1/4 of 2017 – Book Update

Number of books I have read: 43

Favourite book: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Least favourite book: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

A Completed Series I enjoyed: Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo

Series I started that isn’t complete: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

New author (for me): Sarah J. Maas – girl knows how to write a story!

Biggest Surprise: Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Books I bought: 1 (The Song Rising) all the rest were from the library.

What’s your quarterly reading looking like? Any new discoveries?

 

 

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Book Review: Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

“Look at that and tell me what you see.”

“A half-empty cup of coffee.”

“I see a half-full mug of coffee.” He smiled triumphantly, like he’d just said something profound.

“And that’s why you’ll die before I do.”

 

I can honestly say I don’t remember what compelled me to pick this book up at the library.  Actually, I put the book on hold, which means somewhere I saw this book and thought I needed to read it – but, asking myself “why?” now isn’t bringing anything to mind.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter why I picked it up, because I enjoyed it regardless of the situation.

I read this book on a round trip into the city (3 hrs. total) – if you’re a commuter or you have some travelling ahead of you and you can enjoy reading on whatever transportation you’re on, this is a good book to pick up.  It’s a super easy read both in terms of reading level and content.  It’s well written, but it isn’t challenging.  In fact, I was able to continue following the story even when the train car I was on was suddenly PACKED TO THE BRIM with elementary school kids on a day trip.  (Why?! Why MY train car?!?!?!)

Anyhow, this book is set in Vancouver (which I always find interesting as when I live in Canada BC is my province of residence) and it follows Petula – a high school student who is dealing with some serious fallout after the death of her younger sister.  There’s a fun rag-tag group of people around her with their own unique quirks and characteristics that are constantly challenging Petula and the way she lives her life.

That author, Susin Nielsen, was a writer for Degrassi Junior High.  The way Nielsen tells this story is certainly reminiscent of what you could see on a teen targeted show.  It’s simply a cute story but it has some unique qualities that did set it apart from a lot of other YA books out there.  (Have you seen my ranting post on YA novels?)

All in all, like I said, if you need some easy entertainment, definitely worth a pick up.

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My Magic Profile

Ok, so I am late to the party on this….by years – but yesterday I finally got my stuff together and signed into Pottermore for the first time and I have now officially been sorted.

My wand!

Wand

Vine wood * 10 3/4″ * Phoenix feather core * Rigid flexibility

 

First, I mean pretty obviously, I wanted to be Gryffindor, except that I am well aware that my personality does not conform to said house – so I didn’t imagine that particular dream of mine would come true.  Particularly because I was told to answer the sorting questions truthfully – ugh fine –  I won’t answer the questions the way a Gryffindor would thereby, hopefully, augmenting the odds of me being selected into my dream house.

I kind of figured if I couldn’t be Gryffindor than let me be Slytherin, it I’m not brave, at least let me be a badass.  But alas, no, I am a Ravenclaw.  Which is amusing only because I tend to forget that I am (occasionally) an intelligent person, so it’s maybe fitting that my subconscious self seems to have won the round of which house am I being sorted into.  Either way, I will wear this particular badge of honour with pride and gloat (is this a good Ravenclaw trait?) about my superior wisdom.

It is said that Ravenclaws are: intelligent, wise, sharp, witty, individual.  Ha, funny, I was definitely sorted into the right house.  Though I think I swing pretty high on the scale of being an individual, probably to my detriment sometimes, that just this characteristic alone may have guaranteed me to be put into the Ravenclaw family.

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In any case, Hogwarts, Harry Potter, and essentially the entire wizarding world created by JK Rowling are probably the single most influential series of books I have ever read.  Influential may be the wrong word, but if I could only read one series of books for the rest of my life, you had better believe Harry Potter would be that series without even having to think about it.  It’s just such an escape, it’s a world you wish really did exist, there are people you wish really did exist.  So there you have it, I am not officially part of the magic that is Harry Potter!

PS: My Patronus is a Dun Mare – which if you knew me you would understand how much this makes me happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A YA Observation

*I’m feeling like I need to preface this with the understanding that this is just a general observation, obviously, not every book categorized as young adult (YA) would cater to the list below, and from that, neither does every YA author.*

OK, I have read A LOT of young adult fiction lately, waaaaaay more than I have read in years – literal years – but they’re just so easy to get a hold of, they’re super easy to read, and they are (for the most part) quite entertaining.  Here’s what I am noticing though – they are all very very similar at their foundation.  I mean, really think about all those YA series you’ve read lately, while the main story line may be unique, the basic core of YA novels/series seems to have all meshed together in some capacity.

  1. The setting.  More often than not YA series are set in worlds other than our own.  I have found that in many cases it’s a world either post democratic breakdown or pre democratic institution.
  2. Class struggle.  There is almost always some sort of rift between classes, either as we would see today with simply poor vs. wealthy, or it’s ruling class vs. subject, gods vs. mortals, etc.
  3. Theme.  SO many of these series are about having to fight for you life, or fight for what you believe in – generally it’s about the oppressive ruling class (however they may be formed in each book) needing to be brought down and/or destroyed.
  4. Characters. The age of the (unexpected, unprepared) female leader is upon us with a vengeance.  Probably because (I imagine) the demographic of YA are females and so there is something there to relate to (in some capacity, though I don’t imagine many YA females are out fighting the world – I mean that literally).
  5. Love.  Either the triangle or the one true love.  Is there any other love story out there? Really….I can’t think of one.  How about the one where people do break up because of college, or they just drift.  Also, the object of affection is either some high up somewhere (a king, an angel, a god) and/or they don’t start out with a good relationship with the protagonist.  It’s an enemies to friends to more thing that appears to be quite the popular recipe.  (On a positive side note, you are seeing a much more diverse love story in many of the secondary characters of books that explore more than just your typical male-female relationship).

When’s the last time you read an super unique YA novel, I mean truly unique.  I think for me two authors come to mind: Maggie Stiefvater and Leigh Bardugo. And to be fair, I think Stiefvater does a better job of it than Bardugo. (Actually Cassandra Clare could potentially be put in a pretty unique category, too).

So tell me, am I crazy? Maybe it’s just time for me to take a break from this genre…..

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Checked Out


I depend pretty heavily on the library to fulfill my reading needs – this has its pros and cons.

Pros:

it’s free – if I don’t like a book I can stop reading it with minimal guilt attached,

I’m not responsible for finding room for all the books I want to read on a shelf,

it travels well – if you’re going to be in an area for an extended period of time getting a library membership is generally quite easy.

Cons:

you don’t get to keep the books,

you’re dependent on the library for their content and let’s be honest, some libraries are certainly better than others are having good books, getting new releases in, etc.,

getting to and from the library isn’t always the most convenient, particularly if your mode of transportation is your feet.

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At this time all my books are in boxes in two different provinces in Canada while I live in the US, which means that 1 – I don’t have any of my books with me, 2 – buying books isn’t really an option because I’m not somewhere where I can start accumulating stuff, 3 – I depend on the library and eBooks (thank goodness for iBooks when I don’t have access to a library) for all my reading pleasure.  Fortunately the library near where I live is a really good one and tends to be very on top of new releases.

My favourite thing is just to request a book, put it on hold, and then have someone put it on that handy dandy hold shelf so I don’t even have to go searching for the books I want. Though, I still love me a good browse.

That all being said, what do I have checked out right now? Um…a lot, like….a lot.  Here’s the deal, one night I was searching through the people I follow on Instagram and if I saw a book that looked interesting I checked to see if the library had it, if they did, I requested it.  I put just a ton of books on hold thinking they would trickle in a little at a time.  Ummm, no, that was a mistake.  I went to the library one day thinking I had 4 books on hold but when I got to the shelf there were 11! What?! On a related note – I run to the library, I have a running backpack that I fits about 5 books comfortably (plus, that’s all the added weight I really want to run with).  I somehow managed to drag all these books home (realized that wasn’t even all the books I had requested, some where still checked out to other readers).  Anyhow, as such, I now a pretty substantial pile of books sitting beside my bed, I have some on hold, and some have already gone back.  Just a never ending carousel of library books.


Library book I’m currently reading:

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (I have only just started reading Maas, A Court of Mist and Fury is probably one of my favourite reads of the month, if not 2017 to date)

Library books I have checked out that I need to read: 

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Frost Blood by Elly Blake

Optimists Die First by Susin Neilsen

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Ever the Hunter by Erin Summerill

Library books that are going back unread: 

The Year of the Flood and MaddAdam by Margaret Atwood [these are still on my TBR list, they just keep getting pushed back for other books and they’re due back soon.  Rather than keep them taking up space I’m going to wait until I am more in the mood to read these books.  I really enjoyed the first book (Oryx and Crake) but I find I need to be in the right mood to read Atwood and I just haven’t had the right mind set lately].

Library books I finished:

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (eBook)

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

DNF:

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Books on hold: 

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

The Girl Before by JP Delaney

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Windwitch by Susan Dennard

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

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DNFs and a Disappointment

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I don’t set myself a yearly book goal – I think goals are great, and I have more than once shown in my life that if I write something down I generally get around to achieving it, but for some reason setting myself a yearly book goal has just never been something I have put any thought into.  Also, the end of 2016 and the first 4 months of 2017 are definitely out of the ordinary in terms of time I have to allocate to reading, so even if I had made a goal for myself, I don’t think I would have been very good at predicting the number I could get through.  That being said, I have started to track the books I read (something I have thought about doing FOR YEARS – and am super bummed that I only just began) and to date I am at 36.  Yay me! But, let’s be real, not everything i pick up is spectacular, so here’s a list of the books that so far in 2017 I just have not been able to finish.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – I had never read any of Atkinson’s stuff until I picked up this book, and I had really high hopes for it as I have heard really great things about her writing. Alas, I just could not get into this book. I tried really hard to just keep reading and hope something would click, but it didn’t happen.  I’m not sure what the downfall was ultimately, but without connecting to a story I don’t see the point in continuing on with it.

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby – I adore a lot of Hornby’s writing, I think he’s hilarious and tells such a good story so, again, I went into this book with pretty high expectations.  Expectations that went plummeting pretty early into the book.  I actually liked the protagonist, and I though the premise of the story was pretty unique – it was just missing something for me.

Night of the Animals by Bill Brown – Now, I hadn’t heard anything about this book, nor had I heard of the author when I picked this up so it had no bars to meet when I began reading this.  I picked it up simply because the story sounded interesting – guy setting zoo animals free? OK, why not give it a go.  Well, it didn’t take long for me to give up on this book, maybe a chapter or two, which granted, may be a little too early to give up on a book, but I just kind of sensed it wasn’t for me.

The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey – OK, this book is crazy popular and it’s being made into a movie so I just assumed it would be good.  I really really really did not like this book and I tried hard, I read it waaaay past the point in which I would normally have given up.  First, when I picked up the book I didn’t really know what it was about, and TBH, zombies just aren’t my thing – so right there, problem.  Second – gore isn’t my thing, and while this book doesn’t go into graphic detail (or hadn’t by the time I gave up on it) the scene where someone was eating someone else’s innards was the moment at which I closed the book and said “nope, not for me.” So, I can understand why people liked it, it just wasn’t ever going to be something I enjoyed.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer – Yet another crazy popular author, and I haven’t given up on her yet, I have Cinder sitting in my TBR pile, so she’s getting another chance, but this book specifically – ugh. Just could not get into it, and again, I gave it a good shot I got almost 1/2 way through and realized it just wasn’t getting any better.  So, I gave up on it.

And finally a disappointing book that I did finish:

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard– I have enjoyed the Red Queen series for the most part, but book three kind of just amplified what I would have considered to be problems with the first two books.  Mare and Cal – I just don’t even know where to start.  They are the WORST together – (I still like Maven for Mare), but even beyond them as a couple, them as characters really began to bother me.  I was also thrown by the chapters being given in other people’s perspectives – particularly Cameron, at what point did she become a character that warranted her own chapters? Anyhow, I read it, I’ll probably keep reading this series if it continues – but yah, definitely not that best book in the series.

What books have you not been able to finish or just been really disappointed in?

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Book Review: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket

“I wish we knew something more about inheritance law,” Klaus said.  “I’ll bet Count Olaf has cooked up some plan to get our money, but I don’t know what it could be.” 

Ok, first, how is it possible that I have never read a book in this series? First published in 1999, and I am only now reading my first book in this series. AND, to top it off, I was completely influenced by the series on Netflix.  Now, I actually only watched the first episode, and didn’t love it, but the book is ALWAYS better, so I decided to give the series a go.

I am not crazy about this book, but I didn’t hate it and I think it is very uniquely written.  I really enjoy the narrator and how even through his/her warning of how the Baudelaire children don’t get a happy ending, you just don’t believe it.  Well, I didn’t anyhow.  I figured the narrator had to be lying, no way does a children’s book not end well.  And while I haven’t completed the series, so maybe that changes, the first book certainly doesn’t end well.

“The moonlight shone through the window, and if anyone had looked into the Baudelaire orphans’ bedroom, they would have seen three children crying quietly all night long.”

Also, Count Olaf and his plan to marry Violet, how creepy is that story line?! I was shocked that was the plan, particularly because she is what, 14 years old?  Anyhow, Count Olaf certainly makes a very compelling villain even without the creep marriage factor coming in.  I like a good villain, where you just downright dislike the character, so that certainly puts points in the positive column for me.

I can see kids finding this book entertaining, I think it’s one that you could definitely read with a child in your life and enjoy it just as much as they would.

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Book Review: The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

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Guys, I really enjoy this series, I sat down yesterday morning to start this book, and then finished it early afternoon.  It was just one of those books I knew was going to be a one-shot deal for me.  I actually got the book on Monday night, but knew I shouldn’t start reading it because then I would just be up all night reading, and frankly, all nighters just don’t have the same appeal to me as they once did.  I blame age – and sound reasoning.

Anyhow, I liked it, I like where the series is heading.  It wasn’t my favourite book of the series so far, but it still held good plot and character development.  I am such a fan of female characters who don’t relate to being too compassionate – or who feel like something is wrong with them when they don’t grieve “properly” – or just don’t react with emotions generally associated to a certain situation.  (This was the same with Mare from the Red Queen series).  Sometimes, I just don’t relate to overly emotional situations, and I appreciate that this character doesn’t seem to either.  I’m not saying Paige doesn’t have emotions or emotional moments, but it isn’t her default setting.

Warden plays a critical but more minor role in this book than previous ones, another piece of the plot I like – particularly because I believe we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the next book of the series.  This book was more focused on Paige as Underqueen – namely what her role is going to be in the revolution, who she can trust, and what can she actually do without being killed.  There is very minimal attention given to relationships outside of those directly impacting Paige – it is definitely Paige centric.

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I suppose the one thing missing is that it would be interesting to know the dynamics of what is actually happening Underground while Paige works against Sion on the outside.  You see and hear bits and pieces, but just because of the strain in was causing before she left, I’d be curious to know how power is playing out while Paige is absent.

If you haven’t picked up this series yet, I’d say do it – except it’s going to be a long while before it is finished.  And if you have read the other two books, I am sure you’ll enjoy this one as well.

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Book Review: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard


I have read a lot of YA novels lately, which TBH, I am A-OK with, but it’s always interesting to find something in one YA series that connects to another YA series.  Not in a direct way, but some sort of undertone or story line that you can see runs through more than one series.  There appears to be a base foundation on which YA novels are written and it’s up to the author to put their spin on it.  I’m not complaining, I will one day realize I am too old for YA, but for now, I’m pretty content to keep reading them.

So, back to the world of Mare Barrows and her fellow fighters.  The second book in the Red Queen series has us following Mare as she tries to save other “newbloods” from the wrath that is Maven.

It’s funny, because as I sit here writing this review I’m trying to figure out what the main plot action looked like, and there really isn’t one MAIN thing that was happening other than the search for “newbloods.” Mare and her gang are trying to stay one step ahead of Maven (sometimes successful and other times not) in their desire to bring the Silver’s out of power – particularly showing the world how Maven came to be in power.

Cal and Kilborn continue to have a high degree of presence in Mare’s life which really helps magnify how Mare struggles with relationships.  She needs to learn how to trust people, but continues to be proven right in her decisions NOT to trust people.

Can’t wait to get my hands on book 3!

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