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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Book Review: The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder

TITLE: The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder
AUTHOR: edited by William Anderson
PUBLISHED: March 2016
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: Letters/Journals
PREMISE: A few of the letters written by Laura Ingalls Wilder during the 1890s to the mid-1950s.
MY REVIEW: This was another of those picked up on a whim books. I have read the entire Little House series like most kids under ten probably did. It's...sort of like my feelings on the Chronicles of Narnia. I appreciate it for building my love of reading in my younger years...but my adult self notices a lot of the problematic things in it so I'm not sure if I can call it a favorite.
So...I was probably not the target audience for this book. Books like these are for hardcore fans of whoever the subject in question is. The thing about letters, especially day to day ones, is they get really repetitive. Most of the interest for me actually came from the in between parts of the letters which told you about events that happened in between letters.
If you are one who is very interested in the real life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, this book will probably be interesting to you. If you're probably will be a tad boring.
WHO SHOULD READ: Hardcore Little House fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five

Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Review: Winter

TITLE: Winter
Book 4 in the Lunar Chronicles series
AUTHOR: Marissa Meyer
PUBLISHED: November 2015
GENRE: Sci-Fi, Fairy-Tale Retelling Mash-up
PREMISE: Cinder and her friends get a rebellion going against the evil Queen of Lunar.
MY REVIEW: I meant to get to this a lot sooner then I actually did. But real life happened. Then there's the fact that this book was long. It looks the same size as the others, but is in fact about three hundred pages or so more then the other books. For good reason. There's a lot going on in this book.
The way it goes about bringing down the queen is actually quite unexpected. I love how the author did it. It was hard, the characters had to work for it, but they got their happy ending of sorts. All the story lines are tied up in a satisfactory way. There's some hints of more that I suspect will be tied up in the short story collection, which I grabbed last week. I'm hopefully going to get to that one next month.
This does everything an ending to a series should. I was very satisfied with it. I can't wait to get my hands on Heartless, whenever that happens.
WHO SHOULD READ: Those that have read the first 3 books, fairy-tale retelling fans, Once Upon a Time fans
MY RATING: Four and a half out of Five rebellions
RATING FOR SERIES: Four and a half out of Five

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Book Review: The Immortals

TITLE: The Immortals
Book 1 in the Olympus Bound series
AUTHOR: Jordanna Max Brodsky
PUBLISHED: February 2016
GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Mystery, Mythology tie-in
PREMISE: A woman turns up dead and Selene DiSilva, formerly the goddess Artemis, goes on the hunt for her killer....
MY REVIEW: This was a book I went into totally blind. I had heard very little about it, found it randomly on a list somewhere and I picked it up at my library. Sometimes books like this backfire on me (there can sometimes be a good reason a book is not getting much buzz), but in this particular case, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise of a read.
Basically this book deals with gods being immortal and dealing with a world that has forgotten them as they live on but also are dying out. I love what the author has done with the mythology here. That combined with a actually rather good murder mystery...made for a really interesting read.
Brodsky did a great job on this. If this is her first book, we're in for some good stuff in the future from her. This is one of my favorite debuts this year.
WHO SHOULD READ: Adult Percy Jackson fans, mystery/thriller fans, urban fantasy fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five lady PIs getting things done

Friday, November 11, 2016

Book Review: A Shadow Bright and Burning

TITLE: A Shadow Bright and Burning
Book 1 in the Kingdom on Fire series
AUTHOR: Jessica Cluess
PUBLISHED: September 20th, 2016
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: A girl with magic hides in a world where women aren't supposed to have any, but then is discovered...
MY REVIEW: I'll be honest: a majority of the reason I picked this up was because I loved the cover. So pretty. ;stares at it again; Luckily the book mostly lived up to the pretty cover.
I say mostly because while it is definitely readable and entertaining....there wasn't much that was new here. The author does sort of twist the chosen one trope around a bit, but not by much. The world is interesting...but also not very fleshed out. I hope it's because it's a first book and most of this was concerned with Henrietta's training. Romance wise...this book was okay. The romance wasn't the best, but also not like Twilight levels of bad. It was just kind of there because there's some unspoken rule that if you're going to do YA fantasy, you have to have romance.
I know this sounds like I didn't enjoy it. But...I did while reading it. As I said, it's very readable and goes by very quickly. If you just want a fun historicalish fantasy to read in an afternoon, this is not a bad pick.
WHO SHOULD READ: Historical Fantasy fans, those that like the chosen one trope
MY RATING: Four out of Five people with powers

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Book Review: The End of the Perfect 10

TITLE: The End of the Perfect 10
AUTHOR: Dvora Meyers
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
PUBLISHED: July 2016
GENRE: Micro-History, Sports
PREMISE: A look into the score of the perfect 10 in gymnastics, why it changed and how its change has effected the sport.
MY REVIEW: I had been hoping to get to this one before the Olympics this year, but sadly my library didn't get copies of it in until later. That's all right though, I'm prepared for next time! So I've always been somewhat of a follower of gymnastics. I can't do the sport to save my life (I trip while walking), but like figure skating, I love watching it. I remember when they changed the scores ten years ago and I was hoping this book would explain more of the scoring process.
This book didn't exactly do that. I still am at a loss about why some scores are given out. But this did help clarify why it had changed. I definitely have noticed that the sport is different from when I watched it more avidly in the nineties, but this book helped me realize just how much it has changed.
As with most of these kinds of books, the author occasionally wanders off topic. I found myself skimming some things like the talk of the two gyms because that wasn't what I was reading the book for. But for the most part, this is a very in depth look into gymnastics and its funky scoring system.
WHO SHOULD READ: Non-fiction fans, gymnastics fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five cartwheels

Monday, November 7, 2016

Book Review: Witch's Pyre

TITLE: Witch's Pyre
Book 3 in the Worldwalker Trilogy
AUTHOR: Josephine Angelini
PUBLISHED: September 20th, 2016
GENRE: Fantasy, Witches
PREMISE: Lily and her friends stumble continue their rebellion...
MY REVIEW: Sigh. I'm always torn when it comes to Angelini's books. On one hand: they're damn entertaining reads and that's clearly all they're really meant to be. So I can't deny they do their purpose. On the other hand...they're predictable and have many problematic elements going on in them, like tokenization.
Angelini does have diversity in her books.'s only ever in the side characters and those side characters are rarely fleshed out and tend to be stereotyped, or worse made out to be exotic. Then there's the weird handling of LGBT characters in this, or should I say character, because there was only one. Yes, we have Caleb. But...he's never shown to have his own romance or character arc at like all, and when then when a female gets too close to Lily at one point, someone actually says it's creepy. It kind of reeks of gay men being okay but lesbians, not so much. So much nope there.
The author did wrap up story lines in a satisfactory way. It was just all in a predictable sort of way. Even the promising turn around thing with Rowan quickly goes back to business as usual. This is readable. just has issues that bug me, which was a thing I had with her last trilogy as well. That on top of predictability...made this kind of a boring read, despite all the things going on in it.
WHO SHOULD READ: Fans of the first two books, Starcrossed fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five sighs
RATING FOR TRILOGY: Three and a half out of Five

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Book Review: We Were Feminists Once

TITLE: We Were Feminists Once
AUTHOR: Andi Zeisler
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
PUBLISHED: May 3rd, 2016
GENRE: Pop Culture commentary/essays/feminism history
PREMISE: An examination of marketplace feminism and its effect on feminism itself.
MY REVIEW: This is one of those books that has a very niche audience. Basically, if you're not remotely concerned about feminism and its history/current're probably going to be bored with it. This is a kind of book people have to actively want to read. It's not what I would call an entertainment sort of read.
As a feminist, I actually found this one interesting. There were a lot of topics here I was familiar with because I read things like The Mary Sue and they talk about pop culture and feminism a lot. But there were some interesting looks into the history of feminism and how our capitalistic society does effect it, for better or for worse. I've seen some complain that this book doesn't offer many solutions to the problems it brings up. and don't agree with that complaint. The author does point out some things people can do but honestly...a lot of the problems here are things that can only be fixed by an entire industry deciding it needs to change and frankly the odds of that ever happening...are slim.
What this book is good at is making you aware of issues that the media often likes to gloss over or ignore completely. I'm all for people becoming more aware of issues. The more people who are aware things, the more chance we have of getting things changed.
WHO SHOULD READ: Feminists, those interested in feminism vs. pop culture/consumer society issues
MY RATING: Four out of Five let me burst your ignorance bubbles

Friday, November 4, 2016

Book Review: The Nest

TITLE: The Nest
AUTHOR: Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
PUBLISHED: March 2016
GENRE: Contemporary
PREMISE: A dysfunctional family's misadventures in New York City...
MY REVIEW: This book was everywhere for awhile back in the spring. I confess, this is not normally my thing, but when a book gets over fifty thousand ratings on Goodreads in its first year...I have to take a look. There seem to be two kinds of reactions to this book: People either really love it, or they're indifferent to it.
I fall into the indifferent camp. I just...didn't really connect with this one. Maybe it's because my family has never been rich so I can't relate to worrying about whether your inheritance is going to be there or not. Or perhaps it's because I found all the characters insufferable at one point or another. Even the most likable of the bunch at one point pettily judges someone's bookshelf, which is a habit that drives my last nerve. I've probably said this before but I have zero patience for book snobbery. Even from fictional characters.
The writing is great in this one though. The author has a great style and if you're into contemporaries about dysfunctional families, then this will probably be right up your alley. Me...I was just bored reading it.
WHO SHOULD READ: fans of dysfunctional family stories, those that don't mind unlikable characters
MY RATING: Three out of Five families that need therapy

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Book Review:

TITLE: Flunked
Book 1 in the Fairy Tale Reform School
AUTHOR: Jen Calonita
CATEGORY: Middle-Grade/Childrens
PUBLISHED: March 2015
GENRE: Fantasy/Fairy-Tale Referencing
PREMISE: A young thief gets caught stealing from royals and is sent to fairy tale reform school: a place designed to redeem villains.
MY REVIEW: I have very mixed feelings about this one. It is a lot of fun. It's clearly mostly there to entertain the tweens who fell in love with things like Descendants and what-not. If you have a Descendants fan in your household, I highly recommend giving them this.
With that in's not terribly original. There's lots of stuff here that I've seen done before. But Calonita does manage to keep it engaging with a fun main character. I wish it wasn't bogged down by usual tropes like the villianization of the feminine girl. Literally every girly type girl in here was mean or made fun of. I'm sorry, I'm over this trope.
So...I don't know about this one. On one hand: I'm really not the audience for it. It's for the younger crowd and I'm sure younger readers will get a kick out of it. On the other hand...there's not much in here that's groundbreaking or new. It makes for a nice library read, but that's about it.
WHO SHOULD READ: Tweens, fans of Descendants, fairy-tale mash-up fans
MY RATING: Three out of Five fairy tale schools

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Book Review: Hidden Figures

TITLE: Hidden Figures
AUTHOR: Margot Lee Shetterly
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: Biography/History
PREMISE: A history book going into the lives of women who did computing for NASA and helped the space race.
MY REVIEW: I first became aware of this book when the trailer for the upcoming movie came out. That trailer is the stuff dreams are made of, I will be seeing the hell out of said movie when it comes out in...January, I believe. I'm not putting a release date on the book itself because honestly...I'm not sure when this book comes out. The dates I'm seeing are for December, library already had a copy. So...I'm not sure what's going on there.
If I could rate this based on the story alone, it would get five stars from me. Because this is interesting stuff and a great story. There are a lot misconceptions of history that this shatters. I kind of hope the movie does so too, as that's probably what more people will see, but knowing probably won't. Story-wise this is very interesting. Its weakness mostly comes from the way it's written. I believe this is the author's first book kind of shows. The writing isn't very engaging and it's very unfocused. There's a lot of things in here that are quite frankly...not very relevant and should have been cut. The author absolutely did her research and I appreciate that. But...she needed to focus said research more because I found myself skimming a lot of it because it just wasn't contributing to the narrative at all.
Overall this was a good book, I just wish it had been edited more. I'm still seeing the hell out of the movie though.
WHO SHOULD READ: History fans, NASA fans, those interested in the Hidden Figures movie
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five interesting history facts no one tells you

For those interested in the trailer for the movie:

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Looking Ahead: November 2016

Here are all the November book releases on my radar that you can probably expect reviews for at some time in the future.

Released November 1rst:

The Naturals Book 4: Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Barnes has been knocking it out of the park with series lately. This one is her latest in The Naturals series (possibly the last, but never say never in YA).

Amateurs Book 1: The Amateurs by Sara Shepard

A new series from the author of Pretty Little Liars. I have mixed feelings about said series, but Shepard spins some interesting mysteries, so I will be giving this a look....eventually.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

New contemporary from the author of Everything Everything. Take a moment and stare at that gorgeous cover.

Released November 8th:

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

A retelling of Alice in Wonderland from the Queen of Hearts point of view by the author of Lunar Chronicles? Sign me up!

Timekeeper Book 1: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

New steampunk series that looks interesting and I'm loving that it includes an LGBT romance. Yay for more fantasy LGBT books!

Released November 15th:

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Another awesome lady celeb releasing a memoir. I will definitely be reading this at some point.

Star Wars Rogue One: Catalyst by James Luceno

The Star Wars books have been knocking it out of the park for me lately. I'm really looking forward to Rogue One, so I can't wait to read this one.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

I've been hearing a lot about Zadie Smith, I'll be looking into this interesting book that has been buzzed about a lot on the adult fiction book circuit.

November 22nd:

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurt

Another LGBT fantasy! Yes! This one about two princesses falling in love.

Scythe Book 1: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Interesting looking new series from the author of the Unwinded series.

November 29th:

Searching for John Hughes by Jason Diamond

Interesting looking non-fiction about a guy and his connections/feelings about movie director John Hughes

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

Just in time for the new revival coming, the star of Gilmore Girls has a memoir out.

Tearling Book 3: The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Finally the conclusion to the Tearling trilogy comes out. I admit, I wasn't that into this series in the beginning. I thought it was just okay. But that second book took things to another level and I can't wait to see how this ends.