An Absolutely Remarkable Thing — Hank Green

My first review of 2020! Here we go.

RATING: ✖✖

Initially, I was enticed by the lure of sci-fi/’young-ish’ adult in the spotlight of modern media frenzy, but found the plot dissolved into minor intrigue and petty drama rather than the focus on the viral dramatics.

SYNOPSIS: The Carls just appeared.

Roaming through New York City at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles

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Book cover, pic from Goodreads. 

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 best 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–from Beijing to Buenos Aires–and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight.

Okay, most of us are probably familiar with the other Green’s work. The John Green of the Vlogbrothers, the other half of the CrashCourse founder-squad (I think? Don’t quote me on this.) Anyway, I was all about the John Green hype a few years ago, as a mere tween, engulfed by the awkward teen romances and quote-worthy Pinterest boards his books entailed. As a slighter older awkward teen, I was excited about Hank Green venturing into the writing universe with a debut novel of his own, titled ‘An Absolutely Remarkable Thing’. As I read the initial blurb + first saw the cover design, I was thrilled. Delighted. Absolutely, positively happy.

But then I read the book — and, well … it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I’ll let you know why.

Continue reading “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing — Hank Green”

November — Want To Read

NOVEMBER – WANT TO READ

Every month, I cycle through an obsession with a number of books I convince myself I will read, then inevitably end up abandoning because of x,y,z reasons. Sure, I still read, but it usually ends up as a pick from my pre-existing library, or something free off of the Internet (because I’m a student, and though I wish I could spend 18$ per every new, fresh hardcover fantasy release, I can’t.)

So, without further ado, I present a segment of my blog which I will dedicate solely to the books I have been interested in reading. Maybe I’ll read them, maybe I won’t. Maybe they’ll end up just as segments on this blog, but OH WELL. 

Here we go.

Continue reading “November — Want To Read”

A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness

RATING: ✖✖

The initial promise of an academically fuelled supernatural suspense mystery kept me hooked, but it ultimately landed in a plot achingly similar to Twilight — despite the promises of witchcraft and magic, this book didn’t cast a spell over me.

SYNOPSIS: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

I read this book a while ago, but I hadn’t the urge to properly review it until now. It’s been stewing in my mind for quite some time now, as I haven’t quite been able to let go

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Pic from Goodreads. 

of it — I think that, ultimately, this book let me down. It was actually a real tragedy, as the premise was fantastic. I have no idea how I stumbled upon this book, but I think it was through some sort of ‘Halloween-and-witch-books-you-should-read’ article on Bustle. Initially, I really liked the book. Until the Edward Cullens came barging into the plot, disbanding my enjoyment. Womp womp.

 

So, why didn’t I fall for the magic of this book? I could essentially boil it down to two reasons, which I’ll make clear below.

Continue reading “A Discovery of Witches – Deborah Harkness”

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson

RATING: ✖✖✖

The self-described ‘counterintuitive approach to living a good life’, this is the author’s 2016 ‘self-help’ novel intended to help you make your life better — by caring about it … less?

SYNOPSIS: In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be “positive” all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people. There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor. 

I’m not a seasoned self-help book reader. Maybe it’s because I’m on the younger side of rader90the age spectrum, or maybe it’s because I assume I somehow have my shit together, or maybe it’s because I haven’t really been interested in picking up any nonfiction book promising to change my life because I simply don’t believe they can. I have to admit, however, that the neon-orange warning-sign feel this cover gave me — and the stark approach of its title — intrigued me. It intrigued me to the point where I actually picked this book up and read it, and so here are my thoughts.

Here’s the thing: self-help books tread a fine line. You want to help the reader, but you also don’t want to make the reader feel like an idiot. You want to express a message, or an idea, but you don’t want it to come off in a preachy, know-it-all way. You want to help, sure, and that (in essence) should be ‘easy’ if you have a concrete concept and a solid way of expressing yourself.  The issue lies in the fact that not every reader requires the same ‘help’ — which is why self-help books really are up to the reader to interpret, and therefore hard to write because your solid idea might not be as solid to every one of your readers.

So, how did interpret this book?

Continue reading “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson”

Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes

RATING: ✖✖✖✖

A wonderful, wonderful book. This romance novel is fluffy, feel-good with just enough emotion and turmoil that the actual romance becomes even better. While it is a romance novel, the backstory touching on emotionally abusive relationships and mental health enables the book to be bittersweet — in a good way.

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Picture from Goodreads.

SYNOPSIS: In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth “Evvie” Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn’t correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy’s childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the “yips”: he can’t throw straight anymore, and he can’t figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button.

When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken–and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they’ll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they’ve broken, the plans they’ve changed, and the secrets they’ve kept. They’ll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there’s always a chance–right up until the last out.

I read this book in a day. OK, it’s not that long — clocking in at roughly 300 pages — but it was just that fluffy. I have three main silver linings of this book (and maybe 0.5 negatives) that I’ll list below:

Continue reading “Evvie Drake Starts Over – Linda Holmes”

The Proposal – Jasmine Guillory

RATING: ✖✖

A romance novel starting with a failed proposal in the middle of a stadium, promising drama and spicy romance? Yay! A romance novel with a good, dramatic setup that flops, with a forced sense of diversity and a bland romance? Nay …

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Picture from Goodreads.

SYNOPSIS:When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up–in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…

I did not like this book. I’m starting to sound like a lonely, desperate spinster when it comes to how many of these romance books that I’ve been roasting, but I’m sorry — I just can’t bring myself to like some of them, least of all this one. I was just so … disappointed? by it. I’ve been hearing all of these reviews praising Jasmine Guillory’s romance novels, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to pick one up and actually try it. My mistake.

I fell for the juicy premise and the cute cover, but I discovered that this was not my style. I can see how some people really enjoy this style of writing, but I can’t bring myself to like it no matter how much I try. Generally, I enjoy romance novels with an overall fluffy, feel-good sense of emotion to them — this one, to me, felt messy. I couldn’t get on board with the structure or the characters, and Guillory’s style of writing was, to me, not ideal. She’s not a bad writer, don’t get me wrong — I just didn’t really like the way she formulated her descriptions, speaker tags, general story setup. It’s hard to describe because this is such an individual thing between readers, but for people who don’t intend to review this book, it’s probably relatively unnoticeable.

ANYWAY, back to the actual novel. The forced diversity thing I mentioned in the beginning — it was just weird. I’m all for literary diversity in books, as I think everyone should feel that they can find some parts of themselves represented in books, but it should happen in an organic, natural way. In this book it was just very blunt, and generic. This book essentially boiled down the main characters’ personalities into three parts:

Nik: black female writer & Carlos: latino doctor tacos

I can’t remember anything more than that. Their personalities just didn’t feel fleshed out, and I disliked the cardboard-cutout feeling they gave me. This, in turn, turned me away from the romance itself. I just didn’t root for them. I stopped liking them as characters, so I stopped liking their romance, and so I stopped liking the novel itself. Sorry.

The final issue of the book was, to me, the sense that it was heading in no direction. It starts off with a bang, this big, failed Jumbotron proposal, and then it just … fizzles out. There’s nothing else dramatic happening, nothing big or exciting that forces the romance and makes it feel exciting and spicy. It feels more like watching a sped-up Sims 3 gameplay — they just go about their daily lives and then they occasionally have a date and then they stand and stare into a wall and then they sleep and do it all over again. I mean, sure, things were happening in their lives — but they were just normal stuff. A good romance, should — in my opinion — show 1) that both of the characters are growing and experiencing things independently and 2) that these individual growths enable them to become a better couple. Otherwise, the relationship becomes either bland or weirdly co-dependent — which I dislike, at least. In this book, it was just bland. I didn’t feel like I would start bawling and being sad if they didn’t end up together, and I didn’t feel like I’d be any happier when they did end up together.

Not my cup of tea.

99 Percent Mine – Sally Thorne

RATING: ✖✖

Spoiler alert: I did not like this book whatsoever.

SYNOPSIS: Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

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Picture from Goodreads.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.

What the frack just happened. I needed to vent my emotions in a review after reading this. I have had no prior experience of Sally Thorne’s writing, but I have not been able to escape the millions of glowing reviews of ‘The Hating Game’ (her other book). This led me to believe that her newest romance-novel ’99 Percent Mine’ would be equally amazeballs as everyone made ‘The Hating Game’ out to be. BOY, was I wrong.

First of all, this book made me seriously doubt my English. Yes, it is not my native language, but the way this was written and structured … Miss Thorne had me thinking I was reading in another language. There were just so. many. sudden jumps in dialogue and explanations that left the reader reeling. I thought I was stupid, or tired, or just missing the point — but no. Every other paragraph was like metaphorically crossing a river, only you had no bridge and were swept violently away by currents and lost all sense of direction. That was the general structure of the book, IMO.

Secondly, the romance itself. Gah. I’m sorry, but Darcy and Tom just did not scream ‘OTP’ to me. The book had a good setup that might’ve been able to shoulder the suboptimal structure, but I thought the characters themselves were … strange. At first, I liked the badass, independent stuff Darcy had going — I was like alright, OK, I can get on board with this. Aaaand then 200 pages go by of her whining, and I’m like: ._.

I got where Thorne was heading with this character — or at least I think I do — but that was not where we ended up. At all. At any point in the book. Darcy turned into a whiny, wannabe strong- independent-woman character. This general personality enabled any and all actually believable strong-independent-woman-moments to feel more like she was being annoying and stubborn. Ouch.

And then Tom. I read another review who also had an issue with what they coined as the: ‘ 2008-brand of massive overprotectiveness these characters sported‘. I agree, wholeheartedly. I want to read about humans — people who can talk and think and reason about collective issues. Not glorified wolves who just grunt and howl and run around instead, because at times the book did really feel that way. The dialogue was choppy, there was a lot of angst that went in no direction, and then they were all fighting suddenly ? As the reader, you’re sitting there like: ?!!?!?!?!?!??!.

I will, however, still give it two stars because the cover is really, really pretty. It’s my bad for being a sucker for the aesthetics.

 

The Poppy War (#1) – R.F Kuang

RATING: ✖✖✖✖✖

An endlessly exciting fantasy debut from R.F Kuang, The Poppy War’s blend of magic, mystery, Chinese mythology and folklore set in a politically ravaged country fighting a gruesome war makes anyone’s toes curl. One of the best books I’ve read in a while. 

SYNOPSIS: When Riradera90n aced the Keju, the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies, it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard, the most elite military school in Nikan, was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late. 

This book blew my socks off. I glimpsed it on Goodreads, read the blurb, glanced at the gorgeous cover, glanced at the blurb again, then bought it. It sat on my nightstand for a few days, then ended up in my lap, and then with a 5-star review after I devoured its 544 pages in two days when I finally realized how great it is.

Because, by the Phoenix God, was this one hell of a book.

Continue reading “The Poppy War (#1) – R.F Kuang”

Lady Midnight (#1) – Cassandra Clare

RATING: ✖✖✖✖

A thrilling extension of the Shadowhunter universe, we follow the Los Angeles Institute as they grapple with Shadowhunter law, the faeries running amok in L.A and the feelings that start to intensify between them. A terrific read for fans of Cassandra Clare’s work, and for anyone looking for exciting YA Fantasy without the stuffy, forced romance or overpowered MCs.

SYNOPSIS: In a secret world where half-angel warriors are sworn to fight

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Picture from Goodreads.

demons, parabatai is a sacred word.
A parabatai is your partner in battle. A parabatai is your best friend. Parabatai can be everything to each other—but they can never fall in love.
Emma Carstairs is a warrior, a Shadowhunter, and the best in her generation. She lives for battle. Shoulder to shoulder with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, she patrols the streets of Los Angeles, where vampires party on the Sunset Strip, and faeries—the most powerful of supernatural creatures—teeter on the edge of open war with Shadowhunters. When the bodies of humans and faeries turn up murdered in the same way Emma’s parents were when she was a child, an uneasy alliance is formed. This is Emma’s chance for revenge—and Julian’s chance to get back his brother Mark, who is being held prisoner by the faerie Courts. All Emma, Mark, and Julian have to do is solve the murders within two weeks…and before the murderer targets them.
Their search takes Emma from sea caves full of sorcery to a dark lottery where death is dispensed. And each clue she unravels uncovers more secrets. What has Julian been hiding from her all these years? Why does Shadowhunter Law forbid parabatai to fall in love? Who really killed her parents—and can she bear to know the truth?

Hey! I’m back – with another review! So, Lady Midnight is the first book in an upcoming trilogy (I think it’s a trilogy, since that’s what it’s listed as on Goodreads.) anywho, for Christmas Santa dropped by with a copy of this book, which made me very excited as it’s been on my TBR ever since it was announced. As someone who devoured pretty much all of Cassie Clare’s books when I was but a mere tween’, I was happy to get back in the Shadowhunter universe.

I have to admit I didn’t remember all of it since it has been a hot minute since I last engrossed myself in these books, and there were some cameos from old characters that were supposed to make me jump out of my seat and positively shriek with delight, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen as I don’t quite remember them with the same tornado of delight as I would’ve done if I had read this a few years back. Unsurprising unemotional cameos aside, I devoured this book in seven hours  a day which is proof as to how enjoyable it is – with that said, let’s hop into the review!

Continue reading “Lady Midnight (#1) – Cassandra Clare”

Daughter of the Siren Queen (#2) – Tricia Levenseller

RATING: ✖✖✖

The sequel to the entertaining first installment in the ‘Daughter of-‘ series, Levenseller’s second book remains just as fun to read despite its few minor faults. Anyone looking for an exciting twist on pirates and adventure should look no further within the YA genre – this is it.

rad0SYNOPSIS: Alosa’s mission is finally complete. Not only has she recovered all three pieces of the map to a legendary hidden treasure, but the pirates who originally took her captive are now prisoners on her ship. Still unfairly attractive and unexpectedly loyal, first mate Riden is a constant distraction, but now he’s under her orders. And she takes great comfort in knowing that the villainous Vordan will soon be facing her father’s justice.

When Vordan exposes a secret her father has kept for years, Alosa and her crew find themselves in a deadly race with the feared Pirate King. Despite the danger, Alosa knows they will recover the treasure first . . . after all, she is the daughter of the Siren Queen.

I told you I would read the sequel, and I did, so here I am. I breezed through the book within a day once I got down to reading it, testament to its readability, but I’ll get into the places in the book I struggled a bit more with as I write the review.

The book’s protagonist is still Alosa Kalligan – Daughter of the Pirate King (as we learned in the first book.) – who by now has escaped the ship on which she ‘pretended’ to be captured. Having defeated (ish) her enemies, she’s back to commanding her own ship and her own all-female crew – the Ava-lee is her pride and joy, and she longs to get back on the sea and sail as the true Captain she really is. However, there are a few setbacks to her plan:

1) The enormous secret mentioned in the synopsis which kind of disrupts her entire life.

2) The uNfAiRlY attractive Riden who apparently keeps her distracted with his breathing (?)

3) The enormous treasure on Isla de Canta, guarded by sirens, which Alosa needs, apparently.

Continue reading “Daughter of the Siren Queen (#2) – Tricia Levenseller”

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