October Reviews

 

I resolved in 2015 to write and post at least a short review of everything I read throughout the year, and I’m still determined to do it. So here are some reviews on the things I read when the leaves were still on the trees.

 

20829029The Martian by Andy Weir

I really highly enjoyed this one. For me, it was one of those all engrossing books that kept me up into the wee hours, perfectly balancing pacing and science-based exposition. I have always had an interest in space and space travel (and biology) and so the science-y bits made it all that much better for me.

Even with its small changes to the end; I loved the movie too. No matter the media, there’s something very real and very beautiful about the way humanity is portrayed in this story. We see resilience and bravery overcoming fear and exactly how much can be accomplished both by an individual working alone with limited resources and by a cooperative global community. Definitely recommend this one.

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy22543699

I had this resolution to read the Man Booker shortlist before the end of the year, and it turned out that this (the shortest!) was the only one I completed in that timeframe, but I own a few more that I’m sure I’ll get to sometime in the new year, but I digress.

Satin Island is experimental. A nearly plot-less series of snippets in the life of U, a social anthropologist trying to summarize the whole of society in one “Great Report”. There are some passages in this that I really thought about and found profound, but I mostly felt lost. I think it’s definitely the type of book that isn’t necessarily for everyone, but if you’re interested in putting in the time and effort to think through and make all the connections you can find, I think you might like it. At the time I read it, I just was in too much of a hurry to really want to do that,  but I’d like to pick it up again sometime.

16278318Armada by Ernest Cline (Full Review)

I did a full review on this, so I won’t go into a whole lot of detail here, but I thought this was a fun Sci-Fi tale of video games and alien invasion. Ernest Cline is an excellent comedian and the audiobook is pitch-perfect as well, with Wil Wheaton voicing it. I found the plot to be a bit predictable, and secondary characters in particular lacking in development, but I highly enjoyed listening to it.

23164983Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #2) by Ranson Riggs

It had been two and half years since I read Miss Peregrine’s when I finally picked this up during the Dewey’s 24 hour read-a-thon and several months since I read the graphic novel adaptation, so it took me a bit to get into this, but I did quite like it in the end, though I feel a bit of a post-hype letdown about it. I found that the old photographs interspersed throughout the story didn’t really add anything to the experience. They usually just clunk up the plot with some side episode that was written purely around one of them,  and they literally interrupt the story with a full page spread of photographs.

But I do really like the way the story is going overall. This was a pretty solid second installment, with good pacing and development. I particularly liked seeing the peculiar kids navigate the wider world and how their extraordinary talents separate and even put them in danger of society at large and how that brings them closer together within their own group.

I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t read this series who wants to, but if you’re interested, definitely go for it. Ransom Riggs is a talented author and I’m happy he’s enjoying some success for it. I’ll be finishing the series at some point, though I haven’t yet.

16065004Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5) by Brandon Sanderson

It’s pretty clear to everyone at this point how much I enjoy all of Brandon Sanderson’s work. His Stormlight Archive books are still my top favorite, but what he’s doing with Scadrial–the setting for his Mistborn series of series is really fascinating. The Mistborn trilogy is a more traditional medieval (though urban) sort of fantasy setting. In this series, we pick up in the same place centuries later and technology has advanced accordingly. Politics are different, the characters are new, but we get to see the world grow and change along with the new cast and that is so interesting.

Shadows of Self is our second foray into the wild west/industrial revolution era series following Wax, a nobleman more interested in fighting crime than politicking as the remaining member of his wealthy house, and Wayne, Wax’s best friend, a rough around the edges master of disguise. As always, Sanderson weaves a plot that is delightfully unpredictable and entertaining, and I loved the subtle ways he developed his characters–particularly more secondary characters like Wax’s betrothed, Steris–as well as the Cosmere universe, in which most of his work takes place.

25233432Avatar: The Last Airbender-Smoke and Shadow Part One by Gene Luen
Yang

This is the fourth series in the post-Avatar, pre-Korra comic book series and I continue to enjoy the additional complexity and adventure it brings to an old favorite of mine.

Carry OnCarry On by Rainbow Rowell

I was so skeptical of this full-length tour of the Harry Potter knock-off Rainbow Rowell created in Fangirl but I wound up absolutely loving it. It plays with the fantasy concept of the chosen one in a way I found incredibly gratifying. And Rowell remains one of–if not my top–favorite romance writer. This love story was hinted at rather subltley early on and then had the kind of scenes I’ve come to expect from Rowell–relatively tame and quiet in their actual physicality but really heavy with emotion. Definitely recommend this one.

22296542Addicted to You Series books 1-2 (Addicted to You, Richochet, Addicted for Now) by Krista and Becca Ritchie

I was pretty skeptical about Addicted to You–the little bit of New Adult Romance I’ve tried I didn’t love, but this was free for Kindle (still is!) and highly recommended in a video by GingerReadsLainey, a booktuber who reads enough of the genre to seem to know what she’s talking about and I am so glad I decided to actually pick it up instead of letting it languish with the rest of my unread Kindle books.

It does require a bit of suspension of disbelief–the characters are unbelievably wealthy, the men unbelievably attractive, but overall the characterization is really excellent. Lily and Lo are majorly screwed up and pretty unrelateable on a surface level, but their insecurity and their undeniable love for each other make them believable, likable even.

20658510Kiss the Sky (Calloway Sisters #1) by Krista and Becca Ritchie

The Calloway Sisters series is a spinoff of the Addicted books, each book told from the point of view of one of two of Lily’s sisters and their corresponding romantic interest. This one follows Lily’s genius older sister Rose and her equally genius boyfriend Connor as Rose capitalizes on the recent media attention brought on their family by convincing all three sisters to star in a reality TV series.

The premise sounds ridiculous, I know, but since I’m writing this after completing the entire series, I can actually say that it’s my favorite of all the books. Rose is smart, focused, driven and confident in just about everything in her life and the microscope of the reality show combined with her realizations and development in her relationship with Connor really throw her off on all fronts.

7937843Room by Emma Donoghue

A moving read with a fascinating choice of narrator. Jack’s view of the world is so heartbreakingly narrow, yet the wonder he has for things and the willingness he has to experience things makes this story more uplifting than it first seems.

img_20151031_140429.jpgBookstagramming is a new favorite pasttime of mine (Instagram: @thestarlightshelves)

June Reviews

I haven’t posted in ages and ages. Trying to rectify that right now by writing a bunch whilst camped out at my new Starbucks. I just moved and don’t have internet and won’t for like another week.

Anyway, I only have a few books to share with you this month, so this will be a much quicker post than usual!

Books I Read in June

June Read

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo-4 Stars (Recommended)

This was a thought-provoking read. As someone who doesn’t read much non-fiction, I especially liked it because it was written as a narrative. It follows a handful of people living in one slum in Mumbai and it shows rather than tells of the twisted injustices that influence their lives. It challenges all kinds of schools of thought about how to change the structures that cause poverty and it’s clear Boo, in the style of all great journalists, exhaustively researched every aspect of her story.

It was much more narrow in it’s focus then I anticipated, after hearing people talk about it. I was expecting some sweeping reveal of everything wrong with urban poverty, but it’s not that. It’s not even trying to be that. It is the story of a few years in the lives of a handful of families. It’s thoughtful and well constructed and revealing, but it’s not a grand treatise on poverty. It is fascinating, though, a jumping off point for further discussion, especially since Boo doesn’t make an argumentative point with her story. She just tells the story and lets you draw your own conclusions.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson-4 Stars (Recommended)

I’ve been loving Laurie Halse Anderson’s books the last few months. The Impossible Knife of Memory was amazing, Speak was equally wonderful. This was fabulous as well.

Fabulous is a weird word to use. I suppose I’m simply redefining fabulous to mean wholly engrossing in the most torturous possible way. Wintergirls sucked me in to Lia’s experience, making me relate to her so strongly, even though I’ve never experienced–nor even knowingly known anyone who has–her disease.

My one small complaint with it was that it seemed to wrap up too quickly. There’s a pivot point with massive stakes and then the book ends with a pretty quick resolution. It’s a bit jarring, and it seemed to me a bit of a disconnect from the otherwise painful reality of the rest of the story.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart-3 Stars

So. Much. Buzz.

“If anyone asks you how it ends. Just LIE”

“Go into this without knowing ANYTHING”

So I swore I wouldn’t pick it up and then I did. I don’t regret doing so, it’s smart and suspenseful. The writing style is fairly poetic in nature. Fragmented sentences, hyperbolic imagery. I liked it, though not everyone will.

It wasn’t a terrible book, I just had this super hyped up expectation of it because of the “OMG it’s so MYSTERIOUS” marketing. I was expecting something big and when it happened it was good, but it was still a letdown. There was no other thing for it to be. Also, there’s totally been at least three movies in the last fifteen years with a similar twist. That’s all I could think about when I was done, the comparisons.

I also found myself extremely apathetic about every character. They’re rich people with rich people problems, which is fine and their problems are valid and it does internally sort of disdain them for this, but it was still irritating to me. They’re shells, they’re uninteresting and unrelatable, and I just didn’t care about them. I wouldn’t have made it through this if I hadn’t been so stupidly curious about the ending.

I hate to say it, but I’d suggest skipping this one. It might be really great if you could discover it on your own, but for me this was a case of jumped-up expectations without any real follow-through.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson-5 Stars (Recommended!)

This 1000 page beast is why I only read like a third of the usual number of books this month, but I’ll take quality over quantity every time.

The Way of Kings is the first book in a planned epic (6 books? 10? Not sure.) fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive. The Way of Kings is a bit of an exercise in exposition, explaining background in politics, magic, culture, and the plot lines of three major characters, so very little of note happens before the last 200 pages of the book. It could have been tedious, and it did take me a long time to read through it, but the world is so interesting and the characters so complex that it never felt boring.

I freaking loved it. All of it. But the end especially. Mysteries revealed with even more questions raised, it was exciting and shocking and so, so satisfying. I already picked up the second volume…and four other of Brandon Sanderson’s books. The world-building is just that good.