Saturday, June 10, 2017

Unearthly

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand has been sitting on my Kindle for many years. I bought it at a discount, and thought that maybe  I'd crack it open when I was in the mood for yet another paranormal romance. Even though there were thousands of positive reviews of it, even though it seemed like it would be a quick read, I couldn't bring myself to do it. I was burned out on paranormal romance (much like I am now burned out on dystopian). But when I was putting together this year's summer reading project, I really wanted to read those books which have been sitting on my shelves for a long time. So here we go!

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Clara Gardner is part angel, and that means she has a purpose in life. She just doesn't know what it is. All she knows is that one day soon there will be a boy standing in the woods as a forest fire bears down on them. So her family packs up their life and moves to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where she meets Christian, the boy from her vision. She is instantly drawn to him, but he has a girlfriend and doesn't seem to want to get closer to her. Clara is determined to save his life. In the process she makes friends, learns more about her angel heritage, and discovers that destiny isn't as easy as she thought.

I am honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. It is very readable, with each sentence flowing into the next one with few clunky bits. I enjoyed the presence of angels as the only paranormal entity in the world, with a fleshed out mythology that clearly has room to grow. To be honest, the first half of the book moves very slowly, setting up its cast and moving everyone into position. But the writing is strong enough to support the slow movement, and the last quarter of the book moves very quickly, revealing its twists in rapid fire. And, honestly, I only guessed half of them. I won't reveal more about what happens, because that would ruin the plot, but when I turned the last page I actually said out loud: "Wait, but what happens next?" So, suffice it to say, I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series, Hallowed.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Friday, June 9, 2017

Strange the Dreamer

Yay! This is the first review of one of the books from my Summer Reading Project for this year. And what a way to kick off the summer. Laini Taylor won my heart with her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. It was sharp, witty, heartbreaking, and had a fascinating world. So as soon as I found out she was writing a new series, I preordered it. How could I not, with a title like Stranger the Dreamer. I didn't even look at the description before ordering it. And there are very few authors I do that with (others include Marissa Meyer, Marie Lu, Leigh Bardugo, and Maggie Stiefvater). So it was a surprise when I discovered the title not to be some poetic allusion to a pretty line in the book, but rather a name and their title: Lazlo Strange, a man who dreams. Let's dive right in.

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Lazlo Strange remembers very clearly the name of a magical city was ripped from his mind to be replaced by one word--Weep. He becomes obsessed with the forgotten city, combing records of one of the best libraries in the world for mentions of the now-mythic city. He dreams of one day seeing Weep, and discovering what could possibly cause the name of a city to disappear from everyone's mind. He knows he'll have to search out his dream eventually. Until one day his dream turns up on his doorstep.

Oh, man, it was hard to write that description. You see, it barely scratches the surface of this beautiful world with its intricate characters and prose so pink it's nearly, but not quite, purple. You get lost in Taylor's sentences, they're so beautiful. Where the prose in The Girls dripped with over-wrought images, Taylor's sentences gleam. Lazlo is instantly compelling as an orphan of a pointless war who lives with his head in books. His nose is crooked from being broken, not because of some mysterious fight, but because a book of fairytales fell on it. It is so utterly charming. And when a representative of Weep comes to the library and declares that he's seeking the best in the lands to help solve a "problem" in his city, Lazlo signs on immediately. Not as an important person, but as someone who truly wants to experience the fabled city. He's not important in some grand way, like the other people that are recruited. He's important in little ways like banter and friendship and dreams. The other main character in this story is Sarai, a "resident" of Weep. I won't say anymore here, because I truly believe this is a story you have to discover on your own. It will take your breath away. The ending is beautiful and tragic and the main characters are romantics in the best possible ways. It's original and gorgeous and...nevermind all that, JUST GO BUY IT NOW.

Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
Up Next: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Girls

I don't often review adult fiction, but since this was one of the big books of last summer (and my roommate gave it to me before selling some of her books) I thought I'd give it a try. Sometimes I have a bit of a weird interest in the macabre, and I thought it would be interesting to see what would drive people to kill in the name of a cult.

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At the end of the 1960s, Evie Boyd is still figuring out who she is. Her parents are divorced and her mother is more interested in her new boyfriend than in raising her daughter. It's then that Evie sees a group of girls in a park who are carefree and everything she wishes she could be. Soon, she is in the thrall of Suzanne, who takes Evie to meet Russell, the leader of a group out on a farm. Evie starts spending all her time there, loving the atmosphere, not noticing how its souring.

It's very hard for me to write this review because I hate giving books bad ratings. Let's just say that if I'd read the Goodreads reviews before cracking this book open, I wouldn't have. The prose is so purple it broke my brain, and the story doesn't delve into what would make it interesting--the psychological ramifications of having been part of a cult, as well as what would drive people to commit horrific murders in the name of another person. Instead, it focuses on sex. Almost every page has references to sex in some way or another. Now, I have no issue with sex in books. Absolutely none. Back when I was an editor, I edited romance and erotica, and I've been known to open a Nora Roberts book on a plane ride. But the sex/sex acts/sexuality in this book was so omnipresent and superfluous that I found myself rolling my eyes whenever anything happened. Additionally, Evie doesn't even end up being part of the eventual murders. No, she's dropped off on the side of the road right before anything happens, which felt like a cop out, a way to not have to explain how someone innocent could be driven to murder. And I even could have gotten on board with that if the scenes in the present were not mind numbingly dull. They reveal almost nothing about the character, and nothing really happens in them. Overall, I would not recommend reading this book. And I'm really sorry about that because I feel like this could have been a great book.

Goodreads Rating: 2 Stars
Up Next: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Froi of the Exiles

The Lumatere Chronicles is a series that I don't remember how much I enjoy it until I'm reading it. For instance, it has been a long time since I read Finnikin of the Rock, and although I enjoyed it, I didn't pick up its sequel until this week. And...I couldn't tell you why. But here we are! I'm ensconced in a hotel room after eating reheated leftovers, and I'm putting off going to the gym. So before I heave myself out of the room to try being active, here's what I thought of Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta.

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It's been three years since the curse around Lumetere was broken. Froi has been elevated beyond his imaginings, but still he doesn't quite fit with the other Lumaterans. When he is picked for a dangerous undercover mission in the enemy country of Charyn, it's a chance to prove himself to those he cares about. But upon arriving in Charyn, he realizes that his mission isn't as straightforward as he believed, and that home can be found in unexpected places.

Wow, this book is sprawling. I was expecting the entire plot to be centered around Froi's mission to kill the king of Charyn and his mad daughter, Quintana. But instead what I got was a book about exiles. Each of the main characters is an outcast in their own way, and within their own borders. There's a curse which has left every woman barren and every man sterile, and Quintana has proclaimed that she alone can break the curse. But it hasn't been broken yet. Froi was a character I heartily disliked in Finnikin, but he became something more here. By the end, even though I still didn't feel like I knew him as well as I would have liked, I understood and respected him. His love for Quintana isn't rushed, and it isn't perfect. His relationships with the other main characters aren't perfect. And I think that's what made me like this book all the more. That, and the several moments where I laughed out loud. The banter could be excellent, and Quintana silently begging for a puppy struck a very deep chord in me. But I've forbidden myself from getting a dog for at least a couple more years. Overall, I very much enjoyed this book and look forward to reading Quintana of Charyn. If I can just make myself remember how much I enjoy this series, perhaps I'll read it within the next year.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: The Girls by Emma Cline

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Last Star

So, while this year's Summer Reading Project has already kicked off, I had a couple more reviews in the pipeline from two weeks of really intense reading. This summer is shaping up to be another SRP focused on finishing a bunch of series. So it's rather appropriate that this review is of the last book in the 5th Wave series by Rick Yancey.


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Planet Earth only has a few days left before the Others launch bombs to decimate its cities and send the human population back to the neolithic age. Cassie, Evan Walker, Ringer, Zombie, and Sam are all fighting for survival while Vosch searches for them--Ringer, because he made her in his image, and Walker because he overcame the 12th system that made him believe he was an alien. They may be humanity's last chance at survival, but first they must survive themselves.

Eh. I've had issues with this series from the start. But what pulled it all through was the tone that Yancey was able to convey. There was a layer of fear and mistrust over every interaction that made it really spooky. And that was mostly missing here. The only things that got a reaction out of me were the mentions of museums being destroyed and that no one would ever go to Disneyland again. But that's because I'm a huge history and Disney nerd. Other than that...this book fell flat for me. Cassie has some painfully awkward scenes with Walker that I think were supposed to sound sexy. The rest of the time she is whiny and rather slut shame-y. Walker is boring as hell. Zombie and Ringer are slightly better, but I wasn't really interested in where their stories were going. I found myself skimming the last 50 pages or so because I was so bored. And this is not a very long book. And the ending did not do anything for me. I was not afraid for any of the characters, and did not care if they lived or died. And when I don't care after three books, something is wrong.

Goodreads Rating: 2 Stars
Up Next: Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer Reading Project 2017

It's that time of year again! You know, that time of year where I pick a whole bunch of books and then read them over the course of the summer and then review them for you here. You know that drill. Now, this year is a special year because I'm changing up the dates. In the past, I would start these projects the day after school ended, and then finish up the day before classes began again. But now I'm officially, totally out of school (whoa, crazy thought). I work at a publishing house, which comes with a lot of cool perks. A lot of publishing houses have this thing called Summer Fridays, so I'm going to use those dates instead.

Now this summer has a lot of cool books in store. There's fantasy, romance, dystopian, sci-fi, and much much more. I'm really excited to review these books for you, and to make up for my dismal showing last year of only twelve books. I mean, yeesh, that was bad.

Now. On your marks, get set, READ!

Talking as Fast as I Can

When I was in high school, I spent my summers working with my aunt and uncle who owned a little shop. I stayed with them in their city a long way away from home. And it was fun and formative, and I got to know my relatives very well. They also introduced me to this little show called Gilmore Girls. I had never heard of it, never seen it. But I was instantly intrigued by the banter and the cheerfulness and the drama. I have since watched Gilmore Girls many, many times, binge-watched my way through the reboot, and have started watching Parenthood. So when a copy of Lauren Graham's memoir showed up at my desk courtesy of Young to Publishing, I was delighted. I have never been one for memoir, but after reading Yes Please, I thought it was worth a try. And I'm so glad I did. I won't include a description because you can guess what it's about.

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If you love Lauren Graham and want to hear more about her life, I definitely recommend listening to the audiobook of Talking as Fast as I Can. Graham narrates it herself and it's an experience that's not to be missed. She talks about her childhood, and how she got into acting. She reflects on the recent trend of using our hands to make a heart shape. She talks about dating and Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. It's everything you could ask for if you're a fan of her work. I wouldn't say there is anything really revelatory about this slim volume. It's entertaining to read about her experience watching Gilmore Girls so many years later and lamenting the hairstyles she went through. I teared up hearing about how emotional it was to film the reboot, and awwwed at the story of how she met and began dating her partner Peter Krause. This is a fun, quick read that will make you laugh and maybe (if you're a a hardcore Gilmore Girls fan like I am) make you tear up when Lauren can't find her jacket. Yes, I know that's a weird thing to tear up at but, trust me, it'll get you too.

Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
Up Next: The Last Star by Rick Yancey