Sunday, July 31, 2016

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Wow - I see it's been more than a few days since I finished my last book.  I've started a couple that I don't know if I'm going to finish for sure or not.  I've not been listening to books because I've had so little time to listen that I've gotten partway through a couple of books and then had to return them.  One I gave up on (and wrote about), the other I've put another hold on it and will finish it when it comes back to me.  I've also been busy with, you know, life.  We've been camping, went on a one day rafting trip, had company and there's the whole taking the French class thing.  Anyway, today I've had a large chunk of down time and, in that time, I started and finished a book.  I would have worked on one of the other books I've started, but I got a notice from the library this one was due back and wouldn't renew, so I decided to give it a go.

Lara Jean has a thing where she writes letters to boys she likes to help her move on when she has a crush.  Once she writes the letters, they go in a hat box her mom gave her.  They are never indented to be seen by anyone and certainly not the boys to whom they're addressed.  When her letters get sent off (not her doing), things, of course, go awry.  Meanwhile, life goes on with her two sisters, the older one of whom has just left for college in Scotland, leaving a huge gap in her family's life and her to be the big sister to their little sister when that's been her older sister's role since their mother's death.  A busy but caring father rounds out the family.

I enjoyed To All the Boys I've Loved Before.  I liked Lara Jean.  There were a few things that annoyed me about her, but that's probably a more realistic character.  Mostly, I liked her.  I enjoyed her family and their various dynamics as well as the dynamics with the boy next door and some of the other letter recipients.  I like Jenny Han's writing style.  I found To All the Boys I've Loved Before to be very readable.  It was a fast, enjoyable read for a lazy summer afternoon.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier

I really got into Data and Goliath!  This non-fiction book is all about what happens with our data and surveillance in general by both business and government.  This doesn't seem like that cool a topic even to me, although I am sometimes a data geek because I'm a fan of statistics, but I found myself going to Anthony or Davan with snippets from this book nearly constantly because it was so interesting. 

I will tell you that I found the first part of Data and Goliath to be the most interesting while the second half (roughly) was less so for me.  Bruce starts with what is happening with our data now.  Then he moves onto solutions for government, solutions for business and solutions for the rest of us.  I think I'm just not paranoid enough nor political enough to care that much about the solutions.  Sad to say, but true.  Even so, the first part was fascinating.

If you pick this book up, don't be too daunted by its size.  The last fourth or so is all notes and index.  Keeping that in mind, pick it up.  You may be surprised by how much it sucks you in.

Three DNFs in One Post

I had the sad experience of not finishing three books in a row that I picked up.  This does happen to me fairly frequently, but it's never fun.

The Yoga of Max's Discontent by Karan Bajaj just did not appeal to me from the outset.  I kind of flipped through to see if it was worth pushing on and opted out.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi held me a little longer.  I tried with this one for a bit, but I just thought it was overdone and with the angst and the info dump about why we're in a distopia.  I also did not like all the crossed out stuff.  So...I moved on.

The third one I know a lot of people will disagree with me about not liking it, but there it is anyway.  A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas.  I just still don't like Feyre.  A lot of people said they liked the second book a lot more than the first, so I pushed through, thinking I'd enjoy the second one.  Maybe I would if I made myself get into it, but I read the first couple of chapters, still found Feyre not to my taste and despaired about reading such a long book about her again.  So, I'm calling it quits on that, too.  In fact, with this attempt, I've come to realize Sarah J. Maas just isn't the author for me.  It's a good thing to know.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky

I'd actually started Kill the Boy Band before picking up Ugly Love, but had set it aside to read Ugly Love because of a due date situation.  So, once I finished Ugly Love and came back to it, I was quickly finished.

I liked Kill the Boy Band, which surprised me.  I mean, yes, I'd picked it up to read so I must have thought I'd like it on some level, but it isn't the sort of book that usually calls to me.  I'd seen a blurb about it and half thought, "Interesting" and the other half, "Kind of stupid," so I wasn't really sure which way it'd go. 

Kill the Boy Band is told in first person by a die hard fan of The Ruperts, the latest phenom boy band.  She is friends with three other Strepurs (Ruperts fans), each of whom has a favorite of the four and each with her one peculiar quirks.  Over Thanksgiving weekend, they go in on a hotel room together in the hotel where The Ruperts are staying while giving a concert in New York.  When one of them has an unexpected encounter with her favorite Rupert, things get out of hand.

It's part fangirl chaos, part thriller and part a hard look at fan dome.  One of its blurbs says, "hilarious," but I have to say I don't agree with that.  There were a couple of funny bits, but it was much more thriller/train wreck watching than hilarious.  Still, it was a train wreck I was wanting to see through.  I couldn't wait to read what was going to happen next for most of the book.

I've never been a huge celebrity follower (although I've gotten super geeky about some things  - Harry Potter comes to mind and I was an adult then).  I've only really had one celebrity fascination it wasn't/isn't enough that I've gone to a con even, so I can't say I've felt what these girls feel.  I've never cared that passionately and it was a bit surprising to see.  I think it's fairly realistic in that regard, considering some of the celebrity following I have noticed.

At any rate, it was an interesting and different sort of read.  I'm not sure it'd appeal to all, but I liked it.

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

I've, historically, not been a huge romance fan.  I don't particularly like it when there is too much angsty back and forth romance, which seems to be what a lot of romance novels are.  However, I went through a romance stage in just the past year, though, that had me changing my mind about some romances.  After seeing an NPR list of swoon-worthy romances, I decided to try a few.  One I tried was a Radclyffe book.  After reading it, I proceeded to read many, many more.  Here's the thing about the Radclyffe books that I liked (I didn't like them all):  the women involved had real, fleshed out lives.  The books, while primarily romances, were also about strong women who have careers.  Not just careers that are mentioned so the box can be checked, but careers that we get to dive into and hear details of.  If you're interested in checking Radclyffe out, I'd recommend the First Responders series, aside from Oath of Honor, which involves characters established in a different series, as a good place to start.  I also enjoyed the Honor series.

Ugly Love, though, hit pretty much all of my issues with romances.  Tate was not very fleshed out.  Sure, she was almost unhealthily career oriented, as she says, but, even though she works in the ER and goes to graduate school for nursing, we never, ever see that world.  Her backstory is pretty much non existent.  We get more backstory for Miles, to explain why he's treating Tate like crap (my opinion), but not more about him as a person, really.  So, we're left with almost a pure romance with no other story line.  Then, on top of that, the romance is toxic (until the end, when it isn't).  We are given some comparisons of supposedly worse: a lecherous married man who messes around on his wife all the time and a playboy.  But, personally, I think what Miles is doing is worse.  The deal is: don't ask about the past and don't expect a future.  So, Miles is clear about that and I guess we can give him that.  But, he hurts Tate emotionally over and over again and she still hangs on, loving him.  That's just wrong, friends, even if the sex is hot.  That's a set up for abuse.  While that didn't happen in this book, it's teaching readers that it's okay to love someone and stick around while the person you love is distant, sometimes mean and sending mixed signals.  Arg!

I did read the whole book which says something about Colleen's writing style and also about me being somewhat invested, as you know I don't always finish books, but I still don't recommend it.

Also, least you think that I have something against straight romance (Radclyffe writes lesbian romance), three of my all time favorite romances are Fangirl (which I loved more than Eleanor and Park because I felt it was less angsty), The Queen's Thief series (the first book isn't a romance at all, but just wait for it - some of my all time favorite books) and the Mercy Thomson series.  I've also recently enjoyed Outlander and Anna and the French Kiss.

Friday, July 15, 2016

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

I was up until midnight last night finishing More Happy Than Not.  Seeing as how 11pm is my usual cut off for lights out and, frequently, it's more like 10:30, that's saying something.  I started More Happy Than Not a few days ago and read it rather sporadically, it having been a busy few days.  Last night, though, when I finally got around to reading around 10:30, I was in it from about the middle until finished.

More Happy Than Not is set in the Bronx in the near future and is told from the point of view of Aaron, a teenage boy with a girlfriend he's crazy about, some okay friends, a mom and a brother with whom he shares an one bedroom apartment after the recent suicide of his father.  He's okay, but also has a recent suicide attempt in his recent past.  Enter Thomas, a new friend.  As this friendship develops, Aaron learns new things about himself and what he wants.  Also in the picture is Leteo Institute which can wipe out certain memories.  A friend from the neighborhood, for example, was taken there to forget his twin brother who died.  When things get back, Aaron considers Leteo for himself.

As I said, after about half way, I just had to finish.  I had to know what was going to happen.  I won't say more because, well, spoilers, but this was a compelling read with some interesting takes on mental health.  I found the end somewhat realistic and also somewhat depressing.  Still, I recommend More Happy Than Not.  It was a good read.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (DNF)

Rebel of the Sands is a fine book.  Reading it would be a fine way to pass the time.  I, however, like to be excited about my books and want to read more than I want to do most anything else.  Because of this quirk of mine, I'm setting Rebel of the Sands away after reading about half.

Rebel of the Sands is about Amani who lives in the desert nation of Miraji, which seems to be a fantasy land that draws from both Arabian and old western themes.  She wants to escape her small town where her parents are dead, her aunt has taken her on, but hates her and she has only one friend.  What she's got going for her is that she is a superior marksman.  She meets a foreigner, tames and wild horse and takes off.

The thing I liked most about this book, I'll be honest, is the dedication which is to the author's parents and is awesome.  I also liked the concept.  I do like strong women.  But...

I didn't connect with Amani.  I found her witty banter to be...not my type of wit.  I kept getting caught in the odd mix of Arabian and old western.  The story just didn't flow for me.  Also, glancing through the remainder of the book I see that one of the loose ends from the beginning doesn't get solved, which is bothersome to me.  I also see that my early predictions about the foreigner come true (but, let's face it, that's not that unusual when you read a lot).

I can see why this book would work for some.  It doesn't for me.  Moving on.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I have to say that I'm not a big graphic novel fan.  Even The Invention of Hugo Cabret was too picture driven for me to really get into it.  However, every now and then I am intrigued enough to try a graphic novel and, occasionally, I even like it.  Drama is the only one I can think of off the top of my head that has fit into this category before.  Now Saga is another.

I liked Saga, which is the story of a couple who come from feuding races and have a child together.  From the moment their baby is born, they are on the run, as both races are after them and all planets (yes, it's SciFi) have chosen a side in the war.  We see the story from their points of view during which we also hear from the baby as a narrator from the future as well as the points of view of a couple of the folks who are after them. 

This is quite the adult graphic novel.  There is a lot of violence as well as some explicit sex.  Some of each of those categories made me squirm a bit.

I was captivated, though, and practically read Saga book one, which contains the first 18 issues, in a single sitting.  I did read it completely this afternoon.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

As I mentioned in my post about Where Things Come Back, I was looking for something fairly easy and fun to read after finishing Morning Star.  While Where Things Come Back didn't turn out to be that book, Anna and the French Kiss was. 

Anna is starting her senior year of high school in Paris.  While that sounds cool and all, it was not her choice.  It was her father's.  And she's not real happy about it.  She's attending an American school in Paris, so most classes are in English, but that's not to say that she doesn't need to learn French.  She is living in Paris, after all.  Having not done great in Spanish for the last few years, this is a challenge.  So is being in a whole new school where she is the single new student in her very small senior class.  There are new classes, new friends, and a new romantic interest (although there shouldn't be - he's taken).  We follow Anna through her year during which she has a fair bit of growth.  And, of course, an angsty bit of will we/won't we romance. 

While I'm not always a fan of the angst and that part was the part that I liked the least, I did really enjoy this book.  I found it extremely readable and, in fact, stayed up later than I should have two nights in a row reading because it just flowed so nicely for me.  I didn't love Anna from the start, but I could also tell I would like her by the end and I did.  I liked the process of learning to live in a different country, figuring out boarding school, trying to reconcile life before and after the move and Anna figuring out what type of friend she wanted to be. 

Overall I do recommend Anna and the French Kiss.  It was a fast, fun read but not without some depth.  I could have done with a little less angst in the romance department, but with a title like Anna and the French Kiss, I suppose that's to be expected.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis (DNF)

This was another book I tried to listen to.  I started it after Truthwitch expired on me.  I did not get very far.

The premise of the story, at least as far as I got with it, is that a 16 year old (or so) and her mom are living in a dystopian future where water, along with most resources, is scarce.  They kill to defend their water as a matter of course.

I was right there on the premise.  I like this sort of thing, but I couldn't stand the girl.  She seemed to argue with her mom just to argue.  Sometimes she argued points of view that didn't agree with each other.  When I found myself rolling my eyes at just the thought of listening to more, I gave up.

I'm happy to report that I'm happily listening to a book I'm, thus far, at least, enjoying.  So, the next two reviews should be more upbeat. 

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (DNF)

I was listening to Truthwitch.  I thought it was okay, but not great.  My library loan ran out before I finished it.  I didn't bother renewing it because I just didn't care that much.

Truthwitch follows three main characters.  Two are thread sisters (magical sisters due to one saving the other's life) and one becomes a love interest of one of the thread sisters.  One sister is nobility, one is from a nomadic group.  The love interest is prince of a poor kingdom.  There's magic.  Really, I was mildly entertained, but not, clearly, enthralled.

I was kind of annoyed by the romantic part.  It was so clearly a he/she annoys me and I don't know why situation that went on past believably.  There was a side story of the nomadic girl with her tribe that, I'm sure, will be explored more later, but seems rather superfluous when it happened.  There is a thing that happens with magic - cleaving - that we're supposed to be very scared of, but that wasn't defined enough for me to worry.

So, I'm sure this book is fine.  As I said, I was listening along, not hating it or anything, but don't care enough to finish it, much less move on with the series.

(I did mention at the outset of this blog that I'm really picky and don't finish everything I start.  You were forewarned.)

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (DNF)

I think I was not in the proper state of mind to enjoy this book.  I think it's possible I'd think it was a good read if I were.  However, I picked it up when I'd just finished Morning Star and was looking for something light and fun.  This isn't that.  It might develop into something feel good, but it starts with a teen boy identifying a body and the second chapter changes to a different person on mission in Ethiopia where we encounter yet more death.  While I'm sure these two story lines will converge, as happens in these sorts of books, I wasn't wanting to ride it out.  Also?  The guy on mission in Ethiopia?  I found him rather annoying.

So, yeah.  Not the book for me right now.  I moved on and found a much better fit for now.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

You probably know this, but Morning Star is the third book in the Red Rising Trilogy.  I read the first two in March, then put a hold on Morning Star at my library.  It came in on Saturday.  I finished up today, jumping Morning Star ahead of the pile of to be reads on my shelf.  Morning Star skipped the line for two reasons.  One is that there is a hold list and, therefore, someone else is anxiously awaiting their turn to read it, so I wanted to turn around quickly.  The other is that I just wanted to.

I found the Red Rising Trilogy to be engrossing.  It's like the young adult books of one person rising up from the downtrodden, hallmarked by The Hunger Games (one of my favorites) and similar books such as The Testing (well worth checking out), but is wholly its own thing.  It's an adult read due to grit (yes, it's much grittier than The Hunger Games), scope, and complexity.  I'd be lying if I said there weren't times I got a little lost and either went back to check what happened earlier or read on.  I wasn't unhappy about this, though.  I felt it made for a really interesting read where not every little thing was explained.  It required some thinking on the part of the reader.  Also, there are no easy answers.  I appreciated the nod to the fact that just because a population is downtrodden, that doesn't mean they are all automatically noble.  These were things I loved about this series.  And, clearly, given how it jumped to top of my to be read pile, I did love it.

There were some things that were tough, though.  There is a vast amount of violence and death, including people the reader will care about.  I've seen reviewers say things like, "Pierce Brown, what are you thinking?  You can only kill off so many people and still have us care."  I felt that a bit.  In many ways, though, these are the realities of war.  And, in that respect, it may be that there should have been even more deaths.  That would have been really hard, though, so I'm glad it didn't happen.  Still, though, the violence was rough at times.  It's not really a read for the sensitive.

In the end, I thought this was an excellent trilogy that just kept going with the strength of the first book, unlike many series which I often find weakens as they progress or, at least, have a book or two that isn't as good as the others.  All three are good reads here.  I will admit, though, that I'm looking for a light easy read next. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Ruined by Amy Tintera

Amy Tintera also wrote Reboot, which I didn't realize until I was partway through Ruined.  They are very different books.  Reboot is scifi/dystopian and Ruined is fantasy.  Still, though, I could definitely tell they were written by the same author.  I found them to be the same sort of readable.

Ruined is the story of Emelina and Casimir.  I just realized that although we know Emelina's last name, I don't remember ever learning Casimir's, which is a little odd.  Em is the oldest daughter of the queen of the Ruined, but is not in the line of succession due to not having inherited any Ruined powers.  Her parents have been killed and her sister Olivia, who is now queen, was kidnapped.  Em hatches a plan to save her, which involves impersonating the princess of another kingdom who is due to wed Casimir, the prince of Lera, the kingdom that took Olivia.  As one would expect with this set up, romance blooms between Em and Casimir despite the (epic) differences of their kingdoms.

I liked this book.  I enjoyed reading it.  I wouldn't say it's the best ever.  One reason would be that it was a bit predicable...but that doesn't always turn me off, so that's not all.  I also don't love when books end without really ending.  This is clearly book one of a series and the ending reflects that.  What I do like, though, is strong and independent Em, Em's friendship with Aren, the wit and humor that comes through in a fair amount of the dialogue and the growth of the characters (this last is also a down, as it's fairly predicable).  When I talk about the lacks of the book, it's not anything major.  I did like the book. 

I'll be passing Ruined onto Davan.  Also, reading it made me realize that I don't think I ever read Rebel, the sequel to Reboot.  I'll be checking it out, as well.