Monday, October 31, 2016

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (DNF)

I picked up The Wonder because I'd read Room and was seriously drawn in by it.  However, I'm finding I don't want to read The Wonder.  I really, really dislike Lib, the narrator, and can't face a whole book where I have to be in her condescending, judgemental head.  I sort of suspect she might get better as the book progresses, but I don't want to push through to find out.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

Murder of Crows is a sequel to Written in Red, which I reviewed here.  I won't go into the plot, as it's a sequel and, if you want to read the first one, you might find some spoilers here.

I liked Murder of Crows even more than Written in Red, which I enjoyed.  I think, in large part, that was because the world building that I found a little painful in Written in Red was already done. We did get more here, but I felt like I already had my feet under me with Murder of Crows.

In both books, I found Anne Bishop's writing style just a little bit odd, which meant that I had to kind of get over the style at first before I was immersed in the book, but it didn't take too long.  The other minor-ish complaint that I have is with things being classified as "woman" things.  There is just so much of it.

However, I was fairly hooked on the story and enjoyed the read.  I think the Others are very interesting and I appreciate their take on the situation, even if I don't think I'd want to live in this world.  A little too much (one's life) depends on the actions other humans around there.

So, short story, I like this series and will be continuing.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

I started Every Heart a Doorway in Kindle form, again, while on the Massachusetts trip.  When I got back, I was really wanted a real book, so I picked something else up.  Yesterday, though, when browsing my self for the next book to read, I realized I had Every Heart a Doorway in physical book form, too.  So, I decided to finish it up.  It's a very slim novel, so I finished it off yesterday evening.

Every Heart a Doorway is about a group home/boarding school for kids whose parents think they're having trouble recovering from having been kidnapped or run away.  The school, though, and the kids know differently.  Each of them has returned from a different magical world.  Some opened trunks to find staircases.  Others found tiny doors they opened and were sucked through.  It's different for each, as is the exact nature of the world they find themselves in.  All of these kids have found themselves back in this world.  In this school, it's all kids who want to go back to their magical worlds.  The first half or so of the book is following new comer Nancy as she finds her way at the school.  Then, there is a murder.  The second half of the book is about solving the mystery of who done it and, you know, avoiding being murdered, as well.

I have some mixed feelings about this book.  I liked the idea.  I didn't so much like the feel of the first part of the book.  I found it a little frustrating to get glimpses into the worlds without enough information to understand them.  I suppose that's what was supposed to be happening, as it was what Nancy was going through.  But, we also only get these tiny incomplete glimpses into the world she'd gone to and she would know that world very well.  I also didn't feel drawn to any of the described worlds, so I wasn't hooked in that way.

Once the first murder happened, I felt like things firmed up.  Now as we got glimpses into the world, they were anchored by the plot.  They came up as they applied to what was happening and I liked discovering the worlds much better that way.  I wish we'd gotten to that part sooner, but, on the flip side, we also heard about the dark worlds more, which gave it a horror feel.  I'm not always a big horror fan. 

I also felt like the worlds and characters weren't fully developed, which is why we only got those glimpses.  I felt a bit like that was why we only got the glimpses.  And one particular thing bothered me.  Jack says at one point that she'd once pulled out a man's lungs while he was still alive and trying to talk, but then later says that she never killed live people.  That was an indication of the sort of thing that I didn't so much like about this book.

I did find it kind of interesting, though.  I would like to see a book something like this that was a little more logic oriented, to use terminology from the book.  If it were longer so the main characters and their worlds were more fleshed out and with a feel that was less floating through barely ever getting an understanding of anything, I'd totally read that book.

Oh - I almost forgot to mention one of the things I did like a lot about this book.  I liked the range of gender identity/sexual preferences presented and the way that was handled.

So, in sum, it was okay. Things I liked, things I didn't.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Legend by Marie Lu

I started listening to Legend on my way home from my hospital support trip to Massachusetts.  I got most of the way through it between my two flights, but I didn't get around to finishing it until today.  Why?  Well, although I liked it, I wasn't just dying to finish it and I was dying to catch up on my podcasts.  I didn't do any podcasts on my trip, so I had a back log to deal with.  I finally got caught up today and, also today, got back to and finished Legend.  I had a fair amount of listening time today thanks to a run, housework and a good amount of time spent in the kitchen.  So, anyway, back to the story.

Legend is a dystopian set in future LA.  We follow Day and June.  Day is the republic's most wanted criminal.  June is its most promising young recruit/student (kind of the same in this world).  Their paths, of course, cross.  June's older brother and only living relative is killed ostensibly by Day.  June is given the task of tracking down her brother's killer.

So, there are some flaws in this book.  I wasn't really feeling it on the romance, at least as strong as it was by the end.  I did understand the beginnings of romance, but not the devotion indicated.  It's odd to me that Day has both incredible dexterity and a limp.  I might have missed something because I did drift off to sleep a couple of times for about ten minutes each time while listening on the plane (I was so very tired - I usually don't sleep on planes at all), but I wondered where Tess got her amazing medical skills.  I didn't always get the Republic's motivation for doing some of the things they did.  I felt that wasn't super well explained.

All that said, I liked it more than not.  I love kick-ass females and June definitely fit that role.  Day's devotion to his family and his "adoption" of Tess endeared me to him.  I am a fan of the dystopian and people rising up to take down the corrupt system.  The narration was clear and well paced.

This was a fun and enjoyable read (listen) and I'll be picking up the next in the series.

Travels with Casey by Benoit Denizet-Lewis (DNF)

Travels with Casey has been sitting on my to be read pile for months now, which is particularly embarrassing as it's a library book, as the vast majority of books I read are.  It just kept renewing and I just kept finding other books to pick up.  I got it originally because I like a good dog tail, but it just wasn't calling to me.  Last night I decided I'd better get to work on it and get it back to the library.  I didn't get far before sleep last night, but I have spent a good amount of time on it today in between going for a run, spending some quality time in the kitchen preparing food and a little general housework.  I made it about half way through.

Travels with Casey is a non-fiction account of his and his human's journey around the US in an RV.  The subtitle is "My Journey Through Our Dog-Crazy Country."  Benoit and Casey visit many dog owners and other folks and places who are dog related (the oldest dog park in Manhattan, PETA). 

Ultimately, this book just didn't click for me.  It wasn't bad per say, but I didn't get a strong feel for Casey and I felt like the narrative flow didn't so much flow as jump from thing to thing.  Out of nowhere, seemingly, we were getting tweets from a dog related twitter account.  There was an attempt at transitioning, but it, like many other times, felt a little forced to me.  It seemed to me that Benoit just tried to take on too much with this book:  his physical journey, his emotional journey, various sometimes very loosely related dog anecdotes.  It just ended up feeling kind of cluttered.

I wouldn't discourage you from reading Travels with Casey.  It is probably a good fit for some and I certainly didn't hate it, I just am not into enough to keep going when there are other books calling for my attention.

Armada by Ernest Cline

I loved Ready Player One, so I was keen to read Armada.  Unfortunately, I only thought it was okay. 

Armada is unrelated to Ready Player One.  Well, there are similarities:  gamers and 80's pop culture are prevalent in both.  However, in Armada, we start in the now whereas Ready Player One is in the future.  Zack, our main character, is 18 and a big gamer.  Other than that, he's not sure what he wants out of life.  One day, he sees a ship from his favorite game, Armada, in which he's ranked number 6 world-wide, in the sky in real life.  At first, he thinks maybe he's going crazy.  After all, he's found some evidence that his deceased father was kind of crazy.  Maybe it's genetic.  But, then, the next day, he's picked up by a friendly ship and taken off to battle for the future of the earth. 

I more or less liked Armada, but I found more faults with it.  Many of the possible plot holes are pointed out and addressed in the book, but the basic premise of a vast conspiracy in which we, earthlings, are united against a common enemy, have been for decades and are technologically much more advanced than we seem to be was an issue for me.  It's simply unbelievable.  I was more or less willing to set that aside for the story, but it niggled at me.

I also got very frustrated with Zack who has an anger issue and made some really stupid choices when he let his temper get away from him.  Of course, having faults makes characters more real, but it didn't endear me to Zack or the story.

I found my attention wandering more while reading Armada than while reading Ready Player One.  I'm not totally sure why that was except I think maybe there was more information dumping about things I didn't really care about.  Whatever it was, I often found myself reading something without being quite sure how we got there and having to go back and re-read the last page.  To have that happen as many times as it did with Armada is unusual for me. 

It seems likely, given the ending, that there will be a sequel.  I am willing to give that a shot.  I think that we've got the universe built now and can move on and I'm willing to gamble that I'll enjoy that.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (DNF)

I wanted to like Nevernight.  I'd heard lots of good things.  Assassin school.  Black shadow cat.  Some book tubers I follow were saying it was a new favorite book.  But, alas, it was not for me.  I get really bothered by overly lyrical styles of writing.  Give me straight forward prose any day.  Nevernight is very lyrical.  If that's your thing, along with being a fan of fantasy, this is probably the book for you.

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

When I was in high school, in chemistry, no less, I sat at a desk in the back corner of the room abutting a chalkboard.  One day, bored, I wrote "Hi!" on the chalkboard.  The next day, there was a return greeting.  My mystery chalkboard pal and I advanced to some other greetings.  After just a week or so, though, I discovered that I was communicating with my best friend who sat in the same seat in her chemistry class during a different period.  She was a little bummed because she thought she'd been making a new friend, but I was sort of delighted.  We progressed to leaving notes for each other in the chalk bin.  Once I thoughtlessly wrote the name of her crush on our note.  The next day, the note was there with a strongly worded admonishment to "Never use names here!  Anyone could read this!"  We kept it up all year.  Anyway, with this sort of backstory (not to mention some Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda love), I was fairly excited to pick up P.S. I Like You.

This book is about Lily who, in chemistry, writes part of the lyrics of her favorite song on her desk.  When she goes back to class, more lyrics have been filled in.  Thus starts an in-depth pen pal-ship where romantic feelings also grow.  Lily also juggles her large, boisterous family, a best friend, an ambition to become a song writer and a mortal enemy who is a fellow student.

My high expectations were not met by P.S. I Like You.  Though it was fun in parts, for example, I did enjoy Lily's sense of humor, I found it to be really predictable and formulaic which was bothersome.  I absolutely knew who the pen pal was going to turn out to be and was extremely annoyed at the way it was set up at the beginning.  While, as I say, I did mostly enjoy Lily's sense of humor, she also sort of bugged me.  I thought she made some odd choices at times.  And, even though she calls herself weird constantly, I didn't think she was that weird.

All-in-all, while P.S. I Like You was mildly amusing, I wouldn't really recommend it.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Dark Horses by Cecily von Ziegesar

Dark Horses is the story of Red, a horse, and Merritt, a teenage girl.  Both are in the midst of big issues.  Red messes up his first ever race, causing the death of another horse and injury to himself.  Merritt has been sinking progressively lower since the death of her beloved grandmother and her horse which culminates with walking out of the SAT and going on a drug and alcohol bender that lands her in Good Fences, an equestrian based recovery program where Red has also found himself.  The two bond and end up competing together.  It's not all smooth sailing from there, though.

I started off liking Dark Horses quite a bit.  I like von Ziegesar's writing style.  I'm a fan of straightforward narration rather than the overly lyrical, which I was mostly what happened.  (Red's narration had a bit of the lyrical to it at times.)  I felt engaged and was looking forward to Merritt and Red finding each other.  I kind of liked hearing from both Merritt and Red.

However...I ended up not caring that much for Dark Horses in the end.  It would be spoilery to say exactly why, but I will say that I felt there was too much tragedy for one book.  I just stopped caring.  I also didn't like the development of the romantic relationship.  It didn't make sense to me and just tossed aside what seemed to be an interesting issue.  I also can't go into details about that without spoilers.  Additionally, I thought Merritt and Carvin (a fellow rider) were idiots for not seeing what was coming at the end.  Also, I liked Red's perspective less and less because it seemed increasingly not horsey which culminated, for me, in Red thinking something about texting.  I mean, really?

So...promising start that didn't pan out for me.  I wouldn't give up on von Ziegesar (I might try one of her other books, not having read Gossip Girl), but I just didn't like the whole package very much.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

I found Everything I Never Told You depressing.  That said, I did read the whole thing, so I guess I also found it somewhat compelling.  I'm not very shy about leaving books unread.

The story starts with the death of Lydia.  Lydia is the favorite of three children of James, a second generation Japanese American, and Marilyn, who had a thwarted dream of being a doctor.  Lydia is the middle child and a teen at the time of her death in the 1970s.  From there, we journey both in the past and the present as we find out what brought this family to this point and what happens from there.

There were things I found somewhat moving about this book.  The experiences of the parents and children as being part of this mixed family in a time when that was not common.  The mother's struggle with being a woman in the 1950s who wants a serious career in science but is sidetracked by motherhood.  The way Lydia and her brother band together.

Mostly, though, I was annoyed by these people.  I found them all to be whiny and, seemingly, accepting of being miserable.  Hannah, the youngest child, is a little different.  She's oddly resigned to her lot in life as the ignored youngest child, but doesn't seem to be all that whiny about it.

There is supposed to be some mystery about what happened the night Lydia died, but it seems pretty straight forward to me from early on.  We do build to a reveal of sorts and I didn't have the exact specifics of the reveal figured out, but I definitely had the idea of the thing.

I do realize the book is called Everything I Never Told You, so the fact that no one talks to anyone shouldn't come as a surprise.  But I was so annoyed by how much went wrong because of this that I was just frustrated.  The mother makes a choice that boggled my mind.  It could have been so different if she'd just talked about what she wanted to do.  And then how the father reacts to that choice...and on and on.  It just all left me shaking my head.

I didn't like Everything I Never Told You, but I did finish it.  So, there's that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

I listened to A Study in Charlotte mostly while driving around western Massachusetts while supporting Davan in the hospital last week, at least on the parts of the driving where I didn't have passengers while shuttling them back and forth to visit her.  I liked it pretty well.

A Study in Charlotte is a twist on Sherlock Holmes.  Charlotte is a Holmes, a descendant of Sherlock.  We, however, see the story through the eyes of Watson, a descendant of, you guessed it, Watson.  Both are teens at boarding school in the US but haven't actually met prior to Watson receiving an unwanted rugby scholarship to said school, although they are very aware of each other.  Watson has romanticized Charlotte his whole life, envisioning the two of them solving mysteries in the style of their ancestors.  So, meeting her is the one plus to his otherwise unpleasant, to say the least, new situation.  Charlotte is, at first, not so excited about getting to know Watson.  Charlotte is, in fact, like a traditional Holmes in the sense that she is brilliant, tortured, self centered and, additionally, has a drug problem.  When a student they both have reason to hate is murdered, off they go.

I liked our James Watson.  I found Charlotte to be intriguing.  I was rather bothered by the whole drug use thing.  She has gotten help for it before, but it continues to be a problem that isn't dealt with very well.  I mean, these two are just teens and there isn't really anyone to step in and really help Charlotte, so it's probably kind of realistic in that sense.  The plot line was okay.  The mystery was interesting enough for me.  There were times that I was annoyed with Watson, where something he was torturing himself over seemed to go on too long, but mostly I was with him in his narration.

I did like the book.  It's not a favorite, but it was a pretty decent read and mostly kept my attention even while I had lots and lots of other stuff going clamoring for attention in my brain.

Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard (DNF but you might want to read it anyway)

Perhaps part of the reason I didn't finish this book is because I was reading during a challenging week for me.  I was in Massachusetts to support Davan while she was undergoing a five day videoed EEG.  The mere words do not describe the unpleasantness of this event.  Davan had to stay on or immediately next to her hospital bed for 5 days at all times unless she was in the bathroom and even that had to be done under supervision because she was a "falling risk" due to the fact that when she has the events that precipitated the EEG, she will often fall down if she tries to walk.  Additionally, she had leads glued to her head and connected to her torso.  Because she didn't have an event, they decided to sleep deprive her to try to stress her into one.  One night, then, she wasn't allowed to sleep all night.  She hated the hospital food (which was not well planned for a vegan and were child oriented due to being in the children's ward, but I thought some of it was okay).  I spent the 5 days driving back and forth between her campus where I was bunking with her roommate (also her good friend and a guest of ours this summer, so she was okay with this) and driving friends that don't drive back and forth to visit as well as finding food she wanted to eat.  I stayed up with her most of her sleep deprivation night and was only able to nap for about an hour the next day.  When I wasn't doing all the driving back and forth, I was playing games, watching Call the Midwife or going for a stroll to stretch my legs to relieve the stiffness of so many hours sitting in one small room.  Now, none of this is anything on what poor Davan was enduring, but it was my week.  A week during which I was rarely able to settle down to read even when I did have the time.  If I'd had a book I was really involved in, I might have been able to, but I wasn't able to get into anything I felt ambivalent about.  I spent my spare time, such as it was, checking out Instagram, watching videos on You Tube or, maybe, sometimes, reading a bit. 

Thus, I was maybe not in the best space for reading Girl Mans Up.  However, it's also true that I just didn't love it.  I read about half of the book, which I had on my Kindle app, before the loan was up and I lost it.  I don't think I'll get it again.

Pen is a baby butch in a traditional Portuguese family who really wants her to do traditionally female things.  She has two friends, both guys, one of whom, Colby, is the leader in their little trio and is, also, a dick who requires Pen to be his wing man in order to get girls to go off with him.  There is a fourth new comer to their group who constantly makes unsavory comments about Pen.  Pen, in the part I read, seems to be fine with being a girl, but she also wants to be someone's boyfriend.  The book is about her finding her way in her family, with her friends, and with a romantic interest.

I loved the concept of this book, which is why I picked it up.  I, though, didn't like most of the people in the book.  Pen was okay.  I loathed Colby.  The only one I sort of liked was Pen's love interest and we didn't see much of her in the half of the book I read.  I suspect I'd have liked the second half of the book better, as Pen is starting to come into her own, but I'm not into it enough to go through the motions of getting the book again and trying.

Another thing I didn't like was that many of the conversations seemed to be contrived just so the issue discussed would be in the book and not for purposes of plot or character development.  I was annoyed that those conversations were in there.  If it doesn't serve a purpose, let it go.  If not, the book is a vehicle for a message, which I dislike, and not about the story and the characters.  That said, there are books I love that probably do that and I forgive them.  This one just didn't do it for me.

So, I am not a big fan of Girl Mans Up.  I do, though, think that the character and story are great ideas.  I love that it's was done.

P.S. - Davan didn't have an event while in the hospital, which is a big bummer.  She had one the Thursday before the Monday through Friday test and another the Sunday after.  Bad timing.  In good news, it also means that her events are becoming much less frequent even under stress.  From around November through April, she was having on average one a day or even more in February/March/April.  At this point, we're just hoping they continue to space out or go away all together and we don't have to worry about the what or whys.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

I'm home from my back east travels and will be getting back into the swing of things with reading and reviewing, I'm sure.  While there, I didn't do much reading or listening, but I did do some.  I had a DNF, which I'll talk about in another post, I finished listening to two books (one of which I've already reviewed and the other which I will review soon) and I started a hugely long book that I think I probably will finish but am not feeling the pull to read right now.  I don't always get a lot of reading in on planes because I have a tendency to get motion sick on plains.  My flights today, though, were pretty smooth and I was able to finish Spontaneous.

Spontaneous is the story of a class of high school seniors who start spontaneously combusting.  We get the story from Mara's point of view.  Mara is clever, sarcastic, has a dark sense of humor and is a little bit of a dabbler in the arts of partying.  When people start exploding, theories abound, a romance blossoms and the students each cope in their own ways.

I didn't like Mara as much as I wanted to.  I didn't find her laugh out loud funny, but I did find her entertaining.  I'd been told this book was extremely hilarious but I didn't find that it was for me.  I thought the idea was interesting, but I sort of thought that Aaron tried to cover too much in one short book with things ranging from conspiracy theories to science to friendship to love and lust.  I think it would have been improved with a little pruning and more focus on fewer ideas.

I did find Spontaneous to be pretty readable and I mostly enjoyed it, but I didn't think it was great.  Also, I thought it was an enjoyable romp for being about people exploding, but not really funny per say.  So, take from that what you will.

I'm off to tutor math on four hours of sleep after a week and a half of already accruing a substantial sleep deficit.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Girl in 6E by Alessandra Torre

I heard about The Girl in 6E on Padfoot and Prongs07's book blog and opted to give it a try.  I thought it was a good read (or listen, as I did do the audio book version) if also rather shocking, but it's definitely not for everyone.  Read on for why.

The reader finds out early in the book that Deanna is a recluse, that it's by choice because she has impulses to kill and that she makes her living by doing on line video sex chats.  Because of these aspects of Deanna, there is some graphic description of violent murder and lots of sexual description.  Deanna has crafted her life to keep people safe from her.  How she does all this is part of the story and I'll let you discover it as you read, if you do.  She becomes aware that there is a little girl who could be in danger.  The story is Deanna's, but how it intersects with this little girls is a large part of this story.

I found this to be a very compelling read.  It helped me get through a rough second flight on the way to visit Davan.  I just sat, trying not to feel nauseated, with my eyes closed and listened. 

This is quite likely my only review this week.  I came to be with Davan while she is undergoing a 5 day hospital stay for testing (while there is obviously a reason for the testing, she's more or less okay).  I thought I'd have a lot of reading time, but it's turned out to be the case that I haven't.  My days are filled with running out for desired food, driving friends back and forth from campus, games, Netflix and the like.  Today is a little quieter with Davan working on homework, so I'm catching up on emails, blogging and then will get in a bit of reading.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Falconer by Elizabeth May (DNF)

This book is fine.  It just also didn't speak to me, so I gave it up after the first 80 pages.

You by Caroline Kepnes (DNF)

I'd picked this book up because a lot of people seemed to find it intriguing.  I've seen many a booktuber say that they liked Joe at the beginning and were kind of rooting for him, but then he turned really dark.  I didn't like Joe.  He seemed like a creepy stalker from the start.  I also didn't much care for the bit of Beck I saw before I gave it up. 

For those who don't know, this is a stalker novel about Joe stalking Beck, a woman who walks into the bookstore where he works one day.  I don't know much more than that because I stopped so shortly into the book.  It was just too much creep for me. 

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

I came across this book in the Lucky Day section of my library last week and picked it up because I recognized Felicia Day from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.  That puts me a little in the nerd category, but only a tiny bit, really, as Felicia (known to some as "queen of the geeks") has a lot more going on that I was only vaguely aware of.  Even with my small bit of name/face recognition, though, I really, really liked her book.  I started it prior to finishing Vampire Academy because I felt a bit embarrassed about reading Vampire Academy in front of high schoolers.  You see, I tutor math at my local high school on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.  I always take a book because sometimes I'm busy the whole time I'm there, sometimes no one comes to me for help and most of the time it's somewhere in between.  I read in my off times.  On Tuesday, I had no one for the entire two hours, so I got a fair way through You're Never Weird on the Internet, which is a fairly slim novel.

This is Felicia's memoir.  She was a homeschooled kid, went to college as a 16 year old, majoring in both math and violin and, upon graduating, went to Hollywood to try to make it as an actor.  Along the way, she was a gamer (very early adopter), found social connections online, made her own web show and became, as I mentioned above, "queen of the geeks."

I hadn't known that Felicia was homeschooled (for hippy reasons, not religious reasons), but that was another draw for me, as Davan was also homeschooled (for hippy reasons, not religious reasons).  What I loved about the book, though, was the sense of humor and quirkiness that came across throughout the book, even when it was seriously dark humor.  Felicia was honest and fun, even when times were the worst for her. 

I'm not a super user of the internet, so, at first, some of the picture memes didn't really speak to me and I thought they'd be a distraction, but I ended up even loving them.  It's a little disturbing to admit, but the one of her dog asking not to be murdered has been making me chuckle ever sense I got to it yesterday evening.  It just goes to show that Felicia can make anything funny.  (Spoiler:  The dog is fine.)

I really enjoyed You're Never Weird on the Internet.  It had me laughing out loud multiple times.  And this all with only a vague knowledge of who she was when I went into it.  So, yeah, check it out.

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

I got Finding Audrey after seeing it on a book vloggers top ten funny books list.  I was needing an audio book and so got it in that format.  While I'm not sure I'd put it on my top ten funny books list, I'm really glad I did pick it up because it was quite good.

Our point of view is Audrey's.  Something happened to her at school.  Prior to the something, she was already kind of shy and anxious.  After the something, she has a breakdown and is a couple of months into her recovery period at the time of our story.  Because her life mostly revolves around her family and her therapist, so does our book.  While Audrey is having a very difficult time of it and her family dynamic has changed in part due to that, it seems from the start, that the bigger issue is her brother, Frank.  Their mother becomes convinced that Frank is addicted to video games and a huge bru-ha-ha ensues.  Meanwhile, Frank's friend, Linus, who comes over to play video games with Frank, develops an interest in Audrey which is reciprocated.

I really liked this book.  I thought Sophie Kinsella did a good job of showing a confluence of events (time, therapy, meds, developing of an interest in someone outside the home, a supportive (if sort of crazy) family) all contributed to Audrey's not straight forward recovery.  There was a lot of humor.  And I saw a little of myself in their mother.  I hope, though, that I'm not as crazy as she is.  But, I do tend to go on these, "We are all addicted to screens," or "What are we eating?!?!" bents.  The mom (and, okay, me, too) clearly has anxiety issues, as well.  That doesn't mean I liked her character best.  If anything, she made me a little uneasy, but I did relate.

I've seen some criticisms that center around this not being a realistic portrayal of social anxiety, but that being an issue that we deal with here in my house, I thought it was pretty okay.  I do know that these sorts of books don't hit everyone the same way and I respect that.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion.  The other critic was the instalove between Audrey and Linus.  I can see that and did feel it was a little bit of an issue myself, but I also think it's not all that uncommon for the age.  Crushes hit quick.  Sometimes they develop into something more and sometimes not.

I really liked Finding Audrey and I will be checking out more of Sophie Kinsella's books.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

I missed Vampire Academy when it first came out in 2009.  While I had read Twilight, I generally decided to take a pass on the whole vampire thing.  (Oh!  Major exception - Fledgling by Octavia Butter.  So good.)  Recently, though, I've seen a couple different book vloggers comment favorably on Vampire Academy.  So, I decided to give it a go.  After I'd gotten the book and before I'd gotten around to reading it, I came across Vampire Academy the movie at the library.  I'd not noticed the movie when it came out, either.  Without knowing anything else about it, I picked it up and Anthony, Franziska and I watched it Friday evening.

So, first, about the movie.  I later saw that it had horrible reviews with a Rotten Tomato rating of 13%.  Now, I'm usually quite picky about movies, so you'd think I'd have hated it.  But, I didn't.  I mean, it wasn't awesome or anything, but it was entertaining and humorous.  Anthony and Franziska thought the same.  So...why all the hate?  It wasn't that bad.  Anyway.

The next day I watched a video from a book blogger that mentioned that the movie had been a flop, but people should still read the books because they were good.  Funny.  For a book I hadn't even really known existed, suddenly I was seeing it everywhere.  Anyway, I decided to read it next.

The story.  Well, as I'm the last to this party, it seems, probably most people already know.  A brief summary of the world, though:  We enter the world through the first person narrative of Rose who is a Dhampir.  Dhampirs are hybrid human/Morois.  Morois are, indeed, vampires, but not bad ones.  There are bad ones, the Strigoi who are Morois who've killed a person by drinking them to death.  They are evil and the stereotypical vampire.  Dhampirs aren't vampires at all, but are stronger than humans and act as protectors to the Moroi.  Strigoi particularly like to prey on Moroi.  Dhampirs and Moroi attend school together.  The Vampire Academy.  Rose is not officially a guardian yet, but her best friend is Lissa, a Morois.  They have a bond and Rose is all about protecting Lissa to the extent that when the Academy itself becomes a threat to Lissa, Rose and Lissa run away and manage to stay away for a couple of years.  We join the story just as they're brought back to the Academy.

I found it to be a decent read.  I wouldn't necessarily tell anyone, "You have to read this book!" However, I did like it well enough.  I'm not on pins and needles wanting to read the next one, but I probably will eventually.  The book grew on me the more I read it, so I'm more inclined toward reading the sequel than I was about half way through.  So, not exactly a ringing endorsement, but this is a fine book. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

On Dublin Street by Samantha Young

I think I must have known this book was a romance when I first put a hold on it, but when I actually downloaded it and started listening, I was fairly convinced it was a thriller.  It didn't take me long to realize that it is, indeed, a romance, as that was blatantly obvious from the first page.  I have mixed feelings about romances in general.  If they're good, I can get pretty into them.  I think many are not, though.  And On Dublin Street...well, if you don't like romances, don't read it.  This isn't the one to win you over.  It seems to be very popular with romance readers in general.  I...well, I finished it, which is as good as I can say, I think.

On Dublin Street is Joss and Braden's story, told in first person from Joss's point of view.  Joss has been living in Scotland since fleeing the US after high school, desperate to get away from memories of her family who died when she was 14 and from her choices after their deaths.  She has just finished college studies and, because of that, her college roommate who has moved to London for a job.  So, she sets out to find herself a new roommate and new flat to live in.  In the process, she meets new people who start challenging her choice to remain emotionally disconnected.

At first, I kind of liked Joss.  Later, I thought she was making stupid choices for reasons I didn't really understand.  That is the Joss that has mostly stuck with me.  And is, I think, a general problem with romance as a genre:  the stupid choice method of moving the plot along.  Braden is overbearing and absolutely ignores boundaries.  I think that's a dangerous type to put forward as a romantic lead.  Come on, ladies, assholes aren't hot.  It's not that he doesn't have any redeeming qualities, but this aspect of him bugged the hell out of me.

I don't really recommend On Dublin Street, but I did finish it, so it wasn't unbearable.  That's about as good as I can say.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds is a dystopian novel where an illness strikes kids as they are entering puberty.  Either the kids die or they survive, but with abilities.  The abilities range from relatively benign (knowing what is on a card facing away) to dangerous (mind control and fire starting, for example).  The disease strikes mostly in the US with some more isolated outbreaks elsewhere.  The US government, scared by the powers, intern the survivors in what they call rehabilitation camps, but which are really more like concentration camps where, eventually, the more dangerous kids are taken away never to be seen again.

Ruby was 10 when she got sick and accidentally erased herself from her parents' memories, resulting in internment.  She convinces the doctor doing her intake that she is a relatively safe green and spends the next 6 years at camp hiding the fact that she's really a mind reader/controller (orange).  She's broken out of her camp by the Children's League, a group that is working against the government ostensibly in favor of the children.  However, she doesn't trust them and escapes from them in the company of three escapees from another camp.

I was very intrigued at the beginning of The Darkest Minds.  The story, the situations, Ruby, the other kids - I found them all intriguing.  By the end, I wasn't as enraptured.  Eventually, I felt the story line just didn't move in that interesting a direction. There was a whole section toward the end that just felt bogged down and then I wasn't happy with the ending, where some new things were introduced just to be addressed in a future book.  There were other elements that will naturally lead to other books, so a couple of the new things bothered me.  It felt a little forced overall in the last quarter or so of the book. I really liked it up until there, though.

I'm sure there will be a sequel.  I'm not sure if I'll read it.  All-in-all, I'm left feeling a little ambivalent about The Darkest Minds.