Monthly Archives: September 2015

Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge — Update #8 & Other Challenges

September was an insanely busy month and it officially started me working two library jobs. Craziness ensued, but thanks to my longish commute, I was able to read quite a bit this month. I did start The Count of Monte Cristo this month for my Book Riot Challenge, which is complete “A book published before 1850,” but since it’s over 1000 pages, it’s going to take me a bit. I did however complete…

#19: A book Originally Published in Another Language

8835379

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

If I’m being honest, I would call this book a page-turner. However, I actually didn’t enjoy the book! I found it just too ridiculous and out there for my tastes, and I am generally someone who loves a novel featuring time slips. The romance in this book felt so problematic (I don’t see the appeal of Gideon if I’m being frank, he was kind of a douche). Seriously, why is this series popular? I’m curious, but damn if I wasn’t disappointed by this first book. I kept turning the pages hoping it would grab me in a positive way, but I found it a fast, if problematic read at times. Cie la vie.


For the monthly husband challenge, let’s see how I did. The monthly husband challenge is my husband encouraging me to not just read my ARCs every month!

1. the September that never ended – read a book from 1993 — Here’s to You Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume (got this from the library and still need to read it as of this post!)
2. pre-chewed food is better than nothing – a work in translation — Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
3. all i got are these bitty hooves – catch up on a series
4. something something a flower was in the title..or maybe it was a tree? — Uprooted by Naomi Novik
5. new shiny – something that released in august – Slasher Girls & Monster Boys
 Edited by April Genevieve Tucholke 


COWB2SZW8AADp78

A readathon by Elena Reads and Sam @ Cold Tea Crumbs where you are encourage to read a bookish friend’s favourite books. It ran from September 7th to the 13th, and here’s what I managed to complete.

The Challenges
1) Choose three books and get your buddy to pick one from them for you to read. — What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
2) Buddy read a book with your buddy. — A Step Towards Falling by Cammie McGovern
3) Read a book with your buddy’s favourite colour on.  — A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis (River’s fave colour is blue!) 

4) Read a book your buddy gave 5 stars. — Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin (which I also gave 5 stars to!)
5) Read a book that you want to… just because. — Americus
by M.K. Reed, Jonathan Hill 

 


CPMtIwYUwAAHkp3Read-Your-Book-Shelf-A-Thon (or #RYBSAT) happened on September 22nd through the 29th. The goal is to pick a part on your shelf, and then read the next book behind it throughout the week to see how much you complete. My goal was from Pike to Taylor, and I only managed three books. I finished Life After Theft (Pike), Miss Pergerine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Riggs) and The Winner’s Curse (Ruthoski). I’d say that was a success given the insanely busy week I had!


 

Not sure what next month is going to bring, but I will be updating you all soon on my shelf challenge as I was quite enjoying it, and I’d like to keep widdling this shelf Molly picked down some more. We’ll see how it goes since I also need to get through the last six books for my Book Riot Challenge within the next three months (and seriously, Count of Monte Cristo wants my soul). We’ll see what I have time for also given that I have a huge stack of ARCs that are demanding my attention!

What are some of your reading goals for October? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

ARC Review – Very in Pieces by Megan Frazer Blakemore

20551960Title: Very in Pieces

Author: Megan Frazer Blakemore

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Very Sales-Woodruff is done being a good girl. Done being the only responsible one in a family that’s unraveling. Done being the obliging girlfriend in a relationship that’s sinking. Done saying no to what she wants—like Dominic, her rebellious classmate.

With her mom’s drinking, her dad’s extended absences from home, and her younger sister, Ramona, running wild, the path Very has always seen for herself doesn’t seem to matter anymore. At the same time, Very’s grandmother, a poet known less for her work and more for her exploits with the likes of Andy Warhol and Arthur Miller, is slipping away.

If everything else can fall to pieces, why can’t she?

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this for review!

River’s Review:

This book is GORGEOUS. I was initially interested in it because of the cover and because it had a strong grandmother/granddaughter relationship in it. I was also interested in the eccentric family with the normal girl holding them all together.

This is a coming of age story about a Very (full name Veronica) trapped in a world full of artists and writers and musicians. Her grandmother is a famous poet, her mother and father both university professors and acclaimed artists/writers. Her younger sister is a gifted artist as well. And Very is good at math. She loves numbers and equations. She’s sensible and logical. Going into this book I expected the family to be full of manicpixiedream-people but they aren’t. Everyone felt very real and genuine and I could easily picture them all. A mother who is very blahzey about most things, who enjoys a little too much wine (but not in an outwardly destructive way) a father who is too focused on his own goals. A young girl who is lost and nobody is there to help her so she collapses in on herself, reaching out in the only way she knows how… and the grandmother… she’s dying and nobody but the family knows (well, some people outside of them do, but it’s not super public knowledge) and she is spending her last days with Very, spinning glamours stories about her past, her life as a poet (who writes a lot of sex poems) and Very is so enamored with her grandmother that she doesn’t see past the shiny, gilded veneer.

I really felt for Very. My family was similar (minus the art/writing/music aspect) and at times I felt like I was the one holding everyone up (sometimes I still feel that way). I also went through a horrible time losing my grandmother (which made this book REALLY hard to read in August because that’s the month I lost her), and I struggled with how people perceived me much as Very does. Due to being surrounded by eccentrics, everyone has put Very in a box and whenever she tires to step out of it, people are like OH WHAT OH NO YOU DON’T and they push her back in. She’s going to an Ivy league school, she’s dating the good boy, she’s doing the right thing. So when the school’s “bad boy” tries to befriend her and she discovers that he’s actually not THAT BAD a guy everyone is there to push her away from him because HE’S a bad influence on HER and there’s no way that SHE could be a GOOD influence on HIM. And I’ve been there too.

The writing in this is beautiful. There are a few poems (the grandmothers) and the chapters are written in some poetry format that I can’t remember from my poetry days but I liked the set up and the way things flowed and it was just gorgeous.

This book will resonate with fans of Jessi Kirby and Sarah Dessen for sure!

Late to the Party ARC Review – Uprooted by Naomi Novik

22544764Title: Uprooted

Author: Naomi Novik

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her. But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me an ARC of this book!

Sam’s Review:

I am a huge Naomi Novik fan, especially since His Majesty’s Dragon released years ago. Her books do an amazing job of blending alternative history an the fantastical together to create a gripping world that is always interesting to embark in. Her latest novel, Uprooted, is a departure in this regard, as it’s still fantasy, there still be dragons, but is much more traditional in nature. And it’s perfect.

What I love about Uprooted is that in a lot of cases, the book is not entirely what it seems. We have a “Dragon” abducting women and “sacrificing them,” we have a wood that is much more alive than those realize, and a heroine by the name of Agnieszka who must learn magic as a means to push the malevolent woods back, before it destroys everything in the valley and all the people she has sworn to protect.

This is a gorgeously written book that oozes wonderful and raw description. Moreover, Novik uses her skills to craft this very sinister world, one which feels disjointed and suffocating. The Woods are as much of a character in the story than one would notice at first, and it’s a testament to Novik’s skill that we are given a Woods that is very much alive and out to destroy the world. Oddly, the Woods was my favourite character, and I loved the way in which its described, and the way it has the power to foil the characters in the story. That’s not to say I didn’t love the heroine,
Agnieszka, who really is a character that begins as a slow burn and then blossoms into this wise, tough individual who knows there’s so much riding on her success. Agnieszka struggles with failure, she’s sympathetic, and she’s someone who wants to do and see good in everyone and everything. I loved her for it.

And that’s really it: all the characters in this book have a great amount of depth and complexity to them. Agnieszka takes Kasia’s place, you know in that instance their relationship changes in a way that isn’t necessarily for the better. The Dragon is such a gruff guy, and yet he does show care and compassion towards Agnieszka, even if it’s somewhat digressive in nature. The characters and their dynamics work wonderfully, and the story is gripping from start to finish. I cared about these characters and the world they are living in.

If you’ve never read a Naomi Novik novel or you’re intimidated by the size of the Temeraire series, then I implore you to give Uprooted a go. It’s delicious dark, but it’ll scratch the itch of any fantasy fan who loves deep description and wonderfully fleshed out characters. This is easily a new favourite novel by her for me!

This Monstrous Weekend!

Hey guys! Sorry long time no post. As you know my life consists of hanging out with my husband in his AI lab and reading ALLL the books. This month I’ve done quite a bit of reading, but not a ton of reviewing… saving up for next month because I have a HUGE pile of books to review!

This past weekend was super bookish and super fun and basically ALL THE THINGS THAT I HAD HOPED FOR UPON RETURNING TO THE USA!!! I went to two book events and they were both AH-MAY-ZING.

First on Friday I took the day off from work and it was wondrous and I was lazy (okay so totally not) and ate lunch at my favorite cafe and cleaned my house and then went to pick up Melissa Giorgio from the train station!!! Melissa has been a friend of mine since high school but due to being out of the country we hadn’t seen each other since 2008, when she came to visit me in Tokyo. So yeah. Major reunion. She took the train up from NYC and got here around 3:00pm. We went back to Kendall Square, got her situated in her hotel room and then I took her on a tour of the MIT campus before we ate dinner and then went back to my place. She FINALLY met my husband and they chatted while I got ready for THIS MONSTROUS LAUNCH PARTY at Porter Square Books.

I’m sure you’ve all seen me tweeting about This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee. Mackenzi is a local friend and I was so excited that I could help support her new book. I’ve read the book (and reviewed it here) and I LOVE OLIVER SO MUCH OKAY. All last week I worked on what I dubbed THIS MONSTROUS SURPRISE which was…

TMT2This Monstrous Sign! (Omg I cannot stop with the puns! Not even sorry!) I drew it (first thing I’ve drawn IN YEARS) and I am SO pleased with how it turned out! I sat in the very front at her launch (it was PACKED!) and held it up when she first got up front and the expression on her face was priceless! I gave it to her as a present later on and I was so happy that she loved it! (as well as other people on social media! Woohoo!)

The launch was pretty awesome. Melissa Lee saved me a seat and me and my Melissas (Who will be Melissa Lee and Melissa G from here on) listened to Mackenzi wax poetically about Mary Shelly, Frankenstein and her awesome adventures in Europe. After Mackenzi was done reading and speaking everyone got in line to get their book signed. Thinking we’d wait out the rush Melissa Lee, Melissa G, and I went to do other things… which sadly was a shitty choice (another pun! if you’ve read the book.. read the book!) because we missed out on cookies and ended up waiting an hour in line!

But we did take some fun photos!

TMT3Melissa G, myself and Melissa Lee

IMG_1948Melissa Lee, Frankie & IIMG_1935This Monstrous Thing!!!!

It was not a late night because we had to all wake up early the next day for… BOSTON TEEN AUTHOR FEST!!!

No Typo

Saturday morning I woke up early to get ready. Melissa Lee was picking us up around 9, and I wanted to actually dress up since it seems like I NEVER get to dress fun anymore with work being a Professional Setting and weekends being super relaxed.

IMG_1958I was SO excited to wear my favorite black Murua shirt dress and this new pair of tights that I bought basically for the event. The text on them is very… interesting to say the least. I’m suspecting that they were made in Japan…

Melissa Lee came and got us and we arrived at the Cambridge Public Library a little bit before 10:00 AM, so we went to Starbucks where we ran into a horde of authors. We chatted with some of them in line and made friends with Adam Silvera (More Happy than Not) and Becky Albertalli (Simon Vs. the Homo-sapiens) who we then later kept running into (and Melissa Lee already knew them and had met a few times before).

btaf6All the authors!!!

btaf1Selfie with Adam and Becky!

btaf3Selfie with Kendall Kulper (Salt & Storm and Drift and Dagger), Adam, Mackenzi and some girls we don’t know!

btaf2Kissy kissy!

btaf4They gave out free copies of The August 5 and I got my copies of Blood and Salt and Salt & Storm signed.

I also ran into a few other authors I knew (one of them being Lori Goldstein; author of Becoming Jinn) and some other blogger/book friends. It was really nice to see everyone! And after hours of standing in line for Leigh Bardugo to sign ALL the books…

btaf5(Leigh Bardugo, Melissa G, Nicole Moy, half my head and Melissa Lee not pictured because DRIVING)

We gave her a ride to Porter Square Books. MOST EPIC CAR RIDE EVER!

So yeah. Pretty much Best. Day. Ever.

ARC Review – The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett

22595271Title: The Unquiet

Author: Mikaela Everett

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis:  For most of her life, Lirael has been training to kill—and replace—a duplicate version of herself on a parallel Earth. She is the perfect sleeper-soldier. But she’s beginning to suspect she is not a good person.

The two Earths are identical in almost every way. Two copies of every city, every building, even every person. But the people from the second Earth know something their duplicates do not—two versions of the same thing cannot exist. They—and their whole planet—are slowly disappearing. Lira has been trained mercilessly since childhood to learn everything she can about her duplicate, to be a ruthless sleeper-assassin who kills that other Lirael and steps seamlessly into her life.

An intricate, literary stand-alone from an astonishing new voice, The Unquiet takes us deep inside the psyche of a strong teenage heroine struggling with what she has been raised to be and who she really is. Fans of eerily futuristic and beautifully crafted stories such as Never Let Me Go, Orphan Black, and Fringe will find themselves haunted by this unsettling debut.

Huge thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this for review!

River’s Review:

THIS. BOOK. WAS. SO. GOOD. It’s def in my top ten for the year. I went into it not sure what was going to happen… I’d heard it was slow and didn’t do a very good job of executing what it promised.

Uh, nope and nope. This book wasn’t FAST paces but it was well paces. It moves along and draws you in. It’s… oddly quiet. There’s a lot of backstory (which is so good and so needed) a lot of present time and then when the war hits things spin out and then draw back in and it’s just so damn good. And yes, it’s a little confusing in the beginning and I guess the ONLY world building problem I had was that I didn’t know what time period it took place in. It feels a little bit 1950’s but then they talk about laptops and I think it’s modern. But then you find out some other stuff at the end and I guess it doesn’t REALLY matter but still.

So there are two Earths. There have always been two Earths. They exist in parallel universes. If you’ve ever seen Fringeimagine the other dimension. Duplicates of everyone, similar technologies, but things are off, different. And the one Earth starts to die. People start to vanish. And they get scared. And as humans do, they want to persevere themselves. So they start to send people over to kill their duplicates and take over their lives.

OH. Before I get any further, do NOT rely on the synopsis for your info. It sounds like ONE girl is being trained to kill her duplicate but it’s not only her, it’s EVERYONE. Children are taken from their parents and the streets and sent to the living Earth to train for years before they take an exam that will deem them ready to take over their duplicate’s life and then they’re sent out at ripe age of 14 to kill their alternate and assume their life. It’s not just ONE girl. That was something else that kinda made me hold off on this book because I was like wtf is so special about one girl?

This book is dark. The MC, Lira, has so much trouble doing what she was trained for. She’s good at it, but it’s hard. Not only does she live her alternate’s life (which is a MUCH better life than the one she’d been living on the dying Earth) she also has to carry out missions. She is constantly examining her morals and struggling with her sense of loyalty.

There are some of the most heartbreaking moments in this book too. People die. People suffer. People live and it’s hard. There’s betrayal and broken hearts. I was gut punched more than once.

And the writing, my god, the writing is rich and lush and anytime I would read it I just wanted to sink into the pages and live in the words they were so beautiful.

This book is also incredibly bittersweet.

ARC Review – Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

22294935Title:  Six of Crows

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating:  ★★★★★

Synopsis:  Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.  

Huge thank you to Raincoast/Macmillan for this ARC!

Sam’s Review:

Those who know me, know I am a sucker for a good heist story. Needless to say when details started trickling out about Six of Crows, I knew I had to have it. I admit, I enjoyed the Grisha trilogy, even with all its flaws, but I feel like Six of Crows shows what a much stronger writer Leigh Bardugo has become over the years.

While this book has us following multiple perspectives, all of them are well intertwined. If you’ve read the Grisha Trilogy, than Six of Crows in terms of it’s world building will not feel foreign to you, including the series terminology. Even though there’s multiple perspective at play, each character in the story feels full developed and well realized, and each makes for an engaging point of view to read about. My favourite point of view to read, easily was Inej’s, if only because she’s a character who I easily gravitate towards when I read fantasy: mysterious, tough as nails, unafraid to be herself, but on the downside isn’t easy to warm up to others, and definitely has trust issues. She also easily gets some of the best lines in the story as well.

The additions to the Grisha world in this book is fantastic and so much more grittier than what the original series provided. I loved the grim, dark atmosphere, and I loved how Bardugo really plays with description in this novel. Everything about this novel is epic in scope, and you constantly feel like you’re being tossed around in a hectic storm. I admit, I was slow reading this at first, but once I hit parts four and five, I found I couldn’t put the novel down. I was invested in the heist, invested in the characters, and I needed to know that they were going to be okay.

I WAS NOT OKAY READING THIS BOOK. I was not, I admit it. I had moments where my heart was racing, I was panicking for the characters, and Bardugo is evil for that. She’s great at tugging on the reader’s heart strings and making her characters vulnerable. It makes for such a great reading experience. If you loved the Grisha trilogy, you’ll love how the world has been expanded with Six of Crows. However, if you want a starting point into Bardugo’s work, I strong recommend reading Shadow and Bone, if only to give yourself more familiarity to the world that’s crafted. Believe me, it’s one hell of a world, and one heck of an experience.

ARC Review – Future Perfect by Jen Larsen

18245617Title: Future Perfect

Author: Jen Larsen

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Every year on her birthday, Ashley Perkins gets a card from her grandmother—a card that always contains a promise: lose enough weight, and I will buy your happiness. Ashley doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the way she looks, but no amount of arguing can persuade her grandmother that “fat” isn’t a dirty word—that Ashley is happy with her life, and her body, as it is. But Ashley wasn’t counting on having her dreams served up on a silver platter at her latest birthday party. She falters when Grandmother offers the one thing she’s always wanted: tuition to attend Harvard University—in exchange for undergoing weight loss surgery.

As Ashley grapples with the choice that little white card has given her, she feels pressured by her friends, her family, even administrators at school. But what’s a girl to do when the reflection in her mirror seems to bother everyone but her?

Through her indecisions and doubts, Ashley’s story is a liberating one—a tale of one girl, who knows that weight is just a number, and that no one is completely perfect.

Huge thank you to the publisher for letting me read an advanced copy of this book!
River’s Review:

Wow this book took me by surprise! I actually liked it a lot more than another book that’s coming out soon that is also about big girls and body positivity.

First off I need to say that I’ve seen a lot of outraged reviews crying HOW CAN A LOVING GRANDMOTHER DO THIS TO HER GRANDCHILD?! Well… the Grandmother in this book is not the type of cookie baking, present giving, snuggly grandmother, Nana, Granny, what have you that comes to mind when you think “Grandmother”. The Grandmother in this book is a hard, ambitious woman who grew up, worked and thrived in a world older than ours. With different expectations. In our more progressive, contemporary society body image and the fight for body positivity is NOTHING LIKE what this woman had to deal with. Grandmother is a female surgeon who succeeded in a field during a time when it was difficult for women to do so. And being pretty was a way to get ahead, gain respect, and be taken a little more seriously (I mean come on, this woman must have been working in the 70-80s!) So I think that if we take a moment to think about what Grandmother is REALLY like in this book then, yes, she COULD do this to her grandchild.

Every year for her birthday Ashley, our MC, gets a card with a coupon in it from Grandmother. Lose 50 pounds and you get a new car. Lose 80 pounds and you get a shopping trip in Paris. Finally on her 17th birthday Ashley gets the ultimate coupon: get weight loss surgery and you get 4 full years of tuition to Harvard University. Harvard is Ashley’s dream. She wants to be a doctor and she works hard to get in to such a prestigious school. Now Ashley is a big girl, but she’s SUPER confident and okay with her body. She attends a small alternative school with her best friends and boyfriend, she’s the Valedictorian, plays volleyball, and she’s happy. Her home life could probably use some work (mother walked out on them, father is pretty hopeless, Grandmother takes care of them), but she’s happy. And has no issue with her size. Until her Grandmother makes a point of it. Sure she confessed to her longtime crush and he turned her down because she “wasn’t his type” and she knew he really just didn’t want to date the fat chick, but she moved on!

So when Ashley is presented with this ultimate choice she doesn’t know what to do. Her friends are against it and Ashley doesn’t want it. She doesn’t understand why her Grandmother can’t see that her weight is NOT holding her back. Grandmother thinks that people wont take Ashley seriously because of her weight, that they’ll discredit her or not even give her the time of day. Grandmother thinks that being thin will get Ashley ahead. See what I mean by old fashioned thinking?

Now, I was rooting for Ashley to do what she wanted. This book is about body positivity but it’s also about CHOICES. And I liked that. Everyone has the right to choose what to do with their own body. Yes some people choose to treat their bodies like crap, but others choose to be happy in their skin no matter what their size. Or gender. See, there was this lovely transgender subplot that was so seamlessly woven in that it didn’t even really register with me until like halfway through the book. One of Ashley’s BFF’s, Jolene, is transgender. Has been since 4th grade. And ironically her biggest supporter is GRANDMOTHER! I loved this so much. As old fashioned as the woman is, she just wants people to be happy in what she believes is their best body. And while she doesn’t think that Ashley’s size 20 is her best body, she does believe that Jolene being a girl rather than a boy is her best body. And she fights hard to protect Jolene from her awful parents. There’s a very interesting juxtaposition between the two different types of body modification surgeries talked about in this book and Jolene’s parents are pushing her to choose to move forward and do something about her ~transition~ and she’s not sure if she wants to go through the physical surgical change and I loved so much how the message regarding both Ashley and Jolene was IT IS YOUR CHOICE AND NOBODY ELSES.

So what does Ashley choose? Read the book, go on the adventure with her and her friends and find out! Explore her choices and root for how awesome she is because Ashley is an awesome girl!

One final thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the writing! It was so full of energy and a bit frantic at times and I just really enjoyed all the little things, the character quirks, ALL THE CUTE PUPPIES. Yes. ALL. THE. CUTE. PUPPIES.