' lives seemed so natural. Ultimately, the only character I didn't like was the sister-in-law (I disliked her from the very beginning) and I especially disliked her relationship with the Professor. I feel like her part in the story was completely unnecessary and even detracted from the feel of the novel in some instances.
One aspect of the book that I especially liked was the fact that Ms. Ogawa did not name her characters. Normally when characters are named, it gives stories an outside-looking-in feel. By leaving her characters nameless, Ms. Ogawa made her novel feel more intimate.
Ultimately, I could not put this book down. The Housekeeper and the Professor is a must read. I gave it 5 out of 5 stars because even the parts I didn't like were still pretty good.