March Mini-Review Madness

Did anyone else do a bracket for March Madness this year? My husband’s family is super into sports so we do a family competition every year. This year, I really didn’t put much thought into it and ended up barely beating my nephew (who is 4). I know games are still being played, but at this point I don’t have any of the top 4 so…I’m out. But on to the reviews!

mini-reviews

A Darker Shade of MagicA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I’d been meaning to read this series for forever and I’m so glad that I finally picked it up! I love the covers and am looking forward to one day having the whole series on my shelf. I thought the initial world explanation all happened really smoothly. Schwab also did a great job of making Kell (and Lila) super likable right from the start. She’s obviously put a ton of thought into this world with the magic system and languages. I appreciate that she doesn’t shy away from hard decisions (i.e. killing characters, no spoilers). Where I was most amazed, though, was how she managed to create a sympathetic character out of Holland (at least, for me). I get the sense that he isn’t as evil as he portrays himself. Don’t get me wrong, he did some truly evil things in this book, but I still sympathize with him for some reason? And she doesn’t even tell us that much about him! That’s what’s truly amazing. 4.5/5

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

VoicesVoices by David Elliott [ARC]

I’ll premise this review by saying I know almost nothing about Joan of Arc. I wasn’t going to pick up this book, but then I read an excerpt and found it really compelling. I’ll also say real quick that I know pretty much nothing about poetry and what makes good poetry. So take my comments with a grain of salt, I guess. With that being said, I thought the poems were interesting and beautiful at times. I really liked the perspectives from the different objects and I found the fire to be especially impactful for some reason (though I do feel like the fire’s last poem was missing, but maybe that was just because I had an ARC?). I also really liked the short sections that were quotes from her actual trial. In the end, I used to know nothing about Joan of Arc, and now I feel like I know a little bit about her. 4/5

Note: An ARC of this book was provided to the library where I work.

eBook | Hardcover

The Girl Who Drank the MoonThe Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Trigger warning: Intended infanticide

Ever since having a baby myself, I’ve found mentions of babies dying to be really hard. So the beginning of this book was difficult for me. But then we get into it and Xan is amazing and I love her for saving all the babies. I really enjoyed all of the (good) characters in this book and the found family aspect was really fun to see. Luna, in particular, was a great character though I wish we’d gotten to know her and her personality a little bit better. I thought the ending was fantastic and tender and so much more than I had even realized I wanted it to be. The only thing about this book is that I question its middle grade-ness. I feel like if I was middle grade age, so much of this book would just go straight over my head. Only as an adult do I feel like I can even scratch the surface of what this book is about. 5/5

eBook | Hardcover | Paperback

The Other EinsteinThe Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

This book was not my cup of tea. First of all, it’s never clear throughout the whole book which parts are completely fictionalized and which parts are true or partially true. I think I needed an author’s note in the beginning or something because I felt pretty confused throughout most of the book. I didn’t like any of the characters and found most relationships between characters to be stifling. I felt like Mileva was an extremely weak character and I just wanted her to stand up for herself. I also came out of this book completely hating Einstein which is kind of a weird feeling… 2.5/5

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True Crime + LA + Libraries = Heart Eyes | The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library BookOn April 28, 1986 there was a huge fire at the LA Public Library. While this was obviously a big deal, the news got lost as Chernobyl happened the same day. When Susan Orlean moved to LA with her husband and son, she discovered this largely untold story and started doing some investigating. This book details the history of the LA Public Library, the fire itself, and the arson investigation that took place afterwards. Woven throughout that narrative is Orlean’s love letter to libraries themselves.

TL;DR – Orlean seamlessly intertwines several narratives. LA history, arson investigations, and the day-to-day of public libraries are all presented as equally fascinating.

eBook | Hardcover

First, let me say for anyone thinking about purchasing this book, it is GORGEOUS. Definitely bookstagrammable. However, if you decide to get the hardcover on Amazon (link above) just be warned that it does come with that “Reese’s book club” stamp (eye roll) which is not removable. If you would like an unmarred copy, I’d suggest getting a copy in person and B&N or something.

On to my review. My love affair with non-fiction continues! My husband helped me to discover recently that I’ve really been enjoying non-fiction books written by journalists (see Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, and recently Kirk Wallace Johnson). Susan Orlean was a journalist for the New York Times before writing this book so she fits right in my wheelhouse. Plus libraries, so it was always going to be a slam dunk.

This story is actually so fascinating, but the parts I loved most about this book were the descriptions of the day-to-day life of the library. At the very beginning when she’s writing about the library opening for the day, I legitimately got chills. I loved seeing all the different departments from her perspective and I could definitely relate to some of the stories.

I also really liked how she opened each chapter with some catalog listings that fit what the chapter was going to be about. I just thought it was a really nice touch and I liked guessing what kind of stuff was going to be in each chapter.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. If you love libraries, read this book. If you love true crime, read this book. If you love LA, read this book.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Def thought this was the last book in the series (it’s not) | Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard [ARC]

Note: This is the third book in The Witchlands series and may contain spoilers for the first two books.

BloodwitchI’m not going to write a summary for this book. I tried and just couldn’t do it so I’ll just get into the review. To address the title, when I picked this book up, I was under the impression that the series was just a trilogy. It didn’t take long, however, for me to realize that there are actually going to be two more books AFTER this one. My plan to binge the entire series was frustrated, but I’m not too mad at it. I’ve really loved this series much more than I thought I would, so I’m happy.

Something I really love about this series is that it’s diverse without trying too hard or feeling like it’s trying to check every box. It does a good job of not being overly obvious and I think that’s the ultimate goal when people are asking for diverse characters and books. Referring to a character’s skin color or sexuality every other chapter almost creates this otherness about them. Specific traits for them are being singled out and consciously brought to our attention. I don’t want an author to tell me about how a character’s diverse, I want them to show me.

The characters in this series are all pretty much equally enjoyable for me. I’ve been surprised at how sympathetic a character Vivia has become. I really liked the sections from her POV and the struggle she’s having to be the leader that her father wants her to be while also reconciling who she actually is and her family’s history of mental illness. I knew from the beginning of this series that I would really enjoy Prince Leopold as a character, so I was THRILLED when he made a reappearance. It was really great to get to know Aeduan a little more in this book and I love him and Iseult together. Safi and Iseult continue to be utterly delightful and I absolutely love that their relationship continues to feel so strong when they haven’t even been together for two books. They’re constantly thinking about each other and ultimately, I think their goal throughout these books is just to get back with each other.

This book really moves the overall plot of the series forward. We’ve kind of thought that the plot was one thing this whole time, but later in the book, we start to realize that there is much more going on. Some hints have been dropped along the way throughout the series, but now we’re seeing bit and pieces of the larger plot start to form. Now, maybe I would know some of this stuff if I’d read Sightwitch? But as I’ve stated in an earlier post, I don’t believe in these supplemental short stories and novellas and prequels. So I’m just going to continue on and see where that takes me. One last minor plot point that I thought was interesting is how Safi and Iseult always seem to be in danger at the same time. Why is that? Because they’re the Cahr Awen? I just really hope that gets explained in a later book.

While I absolutely loved this book, I do have some questions:

  • Iseult says that animals don’t have threads, but mountain bats and sea foxes do. Why is that?
  • I wish we had some kind of background or explanation as to why everyone hates Nomatsis. Maybe in a future book?
  • I feel like deceit is an emotion or something that Iseult should be able to see in someone’s threads.
  • Why do some people have Threadsiblings and others don’t?

I have a couple other questions too, but they’re kind of spoilery, so I won’t ask them here.

Overall, this was a great third installment. I hear fans of the series had to wait a REALLY long time for the third book, so I’ll just be over hear hoping the fourth book gets here a little quicker than the third. If you haven’t already started this series, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT.

eBook | Hardcover

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None

Note: An ARC of this book was sent to the library where I work.

Friendship to the MAX! | Lumberjanes: An Overview

Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten HolyI recently got into Lumberjanes and it has been amazing! The basic premise is that it’s about a group of girls who are away at a summer camp (Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types). Mal, Molly, Ripley, April, and Jo (and their counselor Jen) are in the Roanoke cabin and they’re getting along swimmingly. They notice some weird stuff happening in the woods around camp, however, and start to realize that this camp isn’t exactly…normal.

I love the friendship that the girls have with each other and the love that they have for Jen as well. I think it would be really easy for Jen to be cast as an antagonist since she’s kind of an authority figure, but the girls just love her! (Especially Ripley). The girls don’t always agree with each other, but they really take the Lumberjane Scout motto (Friendship to the Max!) seriously. Even between cabins (they have a slight rivalry with another cabin) in the end, they’re still supportive. Although this is a camp full of girls and you might expect more drama, there is no girl-hate here. Only love and support.

Each of the girls in Roanoke cabin is such an individual with their own strengths and weaknesses. I love how the format of a graphic novel makes it so much easier and natural to see the diversity of the characters. The author doesn’t have to come out and say that Jo has darker skin or reemphasize that every once in a while. We can just see her there on the page! I also like how there isn’t much emphasis on Molly and Mal’s relationship. They’re just quietly holding hands or next to each other in the corner of the panel. It’s so refreshing to me! Sometimes I feel like I’m getting hit over the head with diversity when an author has to describe things all the time. I like that graphic novels just kind of lay it out there for us and I can observe at my own pace. They don’t have to draw attention to diversity, because we can just see it along with everything else!

Overall, I really love this series. I’d be hardpressed to pick a favorite character, but I might go with April or Jo. I’ve read nine volumes and I’m not tired of the characters or story at all. They keep things fresh and bring back old characters and it’s just overall a lot of fun! Highly recommend.

Journey with me into London Below | Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I absolutely LOVE the way he writes. I’d been meaning to read this book for a while and only got around to it when it was picked for my book club. I’m so happy I finally read it!

Our main character, Richard Mayhew, is so unspectacularly normal and all of these unbelievable things happen to him. I thought he was such a well-written character. Even though he’s super basic, he has a hidden depth to him and in the end, the reader really wants things to work out for him. Something about him being such a beige person made the colorful world of London Below that much more brilliant.

I loved the relationship between Richard, Door, Hunter, and the Marquis. When Richard, Door, and Hunter got to the Friars and found out that Richard had to do the third task, I literally laughed out loud and Door and Hunter’s reactions. While the Marquis was a pretty sketchy character, he was also delightful and was a wonderful Puck-ish contrast to Door. The Marquis is the embodiment of what London Below is. If you haven’t read the short story How the Marquis Got His Coat Back, I highly recommend it as it gives another perspective on who the Marquis is.

Another fun aspect of this book is that our protagonist is not the story’s “hero”. Door is clearly the hero in this story as she tries to avenge her family and Richard is a mildly doofy sidekick whose most important job proves to be getting Door curry at the market.

Circling back to Gaiman’s writing, I love how his humor is scattered throughout the book as it only serves to enhance the reading experience. I love the different locations that our group visits and how Gaiman takes each name literally. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are seriously creepy individuals, but with Gaiman’s writing, they almost seem harmless. It’s an interesting contrast because on paper, the reader knows how terrifying they are, but the humorous way in which they’re written waters them down a bit–but not in a bad way.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who already loves Neil Gaiman or anyone who wants a fantasy escape.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Moderate

Back at it again with the Mini-Reviews

I love mini-reviews. They’re a way for me to get a bunch of reviews off my plate at once and from the poll I had you guys take a few months ago, you seem to like them, right?

One Dark ThroneOne Dark Throne by Kendare Blake

To see my review for the first book, please go here. I really loved the first book and as soon as it was done, I wanted to get my hands on the second. However, this book was not as engaging or attention-catching as the first one. I still have questions about the world and how some things are supposed to work–there never really seems to be explanations for anything. Some of the plot points towards the end were surprising to me and I’m still a little confused…but I don’t want to give spoilers. Overall, this book doesn’t make me feel like I need the third book like I needed the second, but I’ll still read it. 4/5

Bone GapBone Gap by Laura Ruby

This book had been on my TBR for a few years before I finally got around to reading it and by the time I did, I had completely forgotten what the book was supposed to be about–and I think that was a good thing. It takes a while for the book to get going, but once it does, I felt really invested in the characters. I really liked Finn and felt bad for both him and Sean. I thought this book was especially interesting because I felt like it combined a lot of elements that might not necessarily go together, but did. Such as: magical realism, farm/small town life, an immigrant story (Polish culture), rare disease/disability, sexual harassment/rape, broken families. That sounds like a lot, right? But I thought it all worked really well together and I ended up really liking the book. 5/5

Genuine FraudGenuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

I really enjoyed We Were Liars, so I was moderately excited to read E. Lockhart’s more recent release as well. The premise sounded a little confusing to me, but it was recommended at my local library’s “Best of 2017” event, so I thought I’d give it a try. I thought the book was confusing, but intriguing at the same time. The main character seemed very complicated. I started out feeling like I knew her pretty well, but as the book progressed I started to realize that actually, I know nothing about her. She’s a complete stranger. So I finished the book, and I liked it quite a bit (I thought the format was especially interesting). But then I found out that it’s pretty much exactly the plot for The Talented Mr. Ripley. At the end of the book, Lockhart does state that she was inspired by Ripley, but honestly, the plot is almost exactly the same, just with a teenage girl instead of a 20-something man. Overall, I still enjoyed it though. 4/5

When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

For some reason, this book did not appeal to me at all even though I’d heard really good things about it. But then it was one of the free reads on Riveted by Simon Teen, I was bored at work, and I thought “what the heck?” so I started reading it. I liked both Dimple and Rishi–they just both seem like GOOD KIDS. And I appreciate that Dimple is a smart girl who (for the most part) isn’t a spaz or incredibly socially awkward or overly uptight. I will say that Rishi did feel a little unreal to me. Do teenage boys like that actually exist? Claudia on the other hand is a complete mess. She’s the worst friend. Literally the worst. I thought the plot was pretty good, there were some things I liked towards the end but (mini-spoiler) I almost wish that Rishi and Dimple had ended up with other people. Did anyone else feel that way? I don’t have anyone specific in mind, but the whole point was that Dimple was mad at her parents for setting them up, but then she ends up with him anyway (end mini-spoiler). Maybe that’s just me though. 4/5

Rich People ProblemsRich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

This is the third book in the series. For my review of Crazy Rich Asians go here and it looks like I never reviewed China Rich Girlfriend so…oops. This book takes place maybe a couple of years after the second book? It’s definitely in the same vein as far as tone and writing goes (and so many food descriptions *drools*). The plot didn’t go exactly how I thought it would and I think that’s definitely a good thing. It’s so interesting because this is a world that is so far removed from anything I’ve ever experienced, but it also doesn’t seem that hard to understand. I grew up with a big family on both sides, so I feel like I do kind of get that part of it–I really loved the family politics aspect of the book. Even though the characters and lifestyles portrayed in this book are completely outrageous, the author has still managed to make everything believable. 4/5

It’s cheesy, but like in a good way | Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

Alex, ApproximatelyBailey has just moved across the country to live with her dad. The fact that her online penpal lives in the same city had nothing to do with the decision. Well, almost nothing. She doesn’t even know for sure if Alex likes her and what if he ends up being a total creep anyway? That’s why she’s not telling him that she moved. She’ll scope out the situation, see if she can find him, and then if he’s normal it’ll be a big “surprise!” and they’ll ride off into the sunset. If only this annoying guy from work would leave her alone, she could really concentrate on finding Alex. But Porter seems intent on getting a rise from her every time they’re together and it’s becoming quite distracting.

TL;DR – This is a fun beach romance that has a surprising amount of depth. The predictability of the plot does not make the book any less enjoyable.

First off all, I had my doubts about this book. I mean, I kept hearing everyone else saying that they loved it, etc., but to me it sounded extremely predictable. Now, there’s a time and a place for predictability, especially in romance, but for some reason this just sounded like it might be really boring to me. Well, I was proved wrong. Yes, the book is extremely predictable. We know from the beginning that Porter is actually Alex. While that fact didn’t necessarily create tension within the book, I think it did make it so the reader had this really interesting view and opinion of Porter that Bailey did not initially share.

The plot, again, was super predictable, but I thought the overall tone was nice. It had a really good balance of lighter moments and also really heavy stuff. There were so many parts throughout the books that I just don’t think would have worked or be enjoyable in another story (especially a beachy YA romance), but somehow it all just really works in this book. I did wonder if Bailey was a little too “damaged” as a main character, though. Obviously authors want their characters to be flawed and have baggage, but there are times when I think too much has been added to a character. I feel like Bailey is right there on the edge of being too much.

The romance was nice but I felt that it progressed a little too quickly. I thought there’d be just a little more back and forth before they actually got together. I felt that Porter as a love interest was a little too mature and the overall relationship was a little too serious, but I still cared about both Porter and Bailey and their relationship. One thing I really liked is that after Bailey’s dad and Sergeant Mendoza warn her away from Porter, Bailey actually tells Porter about the conversation instead of just continuing to hurt his feelings. That never happens in YA books! I feel like characters are always keeping things and conversations to themselves when they don’t need to and it creates all of this unnecessary angst. Transparency is key!

Overall, I can’t quite put my finger on why this book was so enjoyable, just that it was. It’s a perfect read for the summer or any time that you wish it were summer, really. It also had a ton of old film references. I don’t have a ton of knowledge in that area myself, so a lot of the references went over my head, but if you are into that I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Moderate
Sexual Content: Moderate