Books I've Read

Book Review: Crown of Midnight

Crown of MidnightTitleCrown of Midnight

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Genre: YA Fantasy

SeriesThrone of Glass #2

Edition: Kindle e-book

Blurb: “A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend.”

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

Review: Slight spoilers for book one, because it’s hard to avoid them at this point.

I love when reading the first book of the series and thinking that the story showed promise, and then reading the second book and being extremely satisfied. This was a great book two! It followed up on the events of book one (particularly the tournament in which Celaena becomes the King’s Champion) and added whole new levels of excitement and intrigue.

Celaena is such a great heroine. She is feisty, doesn’t take crap from anyone, but is still deeply, deeply flawed. And she knows it. The final reveal at the end of the book was not necessarily a surprise (I had my suspicions), but it was still so satisfying to see the evil powers confronted the way that they were. I won’t say more, or else I’ll really spoil things. It was a great finale for the second book, but things are definitely not tied up neatly. So much is happening, threatening Celaena’s relationships/friendships with both Dorian and Chaol, and testing Chaol’s loyalty and Dorian’s sanity.

And yes, there is a love triangle a bit, which can sometimes annoy me, but this one was done nicely. It didn’t bother me.

This book was hard to put down. I had to know the next steps. Has Celaena turned loyal to the king? Or is she playing her own game? What is going on with the magic in Adarlan? Who are these rebels? All things we need to know!

GoodReads rating: 4 stars

Books I've Read

Revisiting Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I didn’t post a WWW yesterday because I have A). been stressed, B). been going through some personal issues, which has led to, C). the beginnings of a reading slump, which means that, D). there are no changes to what I am reading at the moment. Working through it though, as much as I can.

Sorcerer's StoneThis is not a review in the traditional sense. Most of my reviews rely heavily on what my first impressions are. With a book series like Harry Potter, which has been in my life for a long time and has impacted my life in many significant ways, there is no way that I can be impartial about reviewing them. I logically know that they are not perfect works, that there are plenty of flaws that people love to pick apart, but I will always revere these books and what they did, not just for me, but for their impact culturally towards the way we see fandom and how they invigorated the book world as a whole.

I was one of those readers who saw the movie first. I had seen all kinds of advertisements and interviews and hype for the film, but I didn’t really know much about it. I had heard the name, but wrote it off as just some kids book – probably good, if it was getting this much attention, but nothing I would probably pick up and read. My then-husband and I went to the theater to see another movie (I don’t even remember what it was now), but it was sold out. A showing of Sorcerer’s Stone was getting ready to start and still had seats, so we went ahead and purchased tickets, figuring that it was probably just a silly kiddie flick, but at least it would be fun.

Afterwards, we immediately left for the Barnes & Noble down the street and bought a copy of the book. We agreed that I would read it first, because I am a much faster reader than he is. It took me less than a day. I almost read it in one sitting. I was completely transported into the story and the world. I loved the characters, even more than I did in the movie. It was, in many ways, a truly magical experience (pun intended).

Discovering Harry Potter also happened during a time in my life when I desperately needed something to make me happy. The movie came out in November 2001. 2001 was a shitty year. We were all still coping with the after effects of 9/11, but for me, hating 2001 is personal. I had lost my father in February 2001 (hence some of the personal issues I mentioned – this is a rough time of year). Still reeling from that, I allowed myself to get completely lost in the Wizarding world. It was my escape from dealing with the emotions I couldn’t handle (The Lord of the Rings films also helped in a similar fashion, as Fellowship came out that December). Part of me connects both of these franchises to my dad, both because of the time they first came out, and also because I think he would have absolutely LOVED them.

Hence why it is hard for me to be impartial to Harry Potter.

So is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone a silly kids’ book? In some ways, yes.

Is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone way more than just a silly kids’ book? Also yes. It’s so much more than that, to me, and always will be. It helped me find joy at a time where joy was hard to come by and kick-started my reading again, which had gone stagnant. For both of those things, I will always be grateful.

Books I've Read

Book Review: Throne of Glass

throne of glassTitle: Throne of Glass

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Throne of Glass #1

Edition: Ebook

Blurb: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her … but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead … quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Review: I picked up this book after being emphatically told that I must read this series by my very dear friend and former podcast co-host, Jess. Actually, what she said was more along the lines of, “I need you to read these books right now because I really really really need to talk to someone about them before I lose my mind!!!” She has done this to me before, and usually, she recommends good stuff. Our reading tastes are very similar, which is why we get along. I also noticed that, back in 2016, I had read this book and gave it a 4 star review on GoodReads, but never read the rest of the series. This makes it eligible for my “Complete the Series” challenge, an added bonus.

I have to say, I read this book very quickly. I was immediately pulled into this world and these characters. Maas is very good at making the story seem simple at first, but leaving little hints of the depth of the world behind it all. It is very easy to be captivated by Celaena’s story and struggles to win the competition, but it is also very clear that there are deeper mysteries that she will need to contend with.

I really liked Celaena as a character. She is feisty, sarcastic, and does not take any crap. While the love triangle thing is played to death, especially in YA, I also really like the two men who in her orbit. Dorian is the son of a terrible, cruel king, but Dorian does not want to be like his father. He is kind and compassionate and will hopefully survive to become a benevolent ruler. Chaol is the captain of the guard, keeping his feelings close to his chest, but you can also tell that his grudging respect for Celaena will grow into something more.

The plot and pacing of the story was good, very exciting. The competition aspect was good, but adding the whole intrigue layer with champions being attacked and killed just upped the ante. The final battle, both of the competition and of the book itself, we both satisfying and open enough to make you want more.

GoodReads rating: 4 stars, but probably more like 4 1/2

Books I've Read

Book Review: Crow Flight by Susan Cunningham

crowflightTitle: Crow Flight

Author: Susan Cunningham

Genre: YA Contemporary/Mystery

Series: none

Edition: ebook ARC from NetGalley

Blurb: Gin trusts logic a little too much. She even designs programs to decide what to eat and how to spend her time. All that changes when she’s paired with a new transfer student, Felix, on a computer modeling assignment to explain certain anomalies in the behavior of crows.

As she enters Felix’s world and digs further into the data behind crow behavior, Gin uncovers a terrible secret. And the wrong decision could equal disaster squared . . .

Review: Another review for NetGalley, and it was a very pleasant surprise! I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I would. Not that I had a bad expection, but I had no expectations at all.

Let’s start with our main character, Gin. I absolutely loved her. More stories about nerd girls, please! I could relate to her on a level that I did not expect. She loves computers and making these models and apps to help her with her life. She is awkward and has trouble making friends at school, but she is also very confident and knows who she is. She doesn’t expect to find her self-worth through other people. Her goal is to get a very prestigious internship and then go to Harvard.

She doesn’t quite know what to do with Felix, and for most of the story, I didn’t either. He was a big part of the mystery, even though he seems like mostly a normal, nice guy. A big part of this story was trying to figure out what was going on with him and, of course, with his family’s pet crows. In the beginning, their behavior seems almost magical (to the point that I almost thought this had fantastical elements at one point, but it doesn’t – they weren’t actually “talking” to the crows, they are just very well trained).

The story itself did drag in some places, but it also really kept me invested. I didn’t want to put it down. I was a bit disappointed in the ending, as I was expecting more of a final confrontation, but if there was one, it happened offstage somewhere. It was a satisfying ending, I just wish we had seen it more on the page, especially since so much time was spent leading up to it.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. It was interesting and fun to read with some really good characters.

GoodReads rating: 4 stars

Books I've Read

Book Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

an absolutely remarkable thingTitleAn Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Author: Hank Green

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: This is the only book so far, but GoodReads shows a book two is planned.

Edition: Hardcover, pre-ordered as soon as I heard about it

Blurb: The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship–like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor–April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world–everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires–and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Now April has to deal with the pressure on her relationships, her identity, and her safety that this new position brings, all while being on the front lines of the quest to find out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us.

Review: First, a disclaimer. I was a huge fan of both Hank and John Green since I found their Vlogbrothers channel on YouTube. I liked their funny videos that made me laugh, their serious videos that made me cry, and everything in between. This drew me in to reading John’s books, which I absolutely loved. So when I heard Hank was also writing a book, I knew I would buy it immediately and that I would love it too, no matter what.

What I’m saying is, I am not the most unbiased reviewer where the Green brothers are concerned.

That said, I thought this book was really, really well done. First off, the Carls are just plain cool. Giant metal beings that just appear across the globe, they are both fascinating and slightly sinister at the same time. You never know exactly what they are or where they came from (until the end, sort of – this book is screaming for a sequel). I don’t want to spoil too much, but there was one instance where something April and her friends did caused the hand to fall off of the Carl in New York. The statues are completely still, but the hand falls off and skitters away AND NO ONE CAN FIND IT. It ran into a restaurant or a club, but then just seemed to disappear. The weirdest bit – the hands on all the other Carls across the world vanished at the same time.

So that’s the gimmick. Let’s talk about our main character. April is very relatable. She had big hopes and plans, but is stuck working in a dead end job she hates. She finds this amazing thing, makes a video that goes viral, and has her entire life upended. She is now a media sensation, the target of both adoration and hatred. We watch her personality change, how she suddenly becomes obsessed with the numbers of hits and followers, of trying to stay relevant in a growing number of people talking about the phenomenon. It does go to her head, and one thing that I liked was that Hank was not afraid to make April a little bit unlikable during part of this time. She becomes very selfish, and that takes its toll on her relationships and friendships.

It made me wonder if this was something that Hank (and John) had to deal with once they started getting some acclaim as YouTubers (it really took off after Hank made a video of a song he wrote anticipating Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows –  wow, that was a long time ago). If so, it never showed on the outside, but that’s kind of the point. April tries to present herself in a very positive light, no matter what is happening on the inside, so that none of her followers ever really see the real April. What I really liked about this book was how it not only covered the fantastical story about the Carls, but also showed the very real issues of dealing with social media and Internet celebrity culture.

This book is a very unusual book, but I enjoyed it very, very much.

GoodReads Rating: 5 stars

Books I've Read

Book Review: Terrestrial Magic

terrestrial magicTitle: Terrestrial Magic

Author: Marina Ermakova

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Post-Apocalyptic?

Series: currently standalone, but definite series potential

Edition: E-book ARC from NetGalley

Blurb: Most sensible people avoid fire-breathing carnivores that prey on humans. But Jordan has built a career out of studying such legendary animals, creatures thought mythological until their reemergence in the world three decades ago. She and researchers like her believe that knowledge is the key to reclaiming the land they’d lost back then, when humanity retreated into designated safety zones.

But when the humans moved out, the legends moved in. They were the descendants of mythical heroes, inheriting the powers of their ancestors, and they weren’t afraid of the monsters. Jordan never expected to run into a legend, but when a field expedition turns into a trap for her team, she realizes that one deliberately tried to kill her. It’s a diplomatic nightmare the Roman authorities might happily sweep under the rug. But if Jordan doesn’t figure out who attacked her and why, they could try again. Yet even if she does solve the mystery, what could one stubborn scientist possibly do to stop a powerful legend?

Review: (Disclaimer – I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

My first ARC from NetGalley, and it was such a fun read! I really enjoyed the setting (in and around Rome) and the new mythology surrounding it. Usually post-apocalyptic stories have their basis in sci-fi – something technological goes wrong – so having a fantastical apocalypse is actually pretty original. Which is impressive. You don’t see that many original ideas anymore. It was also nice to see the mix of the fantasy and the science, as Jordan and her team are scientists studying these creatures. Also a cool concept.

I enjoyed the “legendary animals” that have made their come back, although we don’t get to spend as much time with them as I would like. In the beginning of the book, we see them deal with a basilisk and a chimera, and later we get to see a pegasus, but other than that, we don’t see them much. I thought there would have been a bit more than that. I also wasn’t a fan of the term used for these creatures – “legimals.” I don’t, as a rule, like when people make these kinds of contractions, but this one just felt a bit too cutsey.

We do get to spend a fair amount of time meeting and talking about the legends, descendants and heirs (of a sort) to the legends of the area, like Remus, Hercules, and Aeneas to name a few. These people have powers of their original hero (for example, the people of the House of Hercules are unnaturally strong) and have taken over part of the world. There is a very tenuous truce between the legends and the regular humans, and this book is about the attempt at blowing that truce apart. The legends are also very interesting and it was cool how it all tied back into the ancient mythology that has magically come back to life in a way.

This book has a great hook at the beginning and a good, adventurous pace throughout. Jordan and her team of scientists are a really good bunch that have a good camaraderie, but also have some secrets. This book does not list itself as part of a series, and the author has only written one other book that does not look related to this one, but I definitely see series potential. The story was tied together at the end, but there were still plenty of questions that were left open, just in case. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading urban fantasy and enjoys a new take on mythology. This book is out TODAY – happy book birthday! – so get a copy and enjoy.

GoodReads Rating: 4 stars.

Books I've Read

Book Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

let's pretend this never happenedTitleLet’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir

Author: Jenny Lawson

Genre: Autobiography/Memoir

Series: none

Edition: Hardcover, borrowed from a friend

Blurb: For fans of Tina Fey and David Sedaris—Internet star Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, makes her literary debut.

Jenny Lawson realized that the most mortifying moments of our lives—the ones we’d like to pretend never happened—are in fact the ones that define us. In the #1 New York Times bestseller, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson takes readers on a hilarious journey recalling her bizarre upbringing in rural Texas, her devastatingly awkward high school years, and her relationship with her long-suffering husband, Victor. Chapters include: “Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel”; “A Series of Angry Post-It Notes to My Husband”; “My Vagina Is Fine. Thanks for Asking”; “And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane.” Pictures with captions (no one would believe these things without proof) accompany the text.

Review: Ugh, you guys. I cannot love Jenny Lawson more.

My friend had loaned me Furiously Happy a while back at a time when I really, really needed it. I was going through some difficult mental health issues, as were some family members, and reading Jenny’s writing really helped (you can see my review here). I’ve noticed on several people’s lists recently that they have also found Furiously Happy and enjoyed it, but I haven’t seen as many folks mention Jenny’s first book, which is just as good.

This one delves a bit more into Jenny’s childhood – not that her second book didn’t, but this one had a bit more stories about her parents, her sister and growing up in a very, very weird household. Of course, there are also stories about Victor, particularly about when they first met and got married. All delivered with Jenny’s unique voice and outlook on life in general, which is awesome.

If you haven’t read this one, you should definitely check it out, especially if you already read Furiously Happy. Of the two, I probably enjoyed Furiously more, but Let’s Pretend is also excellent. You should also follow Jenny on The Bloggess, just because.

GoodReads Rating: 5 stars