Sunday, December 4, 2016

Thematic Sunday: Holiday Seasonal Reads

So the holiday season (or hell as us retailers sometimes call it) is officially upon us. Here are some snowy reads to pick up to get you in the festive mood:

1) Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

This is exactly what it sounds like. Three cute contemporary romances set around the holidays. This is set to become a movie in late 2017, so good time to read it.

2) My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins

If the above book puts you in the mood for more cute romances, definitely pick this one up.

3) Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

In a rare departure from his lawyer books, Grisham offers a hilarious tale about a couple who tries to skip Christmas, only for it to backfire.

4) Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

While not only about Christmas, this short story collection offers some hilarious tales such as Sedaris' time as a Macy's store elf.

 5)A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd

Yes, the famous movie classic is based on a book.

6) The Man Who Invented Christmas by Les Standiford

Instead of recommending A Christmas Carol, which lets face it, is an obvious choice, I'm going to point you to this book about the publication process for the holiday classic.

7) The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann and Alexandre Dumas

Fan of the Nutcracker ballet? Check out this edition that includes Nutcracker and Mouse King and The Tale of the Nutcracker which inspired said ballet.

8) The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Frank L. Baum

Another good classic to look into is this one by the author of The Wizard of Oz. For more classics, check out all of the Penguin Christmas classics collection. As a bonus, they're really pretty books.

9) Shiver Trilogy Book 1: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

If you want something wintery, but not necessarily Christmas (not everyone celebrates it!) I recommend this oldy from Stiefvater. It's full of snow scenes.

10) The Ex-Games by Jennifer Echols

Another wintery-but-not-Christmas book to look into is this cute little romance from the Simon Pulse teen romance collection.

I did try to find some Hanukkah/Kwanzaa themed books guys, but...other then some cute picture books, there don't seem to be any. Publishing industry: do better.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Book Review: This Savage Song

TITLE: This Savage Song
Monsters of Verity Book 1
AUTHOR: Victoria Schwab
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
PREMISE: In a world where violence creates monsters, two new kids start school: one is the daughter of a mobster for one side of the city, the other is a monster hidden for a leader of the other side of the city.
MY REVIEW: May I just say I love that Victoria Schwab is finally getting her due? Ever since I first read Near Witch...gosh a few years ago now...I had a feeling she was going to take off as an author and after reading The Archived I really wanted it to happen. Now, it looks like it's finally happening and I'm just so thrilled because I adore her stuff. I have yet to read a bad book by her.
What I really love is just how all different her books are. They usually are always fantasy oriented, but the fantasy is all different and so interesting. This latest new book is no exception. I love how she's not afraid to do complicated characters, including female ones and manages to have books with little to no romance in them. This includes her YA books. Yes, I know, YA without romance! Who knew? Also, she doesn't dumb down her YA books. Some authors who write in both categories I've noticed tend to tone things down for the YA crowd. Schwab, does not, and I appreciate that so much. This book is just as dark as Vicious or her Shades of Magic trilogy.
If you are a Victoria Schwab fan, whether you're familiar with her YA books or adult books, absolutely pick this up. It's just as good as her previous offerings.
WHO SHOULD READ: Victoria/V.E. Schwab fans, dark fantasy fans, Neil Gaiman fans
MY RATING: Four and a half out of Five man made monsters

Friday, December 2, 2016

Book Review: A Torch Against the Night

TITLE: A Torch Against the Night
Book 2 in the Ember in the Ashes series
AUTHOR: Sabaa Tahir
PUBLISHED: August 30th, 2016
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: Elias and Laia are now on the run with Helene close at their heels on Marcus's orders...
MY REVIEW: So...I honestly don't remember Ember in the Ashes all that much. I remember liking it well enough (but apparently not as much as other people did, as these things go) but like actual details...I remember there being fighting. Luckily A Torch Against the night did some recapping so that jogged my memory. I don't think this is a mark against the book or anything. I was reading quite a bit at that time. It's a miracle I remember half of it.
This one is mostly like the first one for me: it's a lot of action. There's always something happening. I finished it in less then two days. There were some twists that were interesting but this was for the most part very much a second book in a series. It was mostly building towards getting to the third book. Of all the things, I found Helene's story the most interesting. In times I found myself wishing the book was only about her, because she was more interesting to me then Elias and Laia.
This was a very good sequel. It got the job done. I don't particularly think this series is that groundbreaking like people seem too, but it is definitely entertaining. If you want a fast-paced fantasy-adventure, this series is worth a shot.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of Ember in the Ashes, fantasy fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five people on the run

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book Review: Gemina

TITLE: Gemina
Book 2 in the Illuminae Files Trilogy
AUTHOR: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
PUBLISHED: October 2016
PREMISE: Hanna is a spaceship captain's daughter when her ship is attacked and is forced to work with Nik, a rather shady guy to take down the group.
MY REVIEW: I got to the Illuminae Files earlier this year and enjoyed it quite a bit. It's a bit of a trope-filled series, but it's a fun trope-filled series and the way it's told is great. I'll be honest, I actually like this second book a whole lot more then the first. Not the first was bad, it really wasn't. I just didn't get enamored with anyone there like I did with the characters here.
This book takes place in the same universe as Illuminae but on another spaceship and deals with brand new characters. My favorite of the new ones is Hanna. As in the other book there are a bunch of files, message conversations, and even journal entries to go through. The story flows more for me for some reason. I still have no idea how they'll manage to do a movie of this though (assuming they ever do it. The road to Hollywood is paved with YA movies stuck in development hell ;forever bitter about my Charlotte Doyle movie;).
As a sequel, this book does its work. The ending has me really eager for the next one. Also, I need to check out Jay Kristoff's stuff I think. I've been meaning too for awhile now. Just never got around to it.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of Illuminae Files, Across the Universe book series fans, sci-fi fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five hilarious message board conversations

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review: The Crimson Skew

TITLE: The Crimson Skew
Mapmaker's Trilogy Book 3
AUTHOR: S. E. Grove
CATEGORY: Middle-Grade
GENRE: Alternate History/Fantasy
PREMISE: Sophia and Theo continue their journey with Theo fighting in an army and Sophia trying to discover what happened to her parents...
MY REVIEW: I will always have mixed feelings when it comes to this trilogy I think and this book is no exception. As with the first two, the world-building is fantastic. I adore S.E. Grove's imagination and the ways she plays with history. I even enjoy things like lack of forced love interests and whatnot.
Unfortunately...the characters are kind of stock characters and the story mostly just adventure so I don't really feel any huge connection to them. I like what I read when I read it, but it's not like say, my love for the Harry Potter or Raven Boys characters.
If you loved the first two books, you'll probably love this one. It ties everything together very nicely and is more of the same. Overall this is a satisfying trilogy. It's just not what I would call a must-read series unless you're a serious world-building nerd like I am.
WHO SHOULD READ: alternate history fans, His Dark Materials fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five maps
RATING FOR TRILOGY: Three and a half out of Five

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Book Series Review: Love by Numbers

TITLE OF SERIES: Love by Numbers
Book 1: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
Book 2: Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord
Book 3: Eleven Scandals to Start To Win a Duke's Heart
AUTHOR: Sarah MacLean
YEARS PUBLISHED: 2010 to 2011
GENRE: Historical Romance
PREMISE: Romances of three siblings in Regency London
MY REVIEW: I have spent the past year reading through romances. Most I haven't really reviewed because there isn't that much to say about them. Either they were fun and business as usual, or they were bad and I wound up ditching them. As in most genres the Romance category has its good books and its bad books. This series was the first one I started for my romance focus and it has by far been my favorite. The romances are fun and not anger inducing as some of the category romances can get. The sex scenes are actually hot. I also love the fun way MacLean writes her books. If you want a series that is bound to convert someone over to category romance, this is a good one.
WHO SHOULD READ: Historical Romance fans, Romance fans, Jane Austen fans
RATING FOR SERIES: Four out of Five scandalous romances

Monday, November 28, 2016

Book Review: Raging Sea

TITLE: Raging Sea
Book 2 in the Undertow series
AUTHOR: Michael Buckley
PUBLISHED: February 2nd, 2016
GENRE: Sci-Fi/Dystopian
PREMISE: Lyric and her friends go on the run from the aliens who invaded Earth...
MY REVIEW: Here's the thing about the Undertow series: it's readable. It's just...very generic. In fact, I actually forgot most of the first book. Luckily the author recaps a lot of it in the sequel so that jogged my memory. I do remember liking it...I think? It just doesn't compare to my love of Buckley's other series, Sister's Grimm.
This book...honestly continues the genericness of the first book. It's very much business as usual as far as sequels go. The author does try to twist it a bit. Though it's almost as if he knows he's twisting it because sometimes it felt like he was commenting on common tropes. Sometimes this can work, sometimes not. This's okay but sometimes felt like the author was going "look how clever I'm being!"
As a sequel this does its job. It's perfectly competent. It's just not what I call a knock it out of the park book. Or even a knock it out of the park series. It's good enough that I'll probably continue to the end.
WHO SHOULD READ: Fans of the first book, fans of alien invasion books, Fifth Wave fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five alien invasions

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thematic Sunday: Gilmore Girls Revival Reading List

This is not a very imaginative list of me, but I've been binging the new Gilmore Girls like every other fan of the show this weekend. I'm completely finished so if you wish to gush with me, feel free to do so. As with the original show, books feature a lot. Some were already on the original Rory Gilmore challenge (that I'm still making my way through), so I'm going with books that aren't on the previous list.

1) Mark Renton 1: Skagboys by Irvine Welsh

Okay, the show references Trainspotting, but that's actually the second book in this series.

2) Coming Into the Country by John McPhee

There's only a mention of the author on the show. This book is probably his best known one of you're curious.

3) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

There's a big scene that is based around this non-fiction book about getting organized.

4) Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace

Consider the Lobster is referenced at one point.

5) Prometheus Bound and Other Plays by Aeschylus

The greek writer is referenced in a joke at some point. Here's a good selection of his work.

6) Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Another major moment is heavily inspired by this book.

7) Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories by Sholem Aleichem

This classic Jewish writer was referenced at one point. I'll let you all guess who referenced it.

8) Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth

This classic poet is referenced at one point. Here's a good book to get a beginners look at his work.

9) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: Poems and Other Writings

Again, a specific book was not mentioned, but this author was mentioned in a conversation.

10) I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being a Woman by Nora Ephron

There's a good joke at one point referencing this book.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Book Review: With Malice

TITLE: With Malice
AUTHOR: Eileen Cook
PUBLISHED: June 7th, 2016
GENRE: Mystery/Thriller
PREMISE: A girl wakes up with no memory and learns she was in an accident that killed her best friend, and learns the accident may have been deliberate...
MY REVIEW: I've been hesitant to pick this one up because it kept getting compared to Gone Girl or Girl on a Train, both books I wasn't wild about. Publishers, might I suggest you all stop doing this? Because calling your book the next ;insert super popular title here; tends to come with a lot of baggage.
Luckily, I wound up enjoying this one much more then I enjoyed the two books it got compared too. The writing is smoother, the pacing is better, and the twists...are actually rather good. If you have to do thrillers, at least make them as entertaining as this one was. The twist at the end...I'm not sure if I like it or not. But it is an interesting ending if nothing else.
So if you're looking for a fast-paced YA thriller read, this is a pretty decent read. If you want a summery feeling in this (finally) cold weather, this is a good pick.
WHO SHOULD READ: Thriller fans, Gone Girl fans, Pretty Little Liars fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five hmm kind of endings

Friday, November 25, 2016

Book Review: Bound by Blood and Sand

TITLE: Bound by Blood and Sand
Book 1 in a new series
AUTHOR: Becky Allen
PUBLISHED: October 11th, 2016
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: A slave girl gains a magical power that may save her community...
MY REVIEW: This was another of those books I kind of went into blind. There's been very little buzz about it but the idea of it sounded so interesting, I had to pick it up. Plus, hello gorgeous eye-catching cover.
This is definitely a case of loved the concept, loved the author's writing style, details...could have used some work. I was rather confused about how this world worked. The author did try but the way things were explained...didn't make much sense. I'm not sure if that was me or the author. Could be a bit of both. But the story was interesting and not an idea often done in YA. It doesn't ignore the dark realities of slavery, so it gets pretty grim in some places. But it was an interesting read. Also, I have to point out: no love triangle. Yes, writers, you can do a YA book without them.
So...some small things didn't always work in this one. But considering this is a debut and one of the more memorable books I've read this past wasn't bad. At least worth a check out from the library.
WHO SHOULD READ: Dark fantasy fans, those looking for diverse reads
MY RATING: Four out of Five desert worlds