Monday, August 21, 2017

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore



Summary from Goodreads:
Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family's island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: "If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you'll go." With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn't know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price.
Review:
So, I have serious mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I love Kristin Cashore, and there is not a single doubt in my mind that she is an excellent writer. Her writing is beautiful. And she successfully changes voice, writing style, and genre five times through out this book.  On the other hand, I found the pacing to be painstakingly slow, the characters boring, and the whole thing extraordinarily repetitive (my least favorite characteristic in a book).
The book starts with the main character recovering from the loss of her guardian. Her guardian made her promise to go to Tu Reviens if she was ever invited. And an old friend/tutor shows up and invites her. From there on, Jane makes a lot of artistic umbrellas, walks a lot of gothic hallways, explores an exceptionally strange mansion, and meets new friends.
At one point, Jane has to make up her mind about which direction to go in following the breadcrumbs of a mystery. It’s a bit like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure story in that respect. Jane goes one way, which leads her down an art theft mystery story. And right when everything concludes, the reader is taken back to that point where she has to make up her mind. She goes a different way, and then comes a spy/thriller story. That story concludes, and it all goes back to that one moment again, and then Jane experiences a horror story. This happens 5 times with 5 different genres of story. You don’t choose your adventure; you have to experience all 5.
As a writer and a creative thinker, I appreciate all the work and fun this author must have had in making this novel. There are little Eggs about parallel universes, other versions of oneself, etc in each story. You have to read each story to have the following story make more sense. However, it gets so repetitive. Having to watch the same scene with the same character freak out about a piece of art was highly annoying. I got bored with the similarities. At first it was kind of fun, searching for the similarities while experiencing something new. But, after this repeats a couple of times, I got rather frustrated.
There was a weird number of Winnie the Pooh references. At first I loved this because I’m a children’s librarian, but then even that got annoying. Some parts of the plot were just not comparable to Pooh and Piglet, and it felt like the author was stretching things to make things work sometimes. Some of the stories really were so far fetched. For some reason, the sci-fi one felt more believable than the horror one, which was just plain weird. They all had a weirdness to them, but that one was like the others mixed with a healthy dose of Lewis Carroll on drugs.
I wanted to love this one. I loved this author’s other work. I love the diverse cast. I love the concept of this book –a book that redefines genre. But, it’s super thick, confusing, and slow. I found some of the side characters kind of interesting, but none of them were flushed out enough in any of the stories for me to genuinely care about them. And Jane just felt too normal (minus the umbrella thing). I kept wanting to like her, but like the book, I couldn’t really.
So, I guess, all in all, power to Kristin Cashore for doing something different. It just wasn’t for me. The repetitive slowness was a big damper. I wanted to like the characters more. Though, I absolutely adored the dog. I love the idea of what the author attempted. It just took so long for me to understand it and then I almost didn’t even finish it. It took me 2 weeks to read (a very long time). I give it a 5/10.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams and read by Martin Freeman



Summary from Goodreads:
Back on Earth with nothing more to show for his long, strange trip through time and space than a ratty towel and a plastic shopping bag, Arthur Dent is ready to believe that the past eight years were all just a figment of his stressed-out imagination. But a gift-wrapped fishbowl with a cryptic inscription, the mysterious disappearance of Earth's dolphins, and the discovery of his battered copy of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy all conspire to give Arthur the sneaking suspicion that something otherworldly is indeed going on. . . .

God only knows what it all means. And fortunately, He left behind a Final Message of explanation. But since it's light-years away from Earth, on a star surrounded by souvenir booths, finding out what it is will mean hitching a ride to the far reaches of space aboard a UFO with a giant robot. But what else is new?
Review:
So, I definitely think this was the weirdest book in the series. I thought the other stories were strange at times. This one was like the others, but on acid. Seriously. It included naked, flying sex scenes in the clouds. And, there were inside out houses. And final messages from God (which was sort of disappointing).  And a guy who brings rain with him everywhere he goes. Yet, I think it’s actually one of my favorite books in the series (maybe it’s my second favorite after the first book).
I had some serious “Woa!” moments in this book where a lot of things clicked. But, I also had some serious frustrated moments too. Like, I thought Earth was gone…How is Arthur there? And how does Fenchurch know something else must have happened? I loved how important the dolphins ended up being. The message they left in the fishbowls had me laughing out loud for several minutes.
So much about this book had me laughing out loud for several minutes. When aliens finally land on earth, a robot comes out of the ship and says, “I come in peace. Take me to your lizard.” Apparently, on his planet, lizards were the ones in charge…I also loved when Arthur kept trying to write a check to his favorite charity, to save the dolphins and the charity kept telling him to get out. He didn’t understand that all the dolphins had gone.
I liked that there was finally a little romance element to the story. It was nice seeing Arthur happy. It was also nice seeing Arthur as the more rational one in comparison to Ford Prefect. I loved when Ford met Fenchurch. I loved when Marvin came back into the picture. He had to explain to Arthur that he couldn’t be fixed with any more pieces. That over the millions of years, everything had been replaced except for one thing. The one thing that caused him pain in book 1…that he mentioned to Arthur and wished could be replaced all those millions of years ago. Oh, Marvin…
I think I’m going to end my reading of this series here because I like where things ended. My library system doesn’t have the last book on audio book. But, also, I have researched this series and this author. I know that the author’s last book is miserable and ends with a lot of death. Apparently, he always intended to write one more that brought everyone back in a happy note. He commented in interviews that he was in a bad mood while writing it. But, he passed away before writing that happy book. That is pretty much my worst nightmare in regards to authors and series. So, I think it’s healthier overall to end it here.
I’ve had an amazingly fun journey listening to all of them. I loved listening to Martin Freeman every day. I loved the characters, the humor, the setting, the absurdity, the strangeness, and the deeper levels of philosophy achieved here. All in all, I give this one a 9/10 (and I probably give the whole series a 9/10 also).

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (234)


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.

This week I am waiting on:  The Defiant by Leslie Livingston (2/13/2018):



Description on Goodreads:
The darling of the Roman Empire is in for the fight of her life.

Be brave, gladiatrix… And be wary. Once you win Caesar’s love, you’ll earn his enemies’ hate.

Fallon was warned.

Now she is about to pay the price for winning the love of the Roman people as Caesar’s victorious gladiatrix.

In this highly anticipated sequel to THE VALIANT, Fallon and her warrior sisters find themselves thrust into a vicious conflict with a rival gladiator academy, one that will threaten not only Fallon’s heart – and her love for Roman soldier Cai – but the very heart of the ancient Roman Empire.

When dark treachery and vicious power struggles threaten her hard-won freedom, the only thing that might help the girl known as Victrix save herself and her sisters is a tribe of long-forgotten mythic Amazon warriors.

The only trouble is, they might just kill her themselves first.
Why I’m Waiting:
I was seriously impressed with book 1. It was one non-stop action movie of a YA novel. And I can’t wait to see where the story continues in book 2. That description sounds mighty promising. Also, Amazons? Yes please. The world needs more books with strong, fierce female warriors in them.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Coming Up for Aiir by Miranda Kenneally



Summary from Goodreads:
Swim. Eat. Shower. School. Snack. Swim. Swim. Swim. Dinner. Homework. Bed. Repeat.

All of Maggie’s focus and free time is spent swimming. She’s not only striving to earn scholarships—she’s training to qualify for the Olympics. It helps that her best friend, Levi, is also on the team and cheers her on. But Levi’s already earned an Olympic tryout, so Maggie feels even more pressure to succeed. And it’s not until Maggie’s away on a college visit that she realizes how much of the “typical” high school experience she’s missed by being in the pool.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Maggie decides to squeeze the most out of her senior year. First up? Making out with a guy. And Levi could be the perfect candidate. After all, they already spend a lot of time together. But as Maggie slowly starts to uncover new feelings for Levi, how much is she willing to sacrifice in the water to win at love?
Review:
I love this author. I love how relatable all her main characters are. I love her focus on girl athletes. And I love that the sport or point of focus for these girls isn’t all that defines them.
If there were one main character whose sport defined them the most though, it would be Maggie. She lives and breathes swimming. And finally, I read about a girl who played the same sport as me. I was on a swim team for four years. I’ve done the super early practices. And I’ve done the weekend long meets. I knew all about the strokes, the times, the pools, and everything. And it felt so nice to read about a girl who did the same thing as me…except, who took it a lot more seriously.
I love that Maggie works so hard for it. She isn’t a naturally good athlete. She spends hours every day working to be better. I love that her flaws involve watching other swimmers and speeding up too early. What teen girl can’t fall behind, wasting time thinking about where others are and what others are doing? I love that she discovers a talent for a different stroke. I love her parents and their support.
I liked that this was about Maggie growing up and becoming a woman as much as it was about her working to become an Olympic athlete. I loved her rivalry with another swimmer. I loved her close group of friends who all related to the focus and drive needed to play a sport competitively. Though, there was a little bit of a cheese factor with them. Like they were almost too convenient and always said just the right thing.
Maggie took some getting used to. It took me a little longer to fully love her as a main character. I think this is because of how good she is. But as I read this, the more I loved her because she wanted more. I also super loved the romance. I love romance that starts as friendship. I love how awkward things are between the friends in the beginning. And I love that they both have to figure out what exactly it is that they want from each other. And I also love that swimming is first for Maggie. Always.
All in all, this was another fun installment for Miranda Keanneally. I read it super fast and it was the exact, light hearted romance I needed to read this summer. It’s not my favorite of the author’s works, but I really enjoyed it. I give it an 8/10.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Good Week in Books (169)


I have one more week of craziness at work, and then things can back to a more a normal schedule. And hopefully, I can back into a more regular reading schedule. I did read one contemporary romance this week. And I finished my sci-fi audio book. I’ll be done with an ARC of Kristin Cashore’s latest soon. I didn’t exactly receive or purchase any new books this week. However, I did pick up some other awesomely geeky things from Boston Comic Con, one of which includes a signed comic book.  So, I thought I’d share.
My Comic Con treasures (minus some presents for people I can’t risk them seeing):






2 TeeTurtle T-shirts (one Harry Potter related)
1 Signed Buffy combicbook
1 Diagon Alley poster
1 Ask Us About Our Feminist Agenda poster
1 Kiki’s Delivery Service mashed up with Harry Potter poster
1 Spike (from Buffy) poster
1 mini TeeTurtle dinosaur poster (free with shirts)
1 pair of Lego Ron and Lego Hermione earrings
At the con, I met and talked with a lot of cool people, saw some awesome cosplay, and went to some seriously cool and Geeky Panels (one with Sailor Jupiter, one with Anthony Daniels –aka: C-3PO, and one with Eliza Dushku from Buffy/Angel/Doll House/etc). Needless to say, a fun weekend was had.  On to my last crazy Summer Reading week.
How was your week in books?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Gotham Academy Second Semester Volume 1: Welcome Back by Becky Cloonan



Summary from Goodreads:
GOTHAM ACADEMY is back for its second semester!

When you're Gotham Academy student Olive Silverlock, winter holidays can be a drag. Luckily, when a new student shows up at Gotham Academy to keep her company while the other students are away, Olive finds what could be a brand new friend...or a whole lot of trouble. And when Maps, Kyle, Colton, Pomeline and the rest of the students of Gotham's #1 prep school return for a new semester, the adventures are twice as mysterious and twice as dangerous!

Collects GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #1-3, 5-8.
Review:
Every time I’m about ready to give up on this story because I think I have it all figured out, something happens and drags me back in. The first half of this installment was kind of slow and not that interesting, plot-wise. There was more Olive being mopy, and more dark, gothic background stuff about the academy –but nothing new or critical. Then finally, stuff got more interesting when the rest of the crew returns.
Students start disappearing and it’s soon discovered that they are being recruited by a Witch club. And it’s not a friendly group of witches –more like a group of brain washed students doing terrible things like burning books and abandoning their friends. And if in case that wasn’t enough to wheel me back into the swing of things, in comes an epic twist that I did not see coming at all.
And finally, a major development for Olive happens, something I’ve been waiting for since probably the first installment of these graphic novels. And I’m so glad, I got to witness this. I can’t wait to see where the story goes from this point on.
I love the side characters in this almost more than the main characters. They are all developed in a way I wish all side characters in all stories to be. I also love the setting. Everything about Gotham Academy is dark, mysterious, and creepy. I would seriously love this to be a TV show. I think this would make for best tv show set.
The one thing that irks me sometimes is the writing. There’s a lot of slow moments –like the author has to build up to being good again. And there seems to be a lot of extra filler that doesn’t need to be there. That being said, the writers are good at getting my attention back after all the filler. All in all, I give this an 8/10.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday (233)


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.

This week I am waiting on:  Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon (3/6/2018):

Description from Goodreads:
Olivia Brownlow is no damsel in distress. Born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, she is as tough and cunning as they come. When she is taken in by her uncle after a caper gone wrong, her life goes from fighting and stealing on the streets to lavish dinners and soirees as a debutante in high society. But she can’t seem to escape her past … or forget the teeming slums where children just like her still scrabble to survive.

Jack MacCarron rose from his place in London’s East End to become the adopted “nephew” of a society matron. Little does society know that MacCarron is a false name for a boy once known among London gangs as the Artful Dodger, and that he and his “aunt” are robbing them blind every chance they get. When Jack encounters Olivia Brownlow in places he least expects, his curiosity is piqued. Why is a society girl helping a bunch of homeless orphan thieves? Even more intriguing, why does she remind him so much of someone he once knew? Jack finds himself wondering if going legit and risking it all might be worth it for love.

Olivia Twist is an innovative reimagining of Charles Dickens’ classic tale Oliver Twist, in which Olivia was forced to live as a boy for her own safety until she was rescued from the streets. Now eighteen, Olivia finds herself at a crossroads: revealed secrets threaten to destroy the “proper” life she has built for her herself, while newfound feelings for an arrogant young man she shouldn’t like could derail her carefully laid plans for the future.
Why I’m Waiting:
You can’t always tell this by the books I most commonly read, but I seriously love the Classics. I was an English Major after all. One of my all time favorite classic writers is Charles Dickens. I am beyond excited to not only get a YA retelling of Oliver Twist, but a YA retelling of Oliver Twist, where Oliver is a girl! The romance, the secrets, the espionage, and the characters of this retelling sound splendid! 2018 looks like it will be a wonderful year for YA.
What are you waiting on this week?