A Few Reviews (March 2016)

I don’t always have a lot to say about every book I read, so I’ve decided to compile those shorter thoughts on various books into one big post. Not as detailed as a formal review and not as comprehensive as a wrap-up but just a fun peek into my brain about some of my latest reads. Click on the cover of each for a better synopsis on Goodreads and if you ever want to see my thoughts on things as and right after I read them you can follow me on Goodreads while you’re there.

25494343Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1; Shadowhunters #10) by Cassandra Clare

Once again, Cassandra Clare has used her supernatural world to its fullest extent, creating complicated problems with the rules of the world and not sparing her characters the consequences. The cast in this is probably her largest to date; one large sibling group and a few satellite friends and tutors. It reads a lot stronger than her other two series openers, mostly because it doesn’t endeavor to introduce its readers to the Shadowhunter world and instead it jumps right in. Lady Midnight opens five years after her earlier Mortal Instruments series, and focuses primarily on characters who already live in and know the workings of the shadow world and society. Most of these characters already know each other, which makes their relationships more complicated and much more fascinating. We have family members returning home much changed from when they left, younger children growing up and challenging the status quo set by their parental figures, friends navigating their romantic feelings for each other. It’s not the uninitiated damsel rescued by the warrior demon-hunter of series past, it’s something else entirely and I am very excited to see where this series goes.

6569735Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

A dark mystery about a woman haunted by the questionable guilt of her brother in the massacre of her family twenty years previously. As in Flynn’s most popular psychological thriller–Gone Girl (which I reviewed in 2014)–none of the characters in this are particularly likeable, but that makes what they do even more interesting. The plot is constructed intelligently as well; I was certainly kept guessing. Its shorter length made it much more engrossing for me than Gone Girl was and I’m glad I gave this one a shot.

20613761Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankin

A collection of poetry (and other media) about race in America. It’s use of second person perspective puts the reader right in the middle of the scene, for maximum emotional impact. It’s the kind of poetry that makes you stop and reread a passage because the metaphor is unique and fascinating or the language itself is perfectly composed. Even then, it’s a quick read and very much worth your time.

23395680Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Jay Kristoff and Amy Kaufman

The way this book was laid out on the page pushed it past pretty good space-thriller into something really fascinating. White text loops across two facing black pages as a computer contemplates its own consciousness. Fighter pilots’ radio transmissions explode across the pages, emulating the fight itself.  It’s entirely a collection of computer documents, chat conversations and (cleverly) notes on video feed. The characters are full of personality though, even as we see them only through dialogue or totally wordless actions. But at the end of the day this is going for thrilling and the plot reminded me a lot of the show Firefly, just on a larger scale, which made it not totally unique to my eyes, but incredibly entertaining nonetheless.

20443235The Winner’s Kiss (The Winner’s Trilogy #3)

I read the first two books in this series in about three days a year ago, so I had forgotten a lot of things going into this series finale, but I was able to pick up the thread pretty quickly as the characters were also experiencing a big upheaval and change of scene. It was a well handled finale; a little too quick to gloss over the finer political details, but satisfying from a character perspective. Two people learn to fight and handle the consequences of war even as their love for each other and their hope for the future transform them as well. The Winner’s trilogy is spectacular as a whole, very smart, very well written and very underrated.

April Wrap-Up (with Mini-Reviews!)

Hello all! It’s been a while since I’ve done a wrap-up post like this, but they’re fun and especially useful for a month like this where I’ve slacked off on reviews.

Books I read in April

Bit of a random assortment this month, but it was pretty great overall! 10 books total, of which 3 got 5 star ratings which is an excellent ratio. That or I’ve just gotten soft.

Click on the cover photos for the Goodreads page, and check out the links on the titles below for Starlight Shelves Reviews. If there’s no link there, and the few lines below just aren’t enough, you are always welcome to check out the babbling and rambling I usually post right as I finish a book on my Goodreads page!

ImageImageGirl of NightmaresLegend ImageRebel BelleEmmaProdigy The Giver The Impossible Knife of Memory

 

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson-4 stars

I don’t read a whole lot of contemporary teen fiction, but then once in awhile I read one like this and wonder why I don’t read more. This was really beautiful and heart-breaking. A story about someone I can’t really relate to on the surface, and so find a lot to learn from as I go along. It’s the type of book that reminds you why reading is so crucial, and reassured me that Halse Anderson is a writer whose books deserve the acclaim they’ve received. I thought it lacked just a little in the character relationship development department, but Hayley’s voice was so strong, you almost forget to notice.

Emma by Jane Austen-4 stars

I am so proud I finished this. I picked up Emma back in the fall, when the YouTube series Emma Approved was just getting started, but put it down pretty early on. I couldn’t get into it enough, and Austen really knows how to make annoying characters actually be annoying. I picked up an audiobook version on the cheap early this month (because I already had a Kindle version, the Audible version was discounted, which is pretty cool). I’ve always sort of liked watching Austen-adaptations better than reading the books, even though they cut things out. I suppose I just like seeing the costumes and the settings, plus the emotion comes through much more on screen than it does buried in language and turns of phrase I don’t entirely understand. A good audiobook, then, was absolutely perfect for me. I got all of the inflections to help me out with the text, while not missing a single word of Ms. Austen’s. The version I read was performed by Juliet Stevenson (Audible link here!), if you’re interested. I thought it was wonderful.

The Girl of Nightmares (Anna Dressed in Blood #2) by Kendare Blake-3 Stars

I read Anna Dressed in Blood last month and really enjoyed it. It’s horror blended with romance and coming of age and I thought it was plotted and written extremely well. This one, the conclusion to the duo, I didn’t like as much, however. It dragged and felt superfluous to the story told in the first installment. It probably would have been better as a novella or a long epilogue as it didn’t stand on its own at all, though its conclusion was solid and meaningful. I liked it in the end, but at the same time I had that nagging feeling that it didn’t really ever need to exist at all.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn-3 Stars

I wrote a whole review trying to explain what I actually felt about this book. It’s hard to do for books that are good, but not that great. The short version is that I think Gone Girl is a bit overhyped and I had a hard time with it; it just wasn’t for me.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins-4 stars

I finally caved and joined in on a Booksplosion book of the month after hearing some glowing initial reviews for this. It sounds contrite and insane when you try to describe it, but it really is a ton of fun. Rachel Hawkins is hilarious, turns out (I’d heard of her, but never read her, and funny was somehow not a word I’d heard to describe her books), and the book is so quirky. Plus it is so good at making fun of itself that you can’t help but enjoy yourself while reading it. It wasn’t profound and it wasn’t perfection, but I say give it a go.

The Giver by Lois Lowry-5 stars

I read The Giver, or had it read to me, I don’t remember for sure, in 4th or 5th grade. I remember liking it back then, but not completely understanding it and after reading it again, I totally see why. The Giver is deceptively brief. It’s much more than it seems on the surface and it does so much with so few words. It’s really incredible, and I’m so glad that I revisited it. It’s going to be really strange to see it as a movie later in the summer, since it’s always had this weird alien feeling to it, to me at least.

Legend and Prodigy (Legend #2) by Marie Lu-5 and 4 stars

I’m completely over the moon about the Legend trilogy thus far, though I should withhold judgement until I’m all the way done with Champion. Still, I think it’s a very smart, very intense dystopian trilogy that you should check out if you haven’t already (I was definitely starting to feel like I was the only one left, but I’m sure I’m not!)

 The Unbound (The Archived #2) by Victoria Schwab-4 Stars

A really cool series that has started to get some more fans due to some dedicated Booktubers, but underrated nonetheless. A super awesome blend of the fantasy adventure and contemporary drama that everyone should be able to enjoy.

 Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3) by Laini Taylor-5 Stars

The Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy wrapped up this month with Dreams of Gods and Monsters. It was completely not what I was expecting, but it was beautiful and hindsight has told me I wouldn’t have had it end any other way, though at first I was kind of completely startled by it all. Still haven’t reviewed this and probably won’t, just because my brain was so jumbled up about it. But it’s good. And the trilogy as a whole is amazing.  Richly written fantasy, broad in scope and heavily detailed all at once, and an intensely complicated romance. What more could you want?

 Coming Up…

I’m currently reading Champion by Marie Lu, which I should be done with by early this weekend, and listening to The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkein. Yes, I have never read LOTR all the way through and it is indeed quite shameful. I am a self proclaimed fantasy addict, but you can’t be a real fantasy fan without reading the universally acknowledged master. Though I get stuck every time at page 130 of volume 1. Tom Bombadil just drags…we’ll see if I can push through this time. I like my audiobook (performed by Rob Inglis) and I’m hoping that the format change will be enough to help me through it and hopefully enjoy it as much as everyone else does.

Then, I have no idea, really. I used to make plans, but they always change, so don’t get out the chisel on this list just yet. I really want to read Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo for the Nerdfighter Bookclub, which has to be done by June 10, I think, so I’m sure start sometime in May. Then I still have not read Cress by Marissa Meyer, which is just ridiculous, since I’ve been meaning to since February when it came out. And I will most definitely be reading City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare, which comes out on the 27th. Definitely my most anticipated release of the entire year, though my physical copy of it probably won’t show until June, I’m sure I’ll cave and buy the ebook. Because…just because. I have to know what happens.

 

 

 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

 

Gone Girl
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn Published May 2012 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson 395 Pages (Hardcover)

The Quick Non-Spoilery Bit

Gone Girl is part crime-drama, part psychological thriller that follows the aftermath of the disappearance of Amy Elliot Dunne, who has vanished from her home in a whirlwind of glass and overturned furniture on the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary. Nick Dunne, her husband, becomes the prime suspect after calling it in, when his whereabouts that morning cannot be corroborated. His narrative and Amy’s diary entries provide a slowly more intimate peak into their unstable life together as the hunt for Amy and her kidnapper and/or killer heats up.

I picked this up finally because it’s becoming a movie this October. I’d heard about it before, it’s relatively popular, and I knew it was considered a dark and intense twist on a murder mystery. It certainly was dark and twisted, and it was reasonably well composed and plotted. I just could not connect to it. A lot of people really love Gone Girl with good reason, but I personally found it did not meet my expectations. Mystery fans might like it. Crime drama or true crime fans even more so. I’m not crowing from rooftops over it, and I think those that do are overstating its genius, but if it sounds at all interesting to you, it might be worth the read. I didn’t love it, but I can’t say I don’t recommend it. It just wasn’t for me. Thus, I give it 3 stars: nothing was objectively horrible about it, it just did not succeed as a mystery/thriller for me. I will probably wind up going to see the movie though. I really love the trailer:

I think it sets a good atmosphere, with the music all creepy playing over top for most of it, yet it explains the plot pretty well. The casting looks great too.

 

Now I’ll talk about the book a little more, but it’s hard to without getting more into the plot and getting more into the plot of a mystery novel inevitably leads to spoilers. So if you haven’t read Gone Girl and would like to, I suggest you click away now.

 

 

 

Ok? Here we go.

 

 

Here be Spoilers

Like I said, I didn’t hate it. I was just not into it. I started out thinking Nick had killed Amy. Then quickly shifted to think he didn’t, because I could tell I was supposed to be thinking he did. Then I was bored and flipped ahead to see if I was right and got a bit more interested when I read briefly that Amy was alive and had left under her own power.  Part 2 was then much more interesting  as everything up to and including Amy’s psychosis is revealed.  I thought that this was a good twist, I just didn’t have the patience to wait for it. My own fault, I suppose, but I was about ready to put this book down around page 120, tired of waiting around for Nick and everyone else to figure out that Amy was alive somewhere.

I’m too used to the crime drama that can be consumed an hour, I think. One a one hour show, guessing the bad guy is half the fun, and you’re proven right rather quickly. Meanwhile you get the other fraction of your enjoyment out of the relationships within the crime-solving team. A lack of such likable characters is probably part of the genesis of  my complaint with Gone Girl. I suppose, that the characters are not likable is the point, but it made it exceedingly difficult to find a reason to hang on in places where the plot, inevitably, as plots do, slowed down.

Part 3, where Amy returns, was rather fascinating. The depth of her depravity made Nick finally seem pitiable by contrast, and the ending was fittingly twisted and dark. It’s the only part of the book I wished had gone on a bit longer as months pass in a few short pages. I thought the ending fit the story, assuming the “we’re perfect for each other!” rhetoric was not meant in earnest, as I thought it completely misguided. I think it was meant, rather, as yet another example of how twisted their minds are, one final barb, just in case you weren’t feeling disturbed enough already.

And that’s all I have to say, I suppose, normally here is where I reiterate my review and give a recommendation, but hopefully the only people who’ve read this far have already read the book and don’t need to hear the it…unless you ignored my spoiler warning like a rebel. A a very sad, spoiled rebel.