Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Book Review: In the Unlikely Event

TITLE: In the Unlikely Event
AUTHOR: Judy Blume
PUBLISHED: June 2nd, 2015
PAGES: 397
GENRE: Historical Fiction
PREMISE: A various group of characters in a small town deal with the aftermath of three plane crashes in the course of a summer in 1952
MY REVIEW: Full disclaimer, like many I read Judy Blume as a kid. I didn't get a huge connection like everyone else apparently did, but I did enjoy them. As an adult, I adore Judy Blume the person who constantly speaks out about censorship and book banning and the like. Seriously, Blume is awesome, look up her stuff.
Personally, I enjoyed this one too. Is it the best book ever written? Probably not. It is also very slow and more of a character study story then a plot driven story. So if you're not into character studies, likely this will be boring to you. Me, I can take them or leave them. It depends on how it's executed. This one was mostly executed well. I did feel like there were a tad too many characters at times and they were all fighting for attention and that stalled the story quite a bit. Which is probably why the book feels slow. But once you get to the end, it all comes together. Mostly. For me, the historical bits are what really make this book. In the audiobook version especially, you really feel like you're in this small town in the 1950s. It's described wonderfully and very vividly and you can tell Blume researched the hell out of this time period.
So it's not ground breaking. But it is a very good character study and really well done historical fiction novel.
WHO SHOULD READ: Patient readers, historical fiction fans, Judy Blume fans, those who like character study type books
MY RATING: Four out of Five airplanes

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Thematic Sunday: Short Classics To Get Off Your List

So school time is looming for some of you (for those of you still in school anyway ;strikes smug adult pose;) and chances are, there are some reading lists floating around that you haven't gotten to yet. That's assuming of course schools even do reading lists anymore. Or maybe you have some classics on your TBR list that you want to get done. Either way, here are some short classics to impress people with, that you can read in a jiffy. For the record, my criteria for short classic is a book under 250 pages.

Short Classics to Get Off Your List:

1) Animal Farm by George Orwell

Page count (according to Goodreads): 102

Hopefully, you read this one in school. If not, I'm sure it'll pop up somewhere in your education future. Read it now and give yourself a head start. As a bonus, it's pretty easy to understand.

2) Of Mice and Men by John Steinback

Page count: 107

Another one that you probably have already read for school. If not, it's a another one that's pretty easy to understand on your own and one that I can guarantee you will be getting at some point in your education. At least, if you go to a US school.

3) The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Page count: 192

There's a reason this is a stand by for teachers. It's fast and simple to get. Plus now, you have the Leo film to watch along with it if you get desperate.

4) The Old Man in the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Page count: 128

You will read this one in school. Best get it over with now.

5) Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Page count: 178

Actually the story is a lot shorter then 178 because this version is Breakfast at Tiffany's plus two other short stories Capote did. This is a great intro to Capote and it's fun to compare and contrast along the way with the Audrey Hepburn film.

6) The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Page count: 96 (for this version)

Yes, Jekyll and Hyde really is that short. Honestly, most of Stevenson's books are pretty quick reads.

7) The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Page count: 139 (for this version)

Don't know how much London is still being taught. But if you only read one London book, it should probably be this one (or White Fang)

8) Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Page count: 152

Good starter book to read for those interested in Buddhism.

9) Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Page count: 128

I actually still need to read Edith Wharton. Never encountered her in all my years of schooling. But I went to school in the bible belt, and my teachers were very firmly into the dead straight white men who only wrote "serious" literature (aka no genre fiction). Which is probably why I can't stand the lit snob crowd, now that I think about it....

10) African Trilogy 1: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Page count: 209

You're forgiven if you've never heard of Achebe. I myself never heard of him until this past year or so. He is actually apparently considered a important writer in African fiction. Which again, explains why I never got to him in school.

Some others, because there are way more then ten: The Awakening by Kate Chopin
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Island of Dr. Moreau (and others) by H. G. Wells

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Reading Through the Classics: The Stranger

TITLE: The Stranger
AUTHOR: Albert Camus
CATEGORY: Classic/Modern Classic (depending on what your definition of modern classic is)
GENRE: This has been labeled as philosophy on most sites. I guess it is. I've never taken philosophy so I don't know for sure.
PREMISE: A man tells of a murder he committed in two parts, as it happened and during his trial.
PAGES: 123
MY THOUGHTS: This is another classic that was on my TBR list that I decided to finally just get out of the way. It was short after all. I knew nothing about it beyond the summary when I went into it.
This is not a book I would pick up if you want a light and fluffy, hopeful, entertainment reading. It's very dark, and its topics are heavy. There's much introspection and very little dialogue. I suspect probably those who actually know something about philosophy, would probably get more out of this then well...me. As I mentioned above, I've never taken philosophy. But from what I've read up on this book, this is considered a good book in those circles. I'll have to take their word for it.
This is a case where having a class on this one, may have been more beneficial then reading it on my own. I did get it, in a way. I just think perhaps if there was a teacher around to explain some of the ideas going around, I might have gotten more out of it.
WHO SHOULD READ: philosophy majors, those interested in philosophy, those who like dark books that ponder the human condition

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Book Review: The Wicked Will Rise

TITLE: The Wicked Will Rise
Book 2 in the Dorothy Must Die series
AUTHOR: Danielle Paige
PUBLISHED: March 30th, 2015
GENRE: Retelling/Reimagining, Fantasy
PREMISE: Amy continues her journey through Oz after her failure of a mission in the palace.
MY REVIEW: Dorothy Must Die was a book I had overall mixed feelings about. I enjoyed it for the most part, but there were things, such as the slut shaming, that made me kind of cringe.
I'm happy to report, this second one is much more polished then the first. There are still a few iffy moments with the humor that don't thrill me that much. But the author focuses more on this wacky version of Oz, which is what I'm mostly here for. I just love this dark Oz that the author has presented us with. Plus, this one actually does try and get into the psyche of these characters, particularly with Amy and as a result, they're much more interesting to me now. Character development goes a long way, authors. Far longer then forced love traingles.
Overall, there was definitely improvement. There's still some things about it that make me sigh, but I wasn't sighing as much as I was in the first book. The plot is still entertaining, Oz is still wonderfully messed up, and I honestly can't wait to see more. I can take a few annoyances here and there if you give me a entertaining story, and the author definitely does do that.
WHO SHOULD READ: Dorothy Must Die fans, Wizard of Oz fans, Once Upon a Time fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five wicked witches

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review: The Game of Love and Death

TITLE: The Game of Love and Death
AUTHOR: Martha Brockenbrough
PUBLISHED: April 28th, 2015
GENRE: Historical Fantasy/Romance
PAGES: 352
PREMISE: Love and Death have a constant game involving mortals. The latest mortals unknowingly involved in this game are Henry and Flora.
MY REVIEW: I solely picked this one up for the concept of it. Love and Death having a game and making bets with it? Sign me up. To be sure, the author does present an intriguing idea here. I just think there were maybe too many plots going at once.
First you had the game thing. Then you had the romance. There was a subplot with Henry's friend. Both Henry and Flora had their own things. Death and Love had a subplot about why they were doing this as well as their backstory. There was a feminist subplot (which I enjoyed, because I am feminist, but still), and it just made for a jumbled story that felt more like two books that were smushed into one and maybe shouldn't have been.
Still, the historical details in this book are lovely. The prose are fantastic. There is a lot of food for thought in this one. So...it was a decent first effort. I could just tell it was a first effort. With time though, I suspect we'll have a great YA author on our hands. I see a lot of potential in her writing and ideas.
WHO SHOULD READ: Historical Romance fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five to Four out of Five I can't make up my minds ratings. It's somewhere between those two ratings I think.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books With Diversity

Again, trying to get back into the swing of things. This is a weekly meme hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish

This Week's Topic: Books that Celebrate Diversity

1) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Why: I admit, the plot wanders on this one. But the topics it talks about are on point and make you think.

2) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alere Saenz

Why: One of my favorite LGBT reads out there. It has won awards for a reason.

3) Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Why: Like Americanah, the plot on this one wanders and its slang is a wee bit outdated. But the things it talks about are important and still very relevant.

4) Love is the Drug by Love is the Drug
by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Why: Such an interesting dystopian. Johnson's books are all good about celebrating diversity too. Check out her other book, The Summer Prince.

5) The Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovich

Why: I love the Peter Grant series. It's one of the more mainstream titles on this list with a snarky black male lead who solves paranormal/magical mysteries in London.

6) Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

Why: Anytime someone tries to tell you diversity in fantasy just can't be done because it'd be too obvious or distracting or some other stupid reason. Laugh at them, then put this book in their hands.

7) The Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pearce

Why: Another series that proves you can have diversity in mainstream fantasy is this fabulous series. I will warn, most of the diversity comes later in the series which has not only many fabulous PoC characters, but LGBT characters as well.

8) I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Why: Another favorite LGBT title of mine.

9) Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Why: Full disclosure, I haven't read this one yet. But a lot of people say it's wonderful and it shows up on lists a lot.

10) Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

Why: Another one I haven't gotten too yet, but that I've heard very good things about. It's been making the rounds this year a lot.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review: Beastkeeper

TITLE: Beastkeeper
AUTHOR: Cat Hellison
CATEGORY: Middle-Grade
GENRE: Retelling/Reimagining
PUBLISHED: February 3rd, 2015
PAGES: 208
PREMISE: Sarah finds out her family is cursed and is sent to live with her grandparents.
MY REVIEW: This one was...an odd book. Normally, I like odd. Pretty much all my favorite books can be odd. But this one wasn't well...good odd, if you will. For me, there are good kinds of odd and bad kinds of odd. The good kind is stuff like Discworld or the Thursday Next series. Stuff that has random and weird things going on but it all comes together in a magical and enjoyable way in the end.
Then there's the bad kind of odd. This is the author having a bunch of ideas but they never quite mesh the way they should. They're clever ideas, but in the end you're just too confused to make sense of it and that gets in the way of enjoying the book. That is what happened to me here.
This was definitely an interesting idea. It was just a confusing one. Maybe I just wasn't getting it, I don't know. I just know I liked the concept of the book more then I liked the book itself. I say this is one that should be checked out of the library first to see if it's for you.
WHO SHOULD READ: retelling fans, middle-grade fiction fans, fantasy fans
MY RATING: Three out of Five shrugs

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Thematic Sunday: Books With a Beach Setting

Trying to get back into the swing of things. Here's a new list! FYI, if any of you guys have requests for themed lists, let me know via comments. I may do them next time if I can.

1) Anything Nicholas Sparks

Seriously, any Nicholas Sparks is basically going to have a beach at some point in time. It's like his favorite setting.

2) Anything Sarah Dessen

Dessen also apparently is a big fan of the beach setting.

3) Summer Boys (and Summer Girls) series by Hailey Abbott

Realistic Fiction series about a group of cousins and their romantic escapades during a summer spent at the beach.

4) Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

One of Blume's few adult books about a woman remembering a important summer spent on the beach with an old friend.

5) Clarity Books by Kim Harrington

I'll be honest, this is a bit of a stretch. The beach doesn't feature heavily here as in the others. But Clarity does live in a beachy tourist town. If you're more into the paranormal sort of beach books, this is a good one.

6) Summer Series Book 1: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

Another realistic fiction one about a girl and her summers. I've never read it, but apparently there's a beach.

7) Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Middle-grade book about a boy moving to a beach sort of town who makes friends with two kids trying to save the home of some owls.

8) The Mermaid's Mirror by L. K. Madigan

YA about a girl who discovers she's a mermaid while learning how to surf.

9) Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Historical Fiction book about a group of people in a small coastal town in Italy.

10) Waiting For You by Susane Colasanti

Another YA romance taking place near a beach.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Book Review: Playlist For the Dead

TITLE: Playlist For the Dead
AUTHOR: Michelle Falkoff
PUBLISHED: January 27th, 2015
GENRE: Realistic Fiction
PREMISE: A boy tries to move on from his friends suicide while finding a playlist his friend made.
MY REVIEW: I'll be honest, this book was just simply not my thing. I don't think there was anything totally wrong with it. Probably for someone more into the contemporary John Greenish stuff floating around a lot, it'll be perfect. For me...I just couldn't get into this one.
Part of it was that it just kept reminding me of other, far better, books. It reminded me a bit of Thirteen Reasons Why. But it was not as good as that. It reminded me a bit of John Green's books. But it was not as good as his stuff (and please keep in mind, I'm not even one who worships John Green).
Honestly, it just didn't really resonate well with me. It never seemed to go anywhere or have anything to say. It ended very abruptly as well. But again, this was not really my thing. Perhaps for people more into contemporary fiction, it's a good book. Ultimately, I advise checking it out of the library first to see if it's for you.
WHO SHOULD READ: John Green fans, Thirteen Reasons Why fans, realistic fiction fans
MY RATING: Three out of Five playlists

Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Review: Sorceress

TITLE: Sorceress
Book 3 in the Spellcaster Trilogy
AUTHOR: Claudia Gray
PUBLISHED: March 3rd, 2015
GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Witches
PREMISE: Nadia and her friends face off against the evil that has invaded their town.
MY REVIEW: This is one of those trilogies that are only really good if it's your thing. Luckily for Gray, witches with secrets in small towns are totally my thing. If you're a fan of witches and urban fantasy in general, this is one to pick up for sure.
This was on whole, a satisfying end to a satisfying trilogy. It's Gray, so it all ends relatively happy. No major surprise character deaths, but also no real plot twists either. That I think, is the only issue I have with Gray. She gives great set ups and high stakes, but in the end everyone on the side of good always lives and the couples always work it out. So...there aren't many surprises.
But sometimes, you don't want something that rips your heart out. You just want an entertaining time. If that's what you're after, this series (as well as her other books), certainly deliver on that.
WHO SHOULD READ: Gray fans, those that have read the first two books, urban fantasy fans, witch fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five okay endings
RATING FOR TRILOGY: Four out of Five

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book Review: The Wondrous and the Wicked

TITLE: The Wondrous and the Wicked
Book 3 in the Dispossessed Trilogy
AUTHOR: Page Morgan
PUBLISHED: April 14th, 2015
GENRE: Historical Fantasy
PAGES: 352
PREMISE: The final battle happens.
MY REVIEW: Sigh. This trilogy started off so well and then just sort of fizzled. I loved the first book a lot. The second one was...okay, but still managed to keep me invested. This one was just...okay.
The problem is, it was just too predictable. It certainly did its job as an ending to a trilogy. It answered lingering questions, it solved plotlines, and came to a neat and tidy ending. It's just...nothing unexpected really happened. If you read a lot of these YA trilogies, you could probably guess where it was going to go. There were no surprises. I literally yawned my way through this.
Again, it did its job as an ending to a series. It's just that the ending was terribly boring and quite predictable. So I give the author an A for effort at least, I just would have liked at least SOME surprise.
WHO SHOULD READ: Those that have read the first two books, historical fantasy fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five shrugs
RATING FOR TRILOGY: Three and a half out of Five

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

TITLE: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns)
AUTHOR: Mindy Kaling
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: Memoir
PAGES: 222
PREMISE: Mindy Kaling, star fresh out of The Office (this was written before her Mindy Project days), gives anecdotes and fun stories about her life.
MY REVIEW: Confession time. I've never really been a fan of The Office. I've seen a few episodes here and there, but never really got into it, even if I did get the jokes. Personally, I prefer Parks and Rec. I've also never seen The Mindy Project. But even without being into either of those things, I know who Mindy Kaling is and am aware of her brand of humor. I am on tumblr after all.
So it took me awhile to pick this one up. But I'm glad I did. It was a fun read. It doesn't go into TOO much of her childhood, but this may have been a personal choice. Some of her family may not have wanted too many stories about them in it. That's perfectly legit. It goes into enough that you get where she came from and goes into more detail during her adult years trying to make it in Hollywood.
This not what I'd call a serious memoir. It won't give you all the feels or anything. But I suspect many people will relate to Mindy at one point or another. There's some on point and great commentary about Hollywood and it's problem with women/race. It's just all around fun. If you're familiar with Kaling and like her style of humor, this would be a good book to pick up.
WHO SHOULD READ: Mindy Kaling fans, Bossypants/Yes Please fans, The Office fans, Mindy Project fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five LOLs