Saturday, April 30, 2016

Book Review: Girl With a Pearl Earring

TITLE: Girl With a Pearl Earring
AUTHOR: Tracy Chevalier
GENRE: Historical Fiction
PREMISE: A historical fiction imagining of who the girl in Girl With a Pearl Earring was and her life.
MY REVIEW: My interest in this book mostly comes from the fact that I adore art history. Also, this painting is beautiful and I find the whole practice of thinking about the lives of the models in art pieces interesting. But, just because it's interesting...doesn't always mean it'll make an interesting book. Unfortunately, that's the case here, because this book was frankly dull.
The historical detail is top-notch. The author also creates very vivid settings. The story is also quite believable for all that it's made up. But it's just very slow. Vermeer doesn't factor in very much and I personally didn't care for the relationship between him and Griet. It does give interesting insight to the artist but that's about it. Story-wise...this isn't particularly mind blowing.
It's a clever idea. I just don't think it's spectacular. Having seen the movie, this is one of the few cases where it makes a better movie then it does a book. At least with the movie you get pretty costumes and sets to distract you from the fact that the story is very very slow. It's a short book. It's actually less then two hundred and fifty pages. But those two hundred and fifty pages felt like they were crawling by and that's...not a good thing. I only recommend this if you are a big art history nerd. Because if you aren't, the chances are very good that you'll be bored.
WHO SHOULD READ: Historical Fiction fans, art history fans
MY RATING: Three out of Five yawns

Friday, April 29, 2016

Book Review: A Study in Charlotte

TITLE: A Study in Charlotte
Book 1 in the Charlotte Holmes series
AUTHOR: Brittany Cavallaro
PUBLISHED: March 1rst, 2016
GENRE: Mystery
PREMISE: In modern times, the ancestors of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson meet up in a boarding school and must clear their names of murder.
MY REVIEW: I confess, I wasn't expecting much from this book. While I was excited about the idea of a gender-flipped Sherlock Holmes, I was also wary because I read a previous YA book, Lock and Mori that tried to gender-flip Moriarty didn't go well.
But this book did everything Lock and Mori didn't do and it's all the better for it. First, it's not a total retelling. These are ancestors of Holmes and Watson in a world where Holmes and Watson were real. So the characters are not forced to be in the roles of Holmes and Watson. They get to be themselves. It also does not force a romance just because now one of them is a girl. But it also does not ignore the fact that Charlotte is female, so she faces a lot of crap that Sherlock Holmes never faced.
It's also not just a redo of A Study in Scarlet so there are new plot elements and you're actually surprised by the way some things go down. The way the author weaves in details from the original series (that I'm reading through this year, so it's pretty fresh in my mind) is pretty clever. The writing is average, and the pacing could use work, but as a whole, this was a solid debut. The author made it work and I look forward to spending more time with Charlotte.
WHO SHOULD READ: Sherlock Holmes fans, retelling fans, mystery fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five boarding school mysteries needing solving

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book Review: A Gathering of Shadows

TITLE: A Gathering of Shadows
Book 2 in the Shades of Magic series
AUTHOR: V. E. Schwab
PUBLISHED: February 2016
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: In the lands of multiple Londons, a magical tournament is being held. It draws Kell and Lila back into each other's paths...
MY REVIEW: I'm so happy that V. E. Schwab has gotten her due lately. I loved The Archived series and Vicious and now with this series, I think it's safe to say that she's here to stay. This installment in the Shades of Magic, shows why.
It's an excellent sequel. True, it tends to drag somewhat in the middle, as all sequels tend to do. But the payoff at the end is worth it. It does further character development, as well as world building, as all good sequels should do. You may have heard of the cliff hanger at the end, and...I don't think it's as bad as people say, but it's still a pretty big one. I am now pining for the third book like whoa. Almost as much as I'm pining for the third Archived book which has been promised, but no release date as of yet. ;sigh;
But in the meantime Schwab has This Savage Song coming out in July, so that's something to tide us over until the next book comes at least. If you read A Darker Shade of Magic and loved it, absolutely pick this up.
WHO SHOULD READ: Those that have read A Darker Shade of Magic, fans of dark fantasy
MY RATING: Four out of Five magical Londons

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book Review: Salt to the Sea

TITLE: Salt to the Sea
AUTHOR: Ruta Sepetys
PUBLISHED: February 2016
GENRE: Historical Fiction
PREMISE: In 1945 four teenagers struggle to survive while fleeing the Soviets during WWII.
MY REVIEW: Every time I read one of Ruta Sepetys' new books, I'm reminded that I really really need to read Between Shades of Gray still. I can't believe I still haven't gotten to it yet, because I've loved all the books she's written since such as Out of The Easy and now this one.
This is a multiple point of view book, but it's a well done multiple point of view. It talks about a little known incident during WWII, Which is one of the things I kind of adore about Sepetys. She writes about the not very well known parts of history. It's sort of refreshing and makes these books more interesting. There was a bit of insta-love stuff in this that I didn't particularly care for and found very unnecessary, but other then that, I pretty much adored this book.
If you want well written historical fiction about a little known event in WWII, absolutely pick this up.
WHO SHOULD READ: Ruta Sepetys fans, historical fiction fans, fans of The Book Thief
MY RATING: Four and a half out of Five ships

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Book Review: Half-Resurrection Blues

TITLE: Half-Resurrection Blues
Book 1 in the Bone Street Rumba series
AUTHOR: Daniel Jose Older
PUBLISHED: January 2015
GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Zombies
PREMISE: Carlos is an inbetweener who works for a council. He thinks he's the only one of his kind, until he runs into others like himself...
MY REVIEW: I picked this up mostly because I had read the author's other new book, Shadowshaper, and liked it a lot. This one...I did not like as much. First, it just kept reminding me of the Dresden Files too much. Which, there are worse series to be compared too, but it had more of Dresden Files' bad points. Namely, poorly done female characters. Considering the other book this author did had a great female character, this was rather surprising and disappointing.
But, it also has some of Dresden Files' good points as well. The noir feel is great, the world is interesting. A little confusing at times, because the author just drops you into the middle of it all so you have to work out the details for yourself sometimes, but it is interesting. But it's also repetitive and formulaic at times as well. But Older's writing style is also unique and he does a great job of giving you a complete picture of things.
This one was honestly a bit of a mixed bag. The good did out weigh the bad though. So for a first novel, it wasn't that bad. This definitely is an interesting series to keep an eye on if you're into the paranormal detective genre.
WHO SHOULD READ: Dresden Files fans, zombie fans, urban fantasy/noir fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five zombie detectives

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Thematic Sunday: Graphic Novels For Those Who Aren't Ready For Superheroes

So for the past year and a half I've been slowly, but surely, getting back into comics. I used to be a big regular reader but time, lack of money, and lack of a local space that sold comics kind of made it so I had to drop the habit over five years ago. But I now have access to a library that has a huge trade selection, and there have been so many good comics coming out in the past few years that I just had to get back into it and I'm so glad I did. Granted, catching up with Marvel and DC has been a pain, particularly with DC and the whole New 52 nonsense (and now apparently, we're doing this again. Grr...). But it's still been a fun ride.

So this is the first of a couple of graphic novel lists I'm going to do. This one is for people who are new to the scene, but maybe don't want to delve into the capes and tights area right away. I get it, it can be daunting and confusing about where to start. Plus, some people just aren't into superheroes. If that is you and you've been thinking of getting into comics, this list is for you.

These comics are all series that don't have to do with superheroes that I recommend for new or old comic book readers:

1) Saga series by Brian K. Vaughan

This is an excellent sci-fi series. Think Romeo and Juliet in space, if Romeo and Juliet were smarter about things, got married and had the kid, but still had a war on their hands.

This is a very adult comic though, so warning for that. If you can handle Game of Thrones though, then you should be able to handle this one.

2) Lumberjanes series by Noelle Stevenson

Looking for light hearted fun with lots of female friendship? Definitely pick up this series. It's about a group of girls who go to a summer camp where very strange things start to happen.

3) Gotham Academy series

I know, I promised no superheroes. Now yes, this does take place in Batman's universe. But Batman barely features at all. Like, he's there. His presence is no secret. Also some Robins occasionally pop up. But mostly this is about Olive and her friends looking into secrets at the creepy Gotham Academy school. If you're a fan of YA gothic paranormals, this one is for you.

4) Chew series by John Layman

Love mystery shows with a psychic bent? Check this one out. It features Tony Chu, a detective who gets psychic impressions off of whatever he eats. It's also a bit of a alternate reality where chicken is contraband because of a flu that broke out, so food is heavily regulated. There's mystery of the moments and a long standing villain and it's hilarious to boot.

5) Locke and Key series by Joe Hill

Fan of Joe Hill's books? Love horror? I recommend this series then. It's got characters with dark pasts and creepy houses and paranormal hijinks of all kinds. Also it's complete. So no having to wait for new volumes to come out. You can read it all in one sitting.

6) Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Big fan of memoirs? You're in lock, graphic memoirs have become a big thing, thanks in part to this one.

If you like this one, go on and check out Persopolis, and This One Summer

7) Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe

Big fantasy reader? Then look no further then Rat Queens. A fantasy comic about a group of fabulous women mercenaries who get into various adventures and drama.

8) The Wicked + the Divine series by Kieron Gillen

A urban fantasyish type series that takes place in a world where every ninety years twelve gods reincarnate as humans and then die two years later. This time around, they've been reincarnated as pop stars...

9) Jem and the Holograms series by Kelly Thompson

I know what you're thinking: Jem? Really? But I swear, this is much better then the bad reboot movie. This is in fact, everything the reboot movie should have been. If you loved Jem or just love band drama and female friendship, then absolutely look into this.

10) Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Yes, Stevenson again. What can I say? I love her stuff. This is a collected edition of the webcomic Nimona, that she did a few years ago. It is fantasy humor with lots of meta thrown in. If you aren't smiling like a goof throughout this, I don't know what to say to you.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Book Review: The Remains of the Day

TITLE: The Remains of the Day
AUTHOR: Kazuo Ishiguro
GENRE: Historical Fiction
PREMISE: In 1956, a retiring butler takes a trip and remembers his life as a servant.
MY REVIEW: This is my first Ishiguro book. I definitely see why he's gained a fanbase. His writing is beautiful. I'm not a big huge fan of the blocky text thing he has going on. But that's just a personal issue. It doesn't hinder the book or anything. It doesn't change the fact that the prose are lovely.
Unlike Virgin Suicides, which I read around the same time as this, I actually liked this book. It does have the bad literary habit of dragging in places, but at least unlike Virgin Suicides, this book actually had some interesting things going on. It delves into an interesting part of history most people don't go into. It definitely makes you think about things,
I'm not sure I would call this enjoyment reading. But hey, some people get their kicks through serious lit books, so if that's your thing, I definitely recommend this. I also recommend it to people looking for very introspective type of books instead of fast paced plot type of books.
WHO SHOULD READ: Kazuo Ishiguro fans, historical fiction fans, literature fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five old English houses

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Book Review: Everything, Everything

TITLE: Everything, Everything
AUTHOR: Nicola Yoon
PUBLISHED: September 2015
GENRE: Realistic Fiction, Romance
PREMISE: A girl, who has to be kept inside so she doesn't get sick, falls in love with the boy next door.
MY REVIEW: This is one of those books that keeps popping up on people's lists so when I saw it at the library, I decided to take a look. It was...okay. That's pretty much all I have to say about it. It was a pretty average YA romance.
There were some cute illustrations throughout it and the way it's told is very clever. It's just story didn't blow me away or anything. It's not really the author's fault, it's just ever since Fault in Our Stars, this type of story has been everywhere lately. I give the author some points for the twist at the end though. I definitely didn't see that one coming. I'm not sure if it's a good twist. But it definitely is a twist.
So iffy ending aside, this was a cute book. It's not groundbreaking or anything. The prose didn't blow me away. But it was a cute romance and was good for the mood I was in while reading it.
WHO SHOULD READ: Fault in Our Stars fans, romance fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five cute illustrations

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Book Review: The Empathy Exams

TITLE: The Empathy Exams
AUTHOR: Leslie Jamison
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: Essays
PREMISE: A collection of essays by the author talking about empathy.
MY REVIEW: I'll be honest with you: I have no clue how to rate essay collections. I am very new to the genre. This is only my second book of essays. The first book of essays I read was Bad Feminist last year. I said I was going to get to more essay collections and then...never did.
So is this a good essay collection? I don't have the faintest idea. I'm not a essay grader. I don't know what makes a good essay. I can tell you how I felt about this book though. For the most part I liked it. I liked it more for the ideas it presented then anything else. It does do what it sets out to do, which is challenge your way of thinking. However, like with some short story collections, some things here I liked better then others. I felt like a lot of the essays wandered a bit. They all had a point to them, it just...took awhile to get to the point.
I didn't relate as much to this one as I did with Bad Feminist, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. I do hope to get to more essay collections in the future.
WHO SHOULD READ: Essay fans, fans of books that make you think about things
MY RATING: Four out of Five essays

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Reading Through the Classics: Annie on My Mind

TITLE: Annie on My Mind
AUTHOR: Nancy Garden
GENRE: Realistic Fiction, Romance
PREMISE: Two girls meet it NYC and fall in love and deal with the consequences of their love being discovered.
MY THOUGHTS: Yes, I'm counting this as a classic. It's over thirty years old and is still very relevant and read today. That pretty much means it's here to stay, despite how much I'm sure pearl clutching parents would wish otherwise.
Now, this book is a tad dated. I'm not sure how well it would do if it was released nowadays. But sadly, the issues it talks about are still very much relevant, so I'm sure there will be plenty of teens, particularly any in the LGBT community, who would be able to relate to this on some level. It is a tad slow, particularly in the beginning. But the slowness pays off, because it develops the romance very beautifully. By the middle, if you're not rooting for this couple to be together then...I honestly don't know what to say to you.
What's particularly refreshing about it for me is, neither one of the girls dies. If any of you have been watching TV lately, you've probably noticed that queer ladies have been dying right and left lately. It's nice seeing not only neither of them die, but for them to actually get a semi-happy ending. Which is also something that's pretty rare for lesbian fiction.
All in all, I really loved this one. I definitely see why it has stuck around for so long. I don't see why parents lost their minds over it. There's nothing really explicit in it. But I suspect they wanted it banned due to the LGBT content more then the talk about sex, though I'm sure they'll claim otherwise.
WHO SHOULD READ: those looking for good LGBT books, romance fans,

Friday, April 8, 2016

Book Review: The Virgin Suicides

TITLE: The Virgin Suicides
AUTHOR: Jeffrey Eugenides
GENRE: Realistic Fiction
PREMISE: A group of boys recounts the summer a group of sisters in their neighborhood all commit suicide.
MY REVIEW: This book has been sitting on my TBR list for quite some time now. I finally got it out of the way. This book is a perfect example of "it's not you, it's me". Because that's basically how I felt about it.
I understood what the author was trying to do. It was clever even. The writing is kind of beautiful in a way. I even understand why lots of lit folks have pounced on this book and have billed it as the best thing ever. If you're big into serious lit, this will probably please you a lot. Me, I can take or leave serious lit. It depends on the serious lit. This particular one, I just found dreadfully dull. Beautiful writing. I'm sure middle-aged white guys will probably feel lots of nostalgia for it. But I am not a middle-aged white guy, so...sorry I pretty much yawned my way through this book.
But, I seem to be in the minority on this one. So I strongly suspect this was very much a case of "it's not you, it's me". So if you are a fan of serious lit that likes to wax poetic about suburb childhoods, maybe this one is for you. I don't know. I just know it definitely wasn't for me. I will still be trying Middlesex though. Eugenides writing is great and from what I've gathered, that book is much better then this.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of the Stand By Me movie, middle-aged white guys, serious literature fans
MY RATING: Three out of Five yawns

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Book Review: The Girl From Everywhere

TITLE: The Girl From Everywhere
Book 1 in a new series
AUTHOR: Heidi Heilig
PUBLISHED: February 16th, 2016
GENRE: Historical Fantasy/Sci-Fi (time travel)
PREMISE: A girl and her father time travel on a ship in an effort to save her mother's life...
MY REVIEW: If you read the summary from this book and looked at Passenger by Alexandra Bracken and went "hey wait a minute...aren't those the same ideas?" you're...kind of right. This book does also feature time traveling via ships. But that is where the similarities between the two new series end. This book takes the similar idea into a whole different, and honestly...kind of better direction. Sorry, Bracken, but it's how I feel. I still like Passenger though.
This was a pretty great debut all around. The writing is strong, the characters are well developed. You can tell the author did her research. The settings leap off of the pages. It's very fast-paced and it keeps you guessing. There's...not much of a cliffhanger at the end, but there are enough unanswered questions that I will definitely be picking up the second book.
So...yes, it's a little like Passenger. But it's different enough that you don't feel like you're just reading the same book over again. Some parts of this were a bit rough (and I could have done without the love triangle nonsense), but overall this was a pretty decent debut.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of Passenger, Inkheart Trilogy fans, time travel fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five magic ships

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Book Review: A Tyranny of Petticoats

TITLE: A Tyranny of Petticoats
AUTHOR: Various, edited by Jessica Spotswood
PUBLISHED: March 8th, 2016
GENRE: Historical Fiction/Historical Fantasy
PREMISE: A collection of short stories by various popular YA authors that have a historical fiction or historical fantasy type setting.
MY REVIEW: Anyone who reads this blog, knows I love my historical fiction and historical fantasy. So it's probably no surprise to you that I picked this up as soon as I saw my library had it.
As with most short story collections, it's a bit of a mixed bag in terms of quality. But the thing that surprised and made me very happy about this collection was the wide variety of girls and situations presented here. Despite the title, it's not just girls in glamorous petticoat dresses. There's diversity as well as LGBT representation here and everyone from poor to rich are shown. It also has a wide variety of time periods that stretch from the seventeen hundreds to the sixties.
I had a couple of favorites in here, including one from Marie Lu. If you're in the mood for some quick historical setting reads, this is a great pick.
WHO SHOULD READ: Historical Fiction fans, Historical Fantasy fans, YA fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five petticoats

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Book Review: Forever Your Earl

TITLE: Forever Your Earl
Book 1 in the Wicked Quills of London series
AUTHOR: Eva Leigh
PUBLISHED: September 2015
GENRE: Historical Romance
PREMISE: An earl challenges a reporter to follow him around since she writes about his daily scandals in her paper.
MY REVIEW: The next romance on the TBR list was this 2015 debut. It was a fun little romp. I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed the Sarah MacLean one. After the couple had the sex, the plot sort of fizzed out, which is a problem a lot of romance novels can have.
But the banter was fun. The writing...average. It wasn't overly flowery and the romance was a fun one instead of one that made me sigh so I give many points for that. It was a perfectly decent debut.
WHO SHOULD READ: Historical Romance fans, Sarah MacLean fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five regency dresses

Friday, April 1, 2016

Looking Ahead: April 2016

Here are some books in April that are on my radar that you can probably expect reviews for at some point or another. I will try to be better about reviewing this month as well. Last month...was not the best for time management on my part.

Released April 5th:

Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

A new Brennan book is always something I look forward too.

Golden Girls Forever" by Jim Colucci

Yes, someone finally has done a book on the Golden Girls TV show. What took so damn long?

The Glittering Court Book 1 by Richelle Mead

New Richelle Mead series! Yes! Still need to read Soundless though.

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith

Adult fiction book that has been getting some buzz. It deals with art history so that's why I'm interested. Also it looks like it's going to do the Holes thing where there are three plots from different times, yet they all connect and I love that device when used properly.

April 7th:

My Journey With Maya by Tavis Smiley

Maya Angelou is endlessly fascinating to me. I pretty much will read any book about her now.

April 12th:

The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales

Another fun looking adult fiction book about female assassins protecting the world from destruction. They had me at female assassins.

Rebel Belle Book 3: Lady Renegades by Rachel Hawkins

How much do I love the Rebel Belle books? Let me count the ways...

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

First, look at that gorgeous cover. Second, it sounds cool with curses, and a Caribbean setting with magic

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin Miranda and Jeffrey Seller

I am Hamilton trash right now. Of course I'm going to be reading this.

April 19th:

Love, Lies, and Spies by Cindy Anstay

First, I adore the cover. Second, the premise just sounds fun and full of hijinks. I'm in.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer

With that title, how could I not want to read this?

April 21rst:

Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember

Fantasy LGBT book. With Unicorns. What more do you need?

April 26th:

Wrath and Dawn Book 2: The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

Yeah, I'm not immune to this series either.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokski

Another gorgeous cover that got me. Plus the premise sounds just awesome.

Black Blades Book 3: Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Admittedly this is not Estep's best series. But it's still fun enough to continue with.

Down With The Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

I'm surprised there hasn't been more buzz around this book, because it sounds pretty awesome.

Raven Cycle Book 4: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Lets be honest, this is probably the one book everyone is looking forward too (and also dreading because of that thing that is supposed to happen).