Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

TITLE: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake
Book 1 in the Love by Numbers series
AUTHOR: Sarah MacLean
GENRE: Historical Romance
PREMISE: Lady Calpurnia has become a spinster and decides to throw caution into the wind and have some fun. This throws her into the path of notorious rake Gabriel St. John...
MY REVIEW: This is the first of many romance books that I hope to get off of my reading list this year. Sarah MacLean has been a popular author for awhile now. After reading this, I definitely see why. I enjoyed this and category romance books such as this can be pretty iffy with me.
I think a major reason why this works so well is that it doesn't try too hard. One of my problems with the Georgette Heyer book was that the author kept feeding us all these historical details that added nothing to the plot. MacLean does give historical details, but not the detriment of what we're all really here for: sexy romance. This romance is definitely sexy. The sex scenes were actually hot and didn't make me roll my eyes like a lot of category romance sex scenes do.
As a way to get back into reading romances, this was a good book to start with. I will absolutely be checking out the rest of MacLean's books now.
WHO SHOULD READ: Historical Romance fans, Regency Romance fans, Sarah MacLean fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five hot books

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Book Review: Shallow Graves

TITLE: Shallow Graves
AUTHOR: Kali Wallace
PUBLISHED: 1/26/2016
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
PREMISE: Breezy has an unusual gift of telling when someone has murdered someone else. She discovers there are other people with unusual gifts like hers...
MY REVIEW: This is yet another book that had stuff happen at a super fast pace. Seriously authors, are you racing or something? Fast paced plots aren't anything new, especially in YA. But the past few books I've read from 2016 I feel like we went from a light jog race to a full long distance speed run or something. I'm not saying have super slow plots, but maybe slow it down, just a little?
Because like with the other books I read recently, I spent half my time going "wait, what?" and having to go back because the details came so fast I missed some. Other then that, this was an interesting book. The writing style reminds me a lot of Nova Ren Suma's style. So it plops you right into the middle of the story and it is at times jarring. There were some beautiful sentences in it, but the writing isn't quite as polished as Suma's yet. With time though, I can see this author going places. There was some great imagination here.
As a debut, it's not bad. It's a bit rough around the edges and I suspect the way its written won't appeal to everyone. But it's interesting, I'll give it that. Honestly, when pressed I'm not sure how I feel about this book.
WHO SHOULD READ: Nova Ren Suma fans, dark paranormal book fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five graves

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Book Review: This is Where it Ends

TITLE: This is Where it Ends
AUTHOR: Marieke Nijkamp
PUBLISHED: 1/5/2016
GENRE: Realistic Fiction
PREMISE: A group of students find themselves in the middle of a school shooting where the shooter is all too familiar...
MY REVIEW: I wanted to like this one a lot more then I did. The author is part of the We Need Diverse Books Group, a group I love and whom is doing excellent stuff. That is probably why diversity wise, this book is excellent. If there is one thing I hope people take away from this, and the many other diverse titles popping up, it's that it is in fact very easy to have diversity in a story. Yes, even a book set in a small town.
I think my issue is mostly just the execution of it all. Namely with the shooter, and why he was doing what he was, and then how things ended. I also wasn't thrilled with the multiple points of view. I suppose I can see why the author chose it, I just don't care for the method. Especially when the characters don't sound that different so I have to keep track of who's speaking.
This wasn't a bad book. There were some insights in there. It's just that some of the details didn't really mesh well. I think with some more polishing and working on things like subtlety Nijkamp could go on to write some great things, there was a lot of potential here.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of hot topicy sort of books, realistic fiction fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five could have been better shrugs

Monday, February 22, 2016

Book Review: Thief of Lies

TITLE: Thief of Lies
Book 1 in the Library Jumpers series
AUTHOR: Brenda Drake
PUBLISHED: 1/5/2016
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
PREMISE: A girl and her friends discover there are knights who jump from library to library protecting people from danger...
MY REVIEW: When I first heard the premise of this new series, I wanted it immediately. Library based fantasy? That's right up my alley. Unfortunately, the execution did not live up to the awesome premise.
Not that the author totally screwed it up. It's a perfectly competent book. It has the plot, it has the exposition, and it is readable. It's just...very messy and not very well explained. The world building is very sloppy. Character not very existent. I honestly felt like I was reading a very very rough draft of a book instead of a finished and thoroughly edited book. It was definitely fast paced, but to the hindrance of the book honestly. The author jumped so much between ideas, and never fully explained said ideas, that I spent half the book going "huh?".
There is something here. The way the author describes the libraries/scenery is great. I just kind of felt like the entire book was rushed and not thoroughly thought out. If there is a next book, I hope the author slows things down a notch in order to give characters time to develop and explains some things more.
WHO SHOULD READ: Those who don't mind really rushed plots, Mortal Instruments fans
MY RATING: Three out of Five libraries

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Reading Through the Classics: Cotillion

TITLE: Cotillion
AUTHOR: Georgette Heyer
GENRE: Historical Romance
PREMISE: Kitty is on the brink of inheriting a fortune from her guardian. But first, she must marry one of his grand-nephews...
MY THOUGHTS: If ever there was a precursor to category romance, particularly the regency category romance, Georgette Heyer is probably it. She was a prolific author who wrote many historical romances as well as a few detective novels from the thirties on through to sixties. The one I read here is just one of her many books.
From what I understand, she took many of her cues from Austen and that definitely shows in her books. But for me personally, it lacked the charm of Austen. It was just too bogged down by the historical details and honestly was a little dull for me. The historical detail is top notch but ultimately stalled the book quite a bit.
I suspect this is a matter of different audience. Heyer was writing for the crowd of the 1950s with this one. Maybe people back then weren't as aware of the regency era as we are now. I have noticed many things written back then feel slower then things written now. So for me personally, Heyer's not really my thing. But reading her books is interesting nonetheless. Mostly just to see how different the romance category was approached back then as opposed to nowadays.
WHO SHOULD READ: Romance fans, Jane Austen fans, Georgette Heyer fans, regency romance fans

Friday, February 19, 2016

Where to Start: Historical Fiction

This installment of where to start is adult historical fiction. As with the YA version, I'm not including historical fantasy, or alternate history/steampunkish sort of things. Those genres will be getting their own where to start. This is just regular historical fiction that is not considered YA. Also there will be no time travel, so nothing like Outlander will be on here.

Some Staples in the genre you should probably try first:
Philippa Gregory-She's written dozens of historical fiction series. The Tudor Court series is probably her most well known (that's the one that has The Other Boleyn Girl in it)
Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
Pillars of the Earth series by Ken Follet
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Aubrey and Maturin series by Patrick O'Brien (you've probably heard of the first book: Master and Commander)

Some current popular titles you'll likely hear about first:
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Lisa See-Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is probably her most popular, but she has a few historical books out there.
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Thomas Cromwell Trilogy by Hilary Mantel (you probably know the first book: Wolf Hall)
Sarah Waters-Her most popular is probably Fingersmith.

Some random popular titles:
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Melanie Benjamin-Would start with The Aviator's Wife.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Book Review: See How They Run

TITLE: See How They Run
Book 2 in the Embassy Row series
AUTHOR: Ally Carter
PUBLISHED: December 2015
GENRE: Mystery/thriller
PREMISE: Grace's life at the embassy starts to become even more complicated as she starts to learn about her mother's past.
MY REVIEW: Well...if ever there was a book that embodied the I was not expecting this gif. this book is it. I really thought I knew where this series was going. I apparently really didn't. That's a good thing. This took the plot in ways that were actually much better then I was expecting.
If you were expecting a stall of a plot in this book, you're out of luck. The author continues where she left off. She expects that her readers are smart enough to have kept up on things and I for one appreciate that. She does occasionally recap, but only when it's needed. The rest is pure plot development.
Sometimes I do wish the plot had slowed down a little for character development, but for the most part I loved every fast paced minute of this. If you loved the first Embassy Row book, absolutely check out the next one. Carter does not disappoint.
WHO SHOULD READ: those that read and liked the first book, Ally Carter fans, James Patterson fans, fans of fast paced books
MY RATING: Four out of Five murder plots

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming

TITLE: Brown Girl Dreaming
AUTHOR: Jacqueline Woodson
CATEGORY: Middle-Grade
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Verse
PREMISE: An author recalls her childhood in the sixties through verse poems.
MY REVIEW: When it comes to verse books or honestly any sort of poetry, I'm more then a little out of my depth. I've never taken any sort of poetry class so I'm just really not familiar with poetry or verse at all. So when it comes to telling you if the verse stuff in here is superior or not...I've got nothing, sorry. But I'm assuming that the people who award things, know much more about these things then I do. Since it won a whole bunch of awards, I'm going to say the verse stuff is probably brilliant.
I can give you thoughts on the historical part of it and how it made me feel though. The historical stuff was top notch. There were also several bits in it that impacted me emotionally a lot. Which, I'm again assuming is a sign that the verse she's writing is good.
So I personally really liked this book. But this should probably be taken with a grain of salt, because I know pretty much nothing about what makes a good verse book.
WHO SHOULD READ: verse fiction fans, Jacqueline Woodson fans, historical fiction fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five verses

Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: Truthwitch

TITLE: Truthwitch
Book 1 in the Witchlands series
AUTHOR: Susan Dennard
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: Two girls get wrapped up in political intrigue in a magical land.
MY REVIEW: I was really looking forward to this one. I enjoyed Dennard's zombie trilogy quite a bit and the premise sounded awesome. Having read's a decent and entertaining book, but I just kept feeling like Dennard could have done more with it.
Maybe this feeling is a bit unfair of me. But there the feeling is all the same. Like I said, it's a decent read. It's very fast paced. Things are well explained. But I just kept thinking that I know Dennard can do better then this. The world was not as well thought out as the world from Something Strange and Deadly. The characters were not as well developed either. The plot was definitely there though.
It does get the job done. If you want a fast paced fantasy action series, this absolutely fits the bill. It's just, I kept feeling like it was not as well developed a series as it could have been.
WHO SHOULD READ: Susan Dennard fans, fantasy fans, those looking for fantasy action adventure
MY RATING: Four out of Five witches

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Review: The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

TITLE: The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
AUTHOR: Martin Luther King Jr. Edited by Clayborne Carson
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: Biography
PREMISE: The life of Martin Luther King is told through his eyes via previous writings of his.
MY REVIEW: I picked this one up because it is Black History Month. This is the month you start hearing a lot about MLK. Some of it true, a lot of it sanitized. I'm not sure if I'd call this an autobiography. King didn't write this actual book himself. It's old documents he wrote that I can't help but wonder if he would have actually wanted published.
But it was published with the King family's blessing from what I can see, so I don't feel too bad for finding this book fascinating. Since it is old documents, it does skip a lot of things. But it hits all the stuff people are probably most interested in, such as the start of the civil rights movement.
If you are interested at all in learning more about Martin Luther King Jr, this is a good book to look at.
WHO SHOULD READ: those interested in learning more about Martin Luther King Jr, autobiography readers
MY RATING: Four out of Five

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Book Review: Passenger

TITLE: Passenger
First in a new series
AUTHOR: Alexandra Bracken
PUBLISHED: January 5th, 2016
GENRE: Fantasy/Time Travel
PREMISE: Etta gets thrown into a world she doesn't know when she accidentally time travels on board a ship where she meets Nicholas.
MY REVIEW: This was not a bad way to start off the 2016 batch of books. As I've come to expect from Alexandra Bracken, this was creative. I loved the use of time travel here (even if as always...the travel method didn't make much sense). Bracken uses it effectively. We get treated to multiple time periods and it's all described beautifully.
Now romance's bland as usual. That part I could have done without. I also wish there was more time spent on character development. This book was so fast-paced that there was little time to get to know the characters well. I got a vague idea, but not the whole picture if that makes sense. But it's only the first book. Perhaps more development will come later.
This is perhaps a bit trope-filled. There was stuff in it that I've come to expect. But it was still very entertaining. The last fifty or so pages are where all the really good stuff happens and that is what is likely going to have me coming back next year for the sequel.
WHO SHOULD READ: Alexandra Bracken fans, time travel fans, Mortal Instruments fans (the fast-paced plotting of it reminds me a lot of that series)
MY RATING: Four out of Five time travelers

Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

TITLE: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
AUTHOR: Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
PUBLISHED: October 2015
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: Biography
PREMISE: Biography about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
MY REVIEW: If you are on tumblr, you likely know about the Notorious RBG tumblr that started awhile back. The author of the tumblr got together with someone and they created a biography about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
As far as bios go, this does its job well. It gives you lots of background on Ginsburg. It goes into her childhood, to her time in law school, to eventually becoming Supreme Court Justice. It's very informative, there are lots of pictures, and it's a fast read. It's a little biased, I'll admit. But most biographies tend to be.
If you're in the mood for a biography about a fascinating figure, this is a good one to look into.
WHO SHOULD READ: those who like biographies, those interested in politics/Ruth Bader Ginsburg
MY RATING: Four out of Five awesome women

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Reading Through the Classics: Tuck Everlasting

TITLE: Tuck Everlasting
AUTHOR: Natalie Babbitt
CATEGORY: Childrens/Middle-Grade
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
PREMISE: A young girl meets a family who are blessed (or cursed) with eternal life.
MY THOUGHTS: Somehow my younger self has never gotten to this book. No, I don't know how that happened. I've seen the movie with Alexis Bledel, but I've never read the book. Since last year was the fortieth anniversary of it, I figured it was time to read it.
If you've seen the movie, the book is mostly the same story. The only major difference is, there's no romance between Winnie and the younger Tuck. Because Winnie is like, ten years old. I'm a little disappointed in the movie for forcing a romance into a story where there was no romance to begin with. Especially considering the story got on just fine without romance in the first place. The prose in this book are lovely. It's a very fast read due to it being less then two hundred pages, but the author manages to have a satisfying story within that short page count.
I definitely see why the popularity of this book has lasted. I'm not sure how well it would go over with today's youth (it's very slow paced compared to most of today's fiction), but it's definitely worth a look.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Book Review: Shadow Scale

TITLE: Shadow Scale
Book 2 in the Seraphina series
AUTHOR: Rachel Hartman
PUBLISHED: March 2015
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: Seraphina gathers people like herself in order stop a war between dragons and humans.
MY REVIEW: I meant to get this finished ages ago. I adored Seraphina when I finally got to it. I bought this immediately after it came out. Then...forgot to read it? No real reason I didn't get to it until just now. It's just I have a lot of books on my list and books I own tend to be put off until I finish up my library books. But I have finally finished it and I really liked it.
This is very much a slow burn sort of book. Much of the plot is in character stuff and politics. There's not much action until the last hundred pages or so. I know the author was struggling with this and I can see why it took her awhile to write. But the ending does come to a very satisfying conclusion. I also am really pleased with how the author ended the love triangle.
As I said, it's a slow book. Which is probably why it's gotten so many mixed reviews. Slow books can be a mixed bag with people. It probably didn't help that there were really high expectations for this. Personally, I think the author did a good job. I look forward to whatever she has in store for us next.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of Seraphina, high fantasy fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five dragons
RATING FOR SERIES: Four and a half out of Five

Monday, February 1, 2016

Book Review: Illuminae

TITLE: Illuminae
Book 1 in the Illuminae Files
AUTHOR: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
PUBLISHED: October 2015
GENRE: Sci-Fi/Dystopian, Romance
PREMISE: Told entirely through documents, this is the story of two teens in the future who deal with a war.
MY REVIEW: This book has been all over the place. It just recently got optioned for a movie by Brad Pitt's company so you'll likely be seeing even more of it soon. First, if you've been putting this off because of the huge page count, you really don't have too. It's told in documents of all kinds so really, those six hundred pages fly by really fast. I actually finished this in two days, and that was with lots of breaks in between.
Story wise...I personally feel this is average dystopian stuff. Sorry, but it is. Honestly, the only really clever thing going on in it is the way the story is told. It's a good story, don't get me wrong. I love the whole rebels going against the system vibe of it. The characters are also interesting. The honestly the least interesting thing about it. The rest of it is pretty entertaining though.
It's a very clever idea and I have to say I love how authors are finding new ways to tell stories nowadays. Is it a gimmick? Maybe. But it's a gimmick that works well for this story. I'm not sure how well this will translate onto film. Honestly, I suspect it will make a generic film. But book wise, it works very well.
WHO SHOULD READ: Dystopian fans, Across the Universe Trilogy fans, sci-fi romance fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five very thorough files