Tuesday, April 24, 2018

2018 Reading Challenge

* Book About a Problem Facing Society Today - Brave (Awkward # 2) - Svetlana Chmakova - 5 Stars - Popsugar 2018 Challenge 

* Book About/Inspired by Real Life Events - The Hate U Give - Angie Thomas - 5 Stars - TCPL 2018 Reading Challenge 

* Book About Death or Grief - Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman - 3 Stars - Popsugar 2018 Challenge 

* Book About or set on Halloween - Scott Thomas - 3 Stars - Popsugar 2018 Challenge

* Comic Written and Illustrated by the Same Author - Awkward - Svetlana Chmakova - 4 Stars - Read Harder by Libby 

* First Book In A New To You YA Series or Middle Grade Series - Diviners - Libba Bray - 4 Stars - Read Harder by Libby 

* True Crime - No Easy Answers - Brooks Brown - 4 Stars - PopSugar Challenge 2018 

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Labyrinthians

*I received a free ecopy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

8 things you need to know about The Labyrinthians:

1. The plot is really neat, kinda like Ready Player One and The Westing Game had a baby. If you haven't read either of those books, you should. If you have read/enjoyed one, or both, of them, then this may be the book for you. In The Labyrinthians, Kim and her family move into an old farmhouse her mom has inherited from a long, lost great-uncle, only to discover that the uncle built a huge labyrinth under the home that contains a precious jewel worth millions of dollars. Ah - MAZE - ing shenanigans ensue. 

2. Tired of YA books being about teens who hate their parents?  If so, then this is the book for you. The teens in this book are nice, which actually IS a little refreshing (especially after reading the Hunger Games Trilogy staring "Panties up her Butt" Everdeen). Kim and her brothers, Nate and Elliot, are adopted. Kim, whose point of view is the main focus of the book, loves her adopted family and is grateful to them for all they have done for her. Shocking, I know. I also just realized there is little to no bad language in the book. So, it's a good, clean read for anyone who tends to shy away from sex, drugs, and foul-mouthed hooligan teens.

3. There is a sweet love story. Even though it is predominately an action/adventure book, Kim begins to developing feelings for her foster brother Nate. It isn't Lifetime Movie "I'm in Love with My Brother" icky, because her family has only recently taken Nate in after his parents died in a car crash. She's only known him a little while, so the relationship feels fresh and new. It doesn't go very far in this first book, but you can tell it is going to happen. Again the book is very clean, so the window steamer factor is extremely low. Just some smooching.

4. The rooms in the Labyrinth are really cool! Okay, Okay, so what if this Labyrinth doesn't contain David Bowie singing to a baby? It still has some really unique puzzles to solve and creepy things to get past. It's really imaginative, almost to the point that you are thinking, "Wow, I wish I could come up with that." There's a chainsaw room, a video game room, a jungle room, and a carnival room, just to name a few. It was really nice to turn the pages while wondering what will she think up for them to conquer next...

5. ... which leads me to a tiny negative ... The Labyrinth can get really confusing. I'll admit it, I'm blonde. With that being said, I think that redheads will also be left scratching their brains a few times while reading this book. The maze has a design that is so intricate, you are sometimes forced to reread sections just to try to keep up. I think it would actually be beneficial if each chapter contained a small map of the labyrinth that would show readers where the kids are. Hey, it's just an idea. I'm sure the author plotted, planned, schemed, and spent hours working on the details of the labyrinth. It shows in her work. But without all of that visually mapped out in front of you, it can become confusing. I'm telling you ... Maps ... they would love the book like I loved it.  

6. There's a pretty creepy villain. The man behind the maze is pretty twisted, but not too twisted. The book does, therefore, contain some graphic violence *think chainsaw room*, but nothing a teen (or tween) couldn't handle. 

7. It made me want to try the Great Escape game. I know these maze places seem to be popping up all over the United States, and I've really wanted to try one for a while, now. This book made me want to try one even more. There's one opening up about an hour from my house this summer, so I'm going to go try it out with some friends in June. Excited!

8. It's a good book. I liked it enough to try the second book. I suggest you give it a try. It would be a great summer read. :-) 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Anna and the French Kiss

This book has some great moments. It also has some really sexy moments. Sadly, it also had some moments that really frustrated me. About 3/4 of the way in, I was ready to punch 'ole Anna in the face. I debated back and forth between giving it a range from a 5-star rating to a 3-star rating. In the end, I settled in the middle with four stars. I really liked it, and I'm going to give Lola and the Boy Next Door a try, but it was certainly not up to par with Fangirl. Sorry, super fans, it just wasn't.  
The book's main voice is Anna, a movie buff who works in her hometown movie theater. Her dad, a Nicholas Sparks-inspired romance novelist, sporadically decides she needs to become more cultured. So, for her senior year of school, he sends her to a boarding school in Paris for America teens. She's scared, at first, by the newness of it all. She has no friends, no familiarity with the language, and no desire to be 1,000s of miles away from her mom and little brother. This all changes when she becomes friends with Mer, the athletic girl across the hall. Mer introduces her to her clique of school friends including St Clair, THE boy that captures all of her attention. The problem is ... this perfect boy has a lovely girlfriend. Predictable romantic chaos ensues. 
 Things I liked about the books:

* The setting - Ironically, I started reading this book right around the time of the 2015 attacks on Paris. It made me appreciate the beauty of Perkins' descriptions even more. It's not a setting I'm used to, or a place I've visited, so I enjoyed her details about the city. It made the characters' adventures in the city heartbreaking, but beautiful at the same time. I probably won't forget that I was reading this book when the tragedy took place any time soon.

* The Characters - For the most part, the book is filled with really likable characters. St. Clair is delicious, Anna is smart, and their friends are definitely kids I'd want to hang out with. Of course, she had to throw in a couple of bullies to make the story believable. All of the main characters, though, are pleasant folk. I did have a few problems with Anna toward the end, but more on that in a minute. 

* The Thanksgiving Break Chapters - I'm a firm believer that romance, when done right, can be really sexy without being fodder for late-night TV jokes (yes, 50 Shades chick, I'm talking to you). I think Gena Showalter and Rainbow Rowell are two examples of writers who can compose really romantic, not trashy, love scenes. After reading about Anna and St. Clair's time together during Thanksgiving break, I'm adding Stephanie Perkins to that list. I can dig some romance when it's done right, and those moments in the book were done right!  
Things about the book I didn't like: :-( 

* Girls Fighting Over Boys - I understand this is a romance novel and there has to be some spectacular spectacles to plump up the plot, but at some points in this book there are four girls fighting over one boy. I think St. Clair is cool, but he isn't worth all that. By the end, things are semi-resolved. But, it still doesn't melt the impression that girls have to be eye-clawing, horrific fiends toward one another to attract a boy. Honestly, the story would have been just as good if St. Clair had been single from the beginning, Meridith had found her own happy ending, and Anna and St. Clair had fallen in love with one another without all the girl on girl pettiness. There is always going to be a school bully, and Amanda fit that roll well, but the other girls fighting over him bugged me. Grrrr ... bugged grimace ...    

*After Christmas Break Anna - Here's the breakdown: Girl goes home to America from Paris for Christmas break, girl decides all Americans are disgusting slobs and way beneath her, girl fights with back-home best friend and back-home love interest because they are now romantically involved (knew that was coming), girl goes back to Paris with a snotty attitude, girl starts calling St. Clair (last name) Etienne (first name) because that's her mating call for him, girl gets drunk, girl says she hates Etienne's actual girlfriend, and girl fights with every other girl in school over "her Etienne." Honestly from Christmas break (the plot line follows a typical school year) to springtime, I hated Anna's character so much I planned on only rating it 2 or 3 stars when I finished. Luckily, things get better by the end of the book. I actually thought it had a really sweet, most problems resolved, ending that paid a nice tribute to the city. So, I bumped my rating back up to 4 stars. But, I definitely didn't like Anna's character morph halfway through the book. I still stand by the idea that the book would have been much better if Anna and St. Clair's relationship could have naturally evolved without the cheating (he has a girlfriend when they meet) and if Meredith hadn't also been in love with him. Still, the book is worth a chance.
It's a book with some super sweet, super romantic moments. Just beware that there is a girl against girl against girl against bitchy girl vying for a boy's heart ick factor involved.   
One final note: When I keep mentioning that things were "mostly" resolved by the final page, it's because I thought she left Meredith hanging over the edge of a cliff with a crap ending. Her planned solution, I think, was to have readers believe that Meredith wasn't in love with St. Clair, after all, because she was a lesbian (huh?). But that's okay, Anna thinks absentmindedly, because lesbians are cool. Look, a lot of lesbians ARE hot (girls in pic), sexy (girls in pic, I say) and cool (dreamy sigh, girls in pic), but that was an odd way to resolve the story when she had been one of the girls fighting for St. Clair's attention all along. Plus, only a few pages after the lesbian declaration, wait, no, she's TOTALLY just into boys. I liked Meredith's character and thought she deserved better than that. I know the bully calling her a dyke (her word, not mine), was a poop head, but still it left a lingering question about her sexuality in the minds of readers. Great end for Anna, crappy end for Meredith. She should have just hooked her up with another lady Beatles fan from the beginning. Problem solved.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

I had a lot of expectations going into this book because I'd heard so many wonderful things about it. I was expecting it to be THE BEST BOOK EVER! Or, at least, the best book of the year. Friends, bloggers, and book-tubers were giving it that type of praise, so my expectations were really sky high. In truth, *fans may want to cover their eyes*, I thought it was ... kinda boring. I expect the lynch mob to start beating down my door at any second.  

The Wrath and the Dawn tells the story of Shahrzad (Shazi to her friends), a young woman who boldly sets out to marry, and seek revenge on, the man who murdered her best friend. Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. When Shazi's friend becomes the Caliph's victim, Shazi volunteers herself with a plan to make it past the sunrise after her wedding night without being murdered. Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, Shazi does make it further than the brides before her by telling Khalid a cliffhanger story, promising only to continue with the story if he lets her live to see another nightfall. The opening savior story, much to my delight, is the story of the genie in the lamp. It's a great concept and has a lot of potential. Sadly, for me, it just fell really flat after the first few chapters. By the end of the book, the only thing I really wanted to do was watch
and listen to songs sung by the late, great
,which, in turn, made me sad, so I had to cheer myself up by listening to
Oh, right, we were talking about the book. Sorry, I lost myself in more entertaining ventures for a second. To be fair, there were a few things I liked about the book (hence, the three stars instead of one on Goodreads):

1. The setting is fresh and unique. The Wrath and the Dawn is set in historical Khorasan, which is in the northeast of Persia (Iran). In the first few chapters, the author includes a lot of details about clothing styles, food, and buildings that help the read get a real feel of what it is like to live in a place that may be vastly different than the surroundings they are accustomed to.

2. The concept. It really is a fun premise, especially with the inclusion of the fuzzy blanket stories (Aladdin, Bluebeard, etc...) we are familiar with.  

3. The ethnic diversity that book the encompasses.

4. The last few chapters of the book. This is when ALL the action happens. If the rest of the book was this fast paced, I would have liked it better.

And, then there were the things I didn't like:
1. The middle of the book was SO BORING! With a premise like this, the entire novel should be chock full o' mystery, magic, love, and mayhem! Some of the chapters do contain these things, but the rest is so boring that it will make your eyes water. Ahdieh also has an extremely repetitive writing style that can become tiresome. Remember when I said that the descriptions of clothes, settings, and food are interesting? They're interesting in about the first three chapters, then they become redundant. For example, I understand that a character is going to get his clothes dirty by kicking up dust riding his horse through the sand. It really only needs to be said once or twice. Yet, it seemed like this was repeated during every single one of the 500 times Tariq went gallivanting through the desert on his horse. We get it. already! I honestly think this is a first-time published author flaw that will remedy itself as she releases more books. In this book, though, I just found that the middle of the book suffered badly from repetitive boredom.     

2. The sexist nature of the book rattled me a little bit. I swear if they had refereed to one more woman in the book as a whore, I would have dove down into the ink and paper and throat punched someone. I understand we are dealing with cultural differences, here, but this is never okay for a Riot Grrrl. I also wasn't pleased with the sex scenes that I would consider rape. Honestly, the sex scenes are over in the blink of an eye. They are very weirdly worded and you have to read them over and over again to make sure you know what the heck is happening. I got the feeling that the author didn't really want the reader to realize that they were having sex. Why? Because two of the three sex scenes are rape. I understand that she's voluntarily married him and it's their wedding night and so on and what forth... Still, this book is targeted toward teen girls. A teen girl might read this and think, "Oh, it's okay to do it when you don't want to..." Glossing over rape scenes and refereeing to women as whores = not okay. 

3. I never really bought into the love story between Shazi and Khalid. He presumably murdered her best friend and rapes her, yet she is supposed to think he is Prince Charming. Meanwhile, he picked her out of several young women only because she's more physically attractive (or braver for volunteering) than the others. It doesn't make a lot of sense. In the end, when the action picked up, I was kinda rooting for them. But, overall, it wasn't believable to me.    

4. As hard as I tried, I just couldn't really connect with any of the characters. Jalal was okay, he was actually my favorite, but I saw very few good qualities in the others. Tariq, when not riding through the desert kicking up sand, was kinda useless. Shazi was meant to come off as tough, creavite, and fearless, but, in the end, just seemed to be a weak, smitten kitten. No matter the reasoning behind his forced destiny, Khalid was a jerk's jerky jerk. Despina was just too Debbie Downer. None of them were very likable. 

I know I'm in the minority, here, but I just thought the book was okay. The last few chapters kinda made me want to read the second one, but I'm not sure if I will or not. She's working with some really rich background material with the Arabian Nights theme, so maybe the second book will steer away from the issues I didn't like and be an all-around better book. For me, though, the Wrath and the Dawn just didn't live up to the hype I'd been hearing all around me. There are readers who claim it is the best book in the universe, so maybe you should check it out for yourself.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

I'm typically not a fan of graphic novels. I've tried tons of times to read one, only to give up halfway through the effort. They just aren't my cup of tea. In saying that, I LOVED Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. It's cute, it's sassy, the illustrations are vibrant, and the storyline is one that any young girl can relate with.  
Roller Girl is the coming of age story of Astrid, a twelve-year-old girl who is beginning to realize that her best friend may not actually be the best thing for her. In the meantime, when her mother takes her to a local roller derby match, Astrid falls in love with the sport, the athletes, and the thrill of the experience. On a whim, she decides to join the junior roller derby league. Joining the league doesn't prove to be easy breezy rolling, though. She doesn't really know how to roller skate, she doesn't know any of the other kids in the league, her best friend has decided to go to dance camp, instead, and her mom is oblivious to all of her worries. By the end of the summer, we can only hope that things may turn okay for our new favorite Roller Girl
Except for seeing online photos of super cool girls with cool clothes, cool hair, and strong bodies, I have little to no experience with the world of roller derby. I can't roller skate without people on either side of me holding me up, and it's not a sport that is wildly popular (that I know of) in my area (it isn't high school football). I don't think I enjoyed Whip It very much, which is surprising because I like all of the women involved in the movie. It's been a long time since I've watched it, so I can't recall a lot of details about why it bugged me. I just remember being disappointed in it. So, except for thinking the sport looks really bad ass (from what little I've seen), Roller Girl, then, was a big introduction to the sport for me. I thought Jamieson did a good job explaining the sport to beginners, no matter what their age, while still keeping a fluid storyline. She also goes beyond the image of what it is to be a derby girl with the message that, hey, girls, this is fun, but it is also a lot of REALLY hard work. It truly is a sport to be admired.     
Victoria Jamieson = author = roller girl 
This book is feisty, feminist fun for girls (and boys) of all ages. I really like the way Astrid's character evolves throughout the book. She's a 12-year-old girl with some mixed-up feelings. Sometimes, you aren't going to like her or her friends. But, that is what made her life seem very authentic and real to me. Plus, grumpy Astrid is really cute. Great graphic novel. It almost made me want to try putting on a pair of roller skates. *Almost.* 

 For more information on the author, you can visit http://www.victoriajamieson.com/

 Rainbow Bite, my favorite superhero.