Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book Review: By Your Side

TITLE: By Your Side
AUTHOR: Kasie West
PUBLISHED: January 31rst, 2017
CATEGORY: YA
GENRE: Contemporary, Romance
PREMISE: A boy and a girl spend a few days locked in a library together. It blooms into a romance of sorts...
MY REVIEW: I've been meaning to look into West's contemporary fiction for awhile now. I've read her Pivot Point Duology and I remember enjoying it a bit. I saw this latest one in the library and figured, why not?
It's pretty typical YA romance stuff. Boy and girl forced to spend time together. Love blooms. Each have things they're dealing with. Friends and family make the romance more complicated then it needs to be, stir till fluffy. I did appreciate that West did not have the friends be horrible. I kept waiting for that moment when we'd get the typical bashing of the popular kids thing that tends to happen in books like this, but it actually never came. That was a pleasant surprise. There was also a nice female friendship in there, and no slut shaming. The love interest wasn't a total douche. It was a romance I could get behind. It doesn't sound like much, but you'd be amazed at how few YA contemporaries manage to pass this incredibly low bar that I have.
In short, it was a typical YA romance with a contemporary setting. If you want something that is light and fluffy, this will probably do the trick for you.
WHO SHOULD READ: Kasie West fans, those looking for cute romances to read
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five cute couples I can root for

Monday, May 22, 2017

Reading Through the Classics: Four Anton Chekhov Plays

TITLE: The Seagull
Uncle Vanya
Three Sisters
The Cherry Orchard
AUTHOR: Anton Chekhov
PUBLISHED: 1895, 1897, 1900. 1904
CATEGORY: Plays
GENRE: Realistic Fiction/Family Drama
MY THOUGHTS: So I recently took the plunge into plays, and one of my ongoing projects this year is to read through the ones being put on Broadway this season (I'm really excited about the Tonys, FYI). There are two Chekhov plays being done. One of them is The Cherry Orchard. The only copy my library had was a volume that was a bind-up of these four plays. Which is fine, these were also on my TBR list.
Of all four of them...I think Cherry Orchard was the best. Chekhov does a lot of focus on family drama things. There's probably some commentary on Russian things that I'm missing due to not knowing much about Russian history as well.
If you're just getting into Russian lit, I think Chekhov is a great place to start. I say this as someone also very new to it. His writing is easy to understand and quick to get through. You don't have to know everything about Russia to get his plays. So for those of us who may have been say...intimidated by Russian lit in the past (I fully blame Tolstoy. Trying Anna Karenina first, was probably not my wisest choice), Chekhov is a nice gateway into Russian lit.
WHO SHOULD READ: Theater nerds, Russian lit fans

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Graphic Novel Review: This One Summer

TITLE: This One Summer
AUTHOR: Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki
PUBLISHED: 2014
CATEGORY: Graphic Novels
GENRE: Contemporary/Realistic Fiction
PREMISE: Two girls have a memorable/drama-filled summer at their annual family vacation spot.
MY REVIEW: Every family has that one vacation spot they probably went to frequently, at least when they were kids. My family always went to a lake in West Virginia where my grandmother had a house. To this day, I'm still not sure how that house came in our family's possession (it's since been sold) but I have very fond memories of spending Forth of July there. This graphic novel reminds me a lot of those summers.
In that way, it's a perfect summer read. The art style is very interesting. At first I didn't like it much, but as the story progressed, I realized it actually suits the story very well. There are lot of topics covered in this as Rose and Windy spend their summer lazing about. Some of it was dealt with kind of vaguely, but for the most part...this was a pretty well-done one-shot story.
If you're looking for some graphic novels to take on a trip, I highly recommend this one.
WHO SHOULD READ: YA contemporary fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five summer lakes

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Notable Book Releases: 5/14-5/20

First off: apologies for no release post last week. Honestly, there were only like two books I was interested in, and the rest I didn't think anyone would particularly care about. So I didn't think a post was terribly necessary for two books. I suppose that's what happens when you have a big opening week beforehand.
But there are lots of interesting things this week, so here we go:

MG/YA

Flame in the Mist Book 1 by Renee Ahdieh

A Mulan retelling from the author of Wrath and the Dawn? Bring it.








The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

LGBTQA book that looks really fun. I'm ignoring those ratings on Goodreads for now because I've found when it comes to LGBTQA books (or any book not featuring a white protagonist or be a YA book not featuring romance) the ratings can be very suspect.





Riders Book 2: Seeker by Veronica Rossi

Sequel to last year's Riders which...I still have mixed feelings about, so I'm not sure if I'll be getting to this one. But for those that liked it, the sequel is out.

The Crown's Game Book 2: The Crown's Fate by Evelyn Skye

I'll be honest: I did not like The Crown's Game. It was a DNF book for me from last year. A very disappointing DNF because I loved the premise but the writing and basically everything...was just so bland for me. But I am apparently in the minority on this feeling, so I'm letting those that liked the first book know the sequel is out.



Adult Fiction

Large Animals by Jess Arndt

A short story debut that has been getting some buzz around the lit sphere.








Non-Fiction

The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

True crime memoir type book that has been getting some buzz.







City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker

Talk about crime solving in Paris during the 1600s? I'm in. I also want a Netflix series or PBS/BBC costume drama about it.






How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra  and Abigail Pesta

Looks like this one is going to be the heart-wrenching memoir of the summer. 









Comics/Manga releases

Free Country: A Tale of the Children's Crusade TP
Supergirl Vol. 1: Reign of the Cyborg Supermen TP
Spider-man Spider-Gwen Sitting in a Tree TP

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Review: Ink and Bone

TITLE: Ink and Bone
Book 1 in The Great Library series
AUTHOR: Rachel Caine
PUBLISHED: July 2015
CATEGORY: YA
GENRE: Alternate history, Dystopianish
PREMISE: In a world where the Library of Alexandria never burned but lived on to become a world dominating power, a boy is sent to the library for training...
MY REVIEW: I've been meaning to read this series forever because the premise sounds so amazing and Caine is one of those authors who has great premises, even if her plots are usually average. This one though...I actually think this one might be her best series yet. It not only lived up to its awesome premise, but it exceeded my expectations.
This has a lot of what made Morganville Vampires so entertaining: interesting variety of characters, different premise that you don't see everyday, fast pace with lots of things going on, and snappy dialogue. But it's also much better in that there's not lots of focus on love drama. There's romance but that is secondary to this big plot with the library.
Honestly, I'm hard-pressed to find anything really bad about it. About all I can say is the writing is average. But the quality of the story is very very high. I really wish I'd gotten to this one much sooner. But now that means I don't have to wait long to get to the end so, best laid plans.
WHO SHOULD READ: Rachel Caine fans, those who like alternate histories/dystopians
MY RATING: Four and a half out of Five scary librarians

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Review: Rebel Genuis

TITLE: Rebel Genius
Book 1 in the Geniuses series
AUTHOR: Michael Dante DiMartino
PUBLISHED: October 2016
CATEGORY: Middle-Grade
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: In a world where artists have the ability to create life with art, a boy joins a group of people rebelling against the queen...
MY REVIEW: I admit, I had probably too high expectations for this one. In my defense, when you tell me that one of the creators of Avatar: the Last Airbender has written a book...I'm going to have high expectations. Because I freaking loved Avatar.
Unfortunately...this one was one of those that had a great world....but not such an original plot. I could honestly predict what was going to happen from the first chapter and that's...not good. The author does try, but it really misses all that heart and subverting of tropes that Avatar had. Which kind of makes me think, DiMartino is mostly responsible for the world-building aspect of Avatar and not the writing. Which is fine, we all have our strengths. I did love the world in this.
I just didn't really love the plot and found the characters...lacking to say the least. It's like a movie where you can see what the writer/director was going for...but there's no feeling behind everything so you can't really connect with it. It's not bad...I suspect younger readers will very much enjoy this one, but for anyone whose looking for more depth or original plot...this one is probably not going to be for you. I honestly can only shrug sadly at this. It was just underwhelming.
WHO SHOULD READ: Younger fantasy readers
MY RATING: Three out of Five I wanted more from this feelings

Friday, May 12, 2017

Reading Through the Classics: North and South

TITLE: North and South
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Gaskell
PUBLISHED: 1854
CATEGORY: Classic, Adult
GENRE: Romance
PREMISE: A young woman moves to a new town after her father has a crisis of faith.
MY THOUGHTS: The first thing that popped into my mind as I read this was "this is kind of like Pride and Prejudice" and...it honestly is basically a bit of a redux on it. Gaskell definitely does her own take on people falling in love despite differences of opinion on things. Things don't go down quite the same way. I'm not saying it's a rip-off or anything like that. But...you can sort of tell, Gaskell got a lot of inspiration from Austen. As an Austen fan, I don't mind.
This one took the social commentary to higher levels then Austen did. But there was also still plenty of heart tugging romance. I definitely see why a lot of people fell for this story. There's lots going on, a lot of things to think about and the prose are great. Very wordy at times, like most of the classics are (daily reminder: a lot of authors back then were paid by the word. The books are wordy for a reason).
This was actually a rather enjoyable classic. I'll definitely be looking into Gaskell's other books in the future.
WHO SHOULD READ: Romance fans, Jane Austen fans, Bronte fans

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Book Review: The Stars Are Legion

TITLE: The Stars Are Legion
AUTHOR: Kameron Hurley
PUBLISHED: February 7th
CATEGORY: Adult
GENRE: Science-Fiction
PREMISE: A woman is reborn into a civilization at war...
MY REVIEW: If that premise sounds vague to you, it's because I honestly have no idea how to explain this to people. Long story short: it's sci-fi where people get reborn constantly and they are at war with another civilization over a planet's resources. Oh, and everyone is female. Yes. Everyone. But somehow they all still manage to give birth. There was a bit of a hand-wavy explanation for how.
This was my first experience with Hurley's fiction writing. I'd just recently read her Geek Feminist Revolution book and in it she talks about her writing process and inspirations a lot. That made me very interested in picking up her fiction books, so I just picked up her latest one. I...like it but I also have issues with it. Namely the world-building is...a tad confusing at times. The character building is great. I also really like her writing style. But I had problems picturing things because the world-building felt vague to me. So that was a bit frustrating. Also...I won't lie: this book is dark and at times very violent. Think Game of Thrones style violence but in space. So if you're squeemish, I'd proceed with caution.
So yeah, I liked the idea of this one...I'm just not sure about the overall execution. I really wouldn't read this if you're brand new to sci-fi. There are much easier introductions to the genre. But if after you've gotten your feet a bit wet, and want some more LGBTQA sci-fi in your life...this isn't a bad one to pick up.
WHO SHOULD READ: veteran Sci-Fi fans, Kameron Hurley fans, Game of Thrones fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five wars

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Book Review: Dreadnaught

TITLE: Dreadnought
Nemesis Series Book 1
AUTHOR: April Daniels
PUBLISHED: January 24rth, 2017
CATEGORY: YA
GENRE: Superheroes, Urban Fantasy
PREMISE: A trans girl gets not only the body she's always wanted, but superpowers as well. With the superpowers comes all sorts of new problems...
MY REVIEW: I don't know about anyone else, but I wanted to read this one the minute I heard about it. For the most part it did not disappoint. I will put a bit of a trigger warning on this one though: Danny faces a LOT of transphobia in this book. She gets it from her parents, her supposed best friend, and there's even a gross TERF on the superhero team that tries to recruit her. The author makes it very clear this transphobia is wrong and whatnot. But it's still quite a bit and I imagine it might be triggering for some. So I'm going to just let people know before they dive in.
If you think you can handle that though, this is a great read. It does deal with Danny and her going through the pains of coming out as trans and how that effects her life, but you then also have the superhero plot and that's also very interesting. It's a bit meta at times actually and I really love that aspect of the book.
All in all this was a good read and a very strong debut. At times the writing felt a tad...juvenile, like it was maybe meant for middle-grade originally. But overall, this was exactly what I wanted from this book. It looks like we're getting a sequel in July and I have to say, I look forward to it.
WHO SHOULD READ: those looking for more trans representation in their books, superhero fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five capes

Monday, May 8, 2017

Book Review: Letters to a Young Muslim

TITLE: Letters to a Young Muslim
AUTHOR: Omar Saif Ghobash
PUBLISHED: January 3rd, 2017
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: Essays?
PREMISE: An ambassador talks to his son via letters about what it is to be Muslim in this day and age.
MY REVIEW: I first heard about this book through The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Which lately, has been on fire with its interviews and non-fiction book recommendations. My non-fiction TBR list has exploded these past few months thanks to them.
This was a very interesting read. I do not really know much about the Muslim religion beyond the very basics (there's praying five times a day, the head scarves are for religious reasons; do not bother people about them etc.) so this gave a lot of insight into the religion itself. As the author was also an ambassador, he wrote a lot about how things in the Middle East came to be and that was very illuminating. Because honestly...we aren't taught enough about the situation in the Middle East, despite the fact that we constantly hear about it in the news.
This is a very heavy, thinkers type of read. It's a small and fast read but it packs quite a punch and gives you a lot of food for thought. I say that overall, it was a job well done.
WHO SHOULD READ: Anyone interested
MY RATING: Four out of Five thought provoking letters