Posts Tagged With: amreading

YA Book Review: Paper Towns by John Green – 5/5

Paper Towns by John Green

Papertowns

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John Green is some kind of word magician. Or plot sorcerer. Or character wizard. I don’t know what exactly, but the point is that Green is filled with glitter and rainbows and confetti magic.

I devoured this book in less than a day. When I closed the final page I just gave one nod and said, “Nailed it.” Green knows exactly what he is doing in all his stories.

When a book is truly 5 stars I don’t feel like my reviews are needed. What’s there to say? Go read this book is pretty much sufficient. But, still, I suppose I can relay a little of what makes this beautiful.

I have never seen a better trio of boy friends. Q, Radar, and Ben are fantastic. Green’s dialogue is perfect. You can see each person, you can understand who they are, and, even better, you can understand why the three of them are friends. That’s a lot to know about people who aren’t the main stars in a relatively short book.

Then, of course, there’s Margo. Probably the only thing that is a stretch is the relationship between her and Q – it’s too stale in their history for it to start being friendly again now, but I’ll take it. Regardless, I love all the different ways we see her and the influence she can have on people.

There’s life lessons galore but there’s so much to giggle at as well. Such a wonderful book.

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YA Book Review: Mila 2.0 – 1/5

MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza

Mila

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

No. This book is just a giant no.

There are so many obnoxious things about this story. I really, really wish I hadn’t even finished it. I slogged through it because I had a theory and, of course, it wasn’t until I got to the end that it occurred to me I might not be able to test my theory until the next book in the series, and there’s no way I’m picking up that brick.

For a book about an android/cyborg/whatever you want to call Mila, it was freaking boring. Mila is the lamest machine-like-thing ever. She can do crazy ninja-like moves, which is cool if predictable, but what else? She can insert a microchip into her wrist (but can barely process it) and she has GPS. That’s it. So. Lame.

Nothing about what she is makes sense. “Mila” is supposedly some kind of weapon the U.S. has made? Why in the world would they EVER design an android weapon to take the shape of a teenage girl? Dumb. And this entire project is run by two scientists? Equally dumb.

There is just so much about this that is absurd. I can’t resist naming a few:

1) Kaylee, her so-called best friend of a month, tries to kill her over a boy who moved into town two days before. The crazy of that situation was so glossed over.

2) Mila’s “love” for a boy who, again, had been around for two days. Why? There is zero connection. I’m so suspicious of him but we don’t get any more information before the end of the book, so I have no way of knowing if my guess is right (seriously, though, Mila is on the run from a “secret organization” who “knows no bounds” and a strange guy shows up, all handsome, decides he loves Mila, and his name? HUNTER. *slow blink*)

3) Mila has all this attachment to her school, and friends, and horse, and mother, etc, but she’s truly only been “alive” for a month. For a machine with human feelings she has about 500% the amount of feelings anyone has for anything in that length of time.

And then – there’s the biggest, most ridiculous thing of all. It’s after Mila and her mother’s capture (sorry for the spoilers, seriously though, you don’t want to read this book) and the scientist is putting her through “tests. ” Apparently if she can show that she doesn’t have emotions (when they already know she does) then she can live. So they decide to put her through these tests using emotion as the main incentive for her to succeed. In the final test she literally has to go through a Tough Mudder-like course all the while watching TV screens of her mother slowly being burned to death.

I’m sorry but if Mila works so hard to win at these games isn’t that showing exactly how her emotions are controlling her actions and not her logic? A true machine would look at this obstacle course and be all like “that seems like a risk to a lot of people and myself just to save one woman.”

I always feel a little guilty when I go into these rants, but I just can’t get over how little sense this book made. If you were thinking about picking this up, just stop. If you want to read a good book about a young adult cyborg lady, pick up Cinder instead.

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Book Review: The Poisonwood Bible – 4/5

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

poisonwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books I resisted picking up because I didn’t know what to expect. Books that talk about religion – good or bad – tend to make me antsy. I know next to nothing about any religion so I wasn’t sure how this would sit. Obviously, it sat well.

Kingsolver is such a fantastic writer. Politics and opinions in the book aside, she did an incredible job of making this story come alive. The Poisonwood Bible is told from the perspective of five different females whose lives are wholly changed by, truthfully, one man – the father of the family. I love how differently Africa changed each of them – turning inward, turning out, growth, death, and even stasis. I think we all have (or will have) an experience in our lives that change us forever. It was fascinating to see one event change so many characters.

Kingsolver’s writing is poetry. The way she describes not only the atmosphere and setting but also the thoughts are incredible. Each female voice is incredibly distinctive. Adah and Ruth May are particularly wonderful to read. I was able to enjoy this book on audio and the narrator is phenomenal. The way she does Rachel – it’s perfection.

For me, I think the book should have ended prior to the girls growing up. This is the distinction for me between five and four stars. The end of the book, while still enjoyable, gets political. Whether I think one way or another about it, when it’s a historical fiction novel, it’s hard to know what is fact and what is opinion. I liked seeing how the women turned out, but part of me wanted to stay back in the Congo, too.

This book is art, and I loved listening to the words wash over me. There’s a reason its well known and it’s worth your time and effort to experience Kingsolver’s style.

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Book Review: The Rosie Project – 5/5

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

rosie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book just makes you want to go “aww.”

The buzz about this story is totally justified. So much about this book is downright adorable. I am such a sucker for the boy-meets-girl scenario all tied up in a new package. For that reason there’s not much that I think needs to be said about it on the whole. The cover will “spoil” the majority of the book already. It’s not so much a book about “what’s going to happen” as it is “how are they going to get there.”

As light as this novel is, I really enjoy the new flavor of the main character. He’s not your standard knight in shining armor – it’s endearing and energizing to see a new kind of protagonist, one with a “social handicap” so-to-speak. In that respect this story has some truly deeper ideas about love, how it manifests, as our expectations of ourselves AND others.

The moral of the story is not about being perfect individually, but perfect together, and it’s a lot of fun to read a book that reminds us of that.

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Series Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone – 4/5

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

smoke daughter2daughter3

It may be possible that these are the prettiest YA series covers ever. Srsly.

To those of you who pick up this book – I recommend you buy/borrow the other two from the trilogy at the same time. You’re going to want to read them all in quick succession.

I love this series’s imagination, the colors, the scenes. It’s all so beautiful. The setting is incredible – Prague, the art studio, Poison. Even better are the people! Humans, angels, and creatures – they are all fascinating. Taylor does such a great job of showing me everything without overloading me with exposition. I can see so much, and I don’t even think that’s because I’ve traveled to many of the places (Prague and Marrakesh being two main settings – gorgeous on paper and in real life!).

Then there’s a plot. It has the scary angels which fascinate me (quick plug for how awesome Angelfall is) along with just as fascinating underworld beings. I love the way you’re not sure who is good and who is bad. The action is intense on both a large and a small scale.

Book one, for me, was an obvious 5 out of 5 – hit it out of the park kind of style.  But, with the curse of most trilogies (in my opinion), the second and third books get too weighty.  The second book doesn’t move nearly quick enough and the super bad-a** main character (necessarily) stumbles and whines and moans a bit. I get that Karou was going through hardship, but it’s just not fun as a reader to see how long it takes her to see what is right in front of her face.

Book two ramps up at the end and by the time you make it through book three, you’ll feel all weepy for not seeing more of the characters (at least I did) – Zuzana, Mik, Liraz, Hazael, Issa, Ziri, and, of course, Karou and Akiva. I loved them all, particularly the humans, throughout the whole process. The fighting, the plotting, it was all so beautifully done. I love how little right and wrong there is (did I say that already?  Well, it’s true). Every once in a while you get your certainty for who is inherent good or evil, but I love how the idea of angels and demons just doesn’t hold up. It’s a beautiful message, all and all.

The book should have ended at the end of the battle, when we know who won. Truly. It did not need to go on into this whole other plot. I’m not sure where Taylor was taking all of that – there were too many new ideas (and characters, for that matter) introduced in the final book. I think it was all one giant plot line that wasn’t needed. I think the core plot was perfect on its own.

Even though I have a few qualms, I loved the trilogy. Per usual, book one was the best and one I ate up quickly, but the other two well supported it all. Definitely a great YA series to pick up!

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YA Book Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone – 5 of 5!

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

smoke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

To those of you who pick up this book – I recommend you buy/borrow the other two from the trilogy at the same time. You’re going to want to read them all in quick succession.

I borrowed this book from the library and read it in a day. Within about three minutes of closing the book I was online, confirming the others were on the shelf, and walking back to the library to borrow the other two. It’s that good, folks!

I love this book’s imagination, the colors, the scenes. It’s all so beautiful. The setting is incredible – Prague, the art studio, Poison. Even better are the people! Humans, angels, and creatures – they are all fascinating. Taylor does such a great job of showing me everything without overloading me with exposition. I can see so much, and I don’t even think that’s because I’ve traveled to many of the places (Prague and Marrakesh being two main settings – gorgeous on paper and in real life!).

Then there’s a plot. It has the scary angels which fascinate me (quick plug for how awesome Angelfall is) along with just as fascinating underworld beings. I love the way you’re not sure who is good and who is bad. The action is intense on both a large and a small scale. Both the reader and the main character, Karou, spend the book trying to figure out who she is – and what connection she has to the (potentially) imminent end to the world. That’s a plot hook if I ever heard of one!

Okay, enough of this internet business – I need to crack open book #2!

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Book Review: The Pillars of the Earth – a (surprising!) 4 of 5

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

pillars

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 with a surprising round-up.

Really surprising. I’m not even sure I can leave it at a 4 star review. This book should not have been something I liked, I’m not a fan of religion, after all. If fact, for a lot of the book I didn’t like it that much… but somewhere in there I got won over.

Obviously, this book is long. That sucks about it. It really doesn’t need to be that long. There’s quite a bit of unnecessary rambling (yes, yes, buildings and architecture are complex, etc.) and Follett seems to assume that by the end of the book we’ve forgotten what happened in the beginning so he has to repeat it (which, I suppose is fair, due to the length). All of this makes it tedious – but not enough for me not to like it.

For the first fourth, maybe even half, of the book I was certain I would give it a solid three stars, maybe 2.5. Decent quality, just nothing too great. But somewhere from the middle to end I started to care more – I think I just really like Jack. The Pillars of the Earth has a bit of a George R.R. Martin feel; you’re never quite sure if good is going to win over evil or not. I started to care and I started to cheer for people. It was a great feeling.

What I love about this book is who the good and bad people are: they are everyone. The kings and earls, the clergy, the peasants, each group had their good and corrupt representation. I loved the women, especially Ellen. The book really flowed for its length. Some of it was fantastical and hard to swallow as believable but I liked it all the same.

I don’t know, I can’t explain it. This book just lives up to its reputation for me. It’s a story I’ll carry with me for a while. If you’re in the mood for a long book, this will be worth considering!

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Series Review: The Lunar Chronicles – (an enthusiastic) 4 of 5

Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and (in 2015) Winter.

There’s a lot to love about this series:

1) Cinder was born of NaNoWriMo (the greatest thing ever for those of you who don’t know about it) and, to my understanding, much of the rest of the books were drafted in November as well.  I have a special place in my heart for NaNo books.

2) While having a core plot throughout, each book focuses on one Bad-A** lady from a fairy tale.  The plot line of her story more-or-less follows the trajectory of the classic tale while holding true to the core, original, plot.  Those are some mad skillz.

3) That original plot I mentioned? It’s creative and interesting and complex without being confusing.

4) The dudes are adorable.

There’s more, but I thing those are really the main highlights.  Yes, it’s YA, and as I’m not a YA myself any longer, there is many times where I can’t stop an eye-roll at some of the young thoughts and emotions that come flying off the page. The key is to let yourself go.  Immerse yourself into what’s happening and you’ll have a great time.

cinder


Cinder is spunky, unique, and manages to stay in line with the traditional ideas of Cinderella – the evil step-mother, the step-sisters, and, of course, that dashing, heart-throbbing prince. What isn’t traditional is that our heroine is a messy mechanic cyborg.  Sha-zam.

Admittedly, because of how well we know the classic fairy tale, it is a bit predictable, but the character development keeps any dull feelings at bay. Meyer does such a  good job of creating each character as an individual. Every character is dynamic – I particularly found the evil step-mother and the Doctor very well designed. There isn’t just one static “this person is good/bad” feel to it.  How is it that, of all the characters, I love the android Iko the best?  That’s good writing.

Oh yeah, and did you know it takes place in future China-ish? Awesome!  It’s the little nuances that really make this first book shine. 

scarlet

Where Cinder was an awkward yet confident, down-trodden yet finding herself, kind of main character, Scarlet takes it all up a notch.  This girl kicks butt left and right and doesn’t break a sweat.  She’s sassy and sweet. Scarlet forms as a great second heroine while somehow not taking the sparkle off Cinder’s own adventures.

Of the three books out right now though, it is my least favorite. It’s a good gateway to the next but it’s also the least believable.  This might get a touch spoiler-y but I had two main issues throughout – the sudden deep but really quite unnerving attraction with Wolf, and Scarlet’s dedication to the grandmother.

Let me explain.  It’s not that I don’t think both of those things aren’t good and important for the book – they are – but the way things shook out were over the top.  I know Wolf is loyal (like a dog, get it, lolz) but the way he constantly threw himself in front of Scarlet got old (mostly because Scarlet is totally able take care of herself).  And – and this will sound calloused – Scarlet’s insistence to sacrifice herself for her grandmother became exasperating. No offense to my grandmother, but I think 99% of reasonable people would realize that a young, vibrant woman shouldn’t risk everything for an already dying old lady. Just saying.  I know we needed that for forward motion but it was insane.

Even with my few irks, Meyer was really able to make the additional characters shine – and be different – from the ones in the previous book.  Our cast is growing without any harm, and that’s wonderful.

I almost forgot – Thorne.  He is hysterical.  Total favorite.  He is this year’s Han Solo.

cress

Now, we have Cress.  She’s the perfect next main character because she’s wonderfully different.  Don’t get me wrong – she’s still a bad-a** with her seriously impressive hacking skills but she’s not going to beat anyone up.  In fact, she’s much more apt to hide in a corner, but that doesn’t mean shes’ a damsel in distress, either.  Meyer has made such a great balance of showing how her ladies need help sometimes, but that doesn’t make them weak.

A lot of things go down in Cress and they are all interesting.  One thing, after reviewing Game of Thrones, is that I do wish I could have believed a little bit more that bad things were actually going to happen. Sure there are cliffhangers and worries and the like but it was hard to ignore the fact that it is a YA book and, despite the dire circumstances, things were obviously going to work themselves out.

So, I maybe didn’t worry as much as I should have, but I still liked what I saw.  Emotions get deep in Cress – there’s insanity, near-fatal and irreparable wounds, deserts, disease, death, maiming, kidnapping, genocide, and the list goes on.  I don’t mean to say it’s depressing through.  How can it be when a character like Thorne is on so many pages?  He’s adorable and  he and Cress are a fantastic duo. Even more, when we do get back to the rest of the group, they still hold true to their own character traits.

Well, except for maybe Wolf.  You know, for being a “big, bad, wolf” he is a sally.  Seriously.  Whimper a little more, why don’t you? Suck it up and get the job done, bro.

*Cough* Anyway, as I was saying, like the rest, the story follows the trajectory of  a fairy tale, this time Rapunzel. The core plot is at the forefront and it’s intense.  Cress is set up beautifully for another book and I’m definitely ready for it.

All in all – a slow clap, high five, jig, and kudos to Marissa Meyer!

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Book Review: The Flight of Gemma Hardy – 3 of 5

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

gemma

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Make that a 3.5, 3.8, 3.9999 – but just not quite a 4.

The most impressive thing to me about this book is Gemma Hardy. Livesey has done what I, and so many other writers, struggle with. She has managed to create a very real human being. Gemma is bright, kind, and helpful. She’s also ruthless, rude, and a leap-before-she-looks kind of person. As a reader I felt like I was listening to the story of a good friend – someone who I know and trust is a beautiful person but who, inevitably, I don’t always agree with. Gemma lived a life where bad things happened to her that she couldn’t control, she also lived a life where bad things happened to her because of her actions. I loved that, as a reader, I learned what those things were. As Gemma grew up and started to understand the impact of her decisions, so did I. It was a really great experience.

So why don’t I love the book? I don’t know exactly. Maybe because too many strangers were nice to Gemma. Maybe because things were just a little slow. I’m just now seeing that this is, apparently, a re-telling of Jane Eyre, a book I haven’t yet gotten to. Perhaps I will better understand Gemma when I get to know a little more about Jane.

Oh – for anyone partial to Scotland or Iceland, you might get an extra kick out of this book. 🙂

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