What I’m Reading 8/21/17

When preparing this post, I realized that I had written way too much content.  Since I’ve begun writing reactions/reviews/summaries in a notebook immediately after finishing a book, I’ve noticed that my comments have gotten a longer.  So I decided to do some shifting around, giving some of the books where I had more thoughts posts of their own.

Here, you can find my thoughts about several of my recent reads.  Keep an eye out over the next week for others–I’ve got a writeup for a fantasy novel primed and ready to go and, as soon as I finish Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab, I’ll give the Monsters of Verity duology their own post.

Here’s what I’m discussing this week:

WhatImReading82117


Continue reading

What I’m Reading 8/7/17

Since I last did one of these, I’ve started writing short, one paragraph reactions in a notebook every time I finish a book.  I do so much reading that stories often blend together and, when I come to do these kind of posts, I forget details.  I’m finding that I really enjoy processing books in this way–it helps me express my opinions and give the experience closure.  In addition, I’m also adding star ratings, just for fun.

I hope you enjoy my list of recent reads!  Have you read any of them?  What did you think?  What have you been reading lately?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

5/5 stars

When I reached the end of this book, I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.  I rarely give books five-star ratings, but this series was absolute perfection.  All six main characters are distinct, fully, fleshed out, and deeply relatable.  They feel like real people–deeply flawed and broken and beautiful–and I love them all so, so much.  I can’t help being in awe of Bardugo’s planning skills–there are so many character arcs, schemes, plots, and back-stabbing… how does she juggle it all?  And given how complex it all is, how the heck does she manage to pull it off?!  This book sealed the deal: Bardugo is a top-notch writer and I will gladly read anything she publishes.


Geekerella by Ashley Poston

4/5 stars

This YA book has been on my radar for months and I finally got my hands on a copy.  It combines two of my deep loves: fairytale retellings and fandom.  I found the story delightful and endearing–the plot familiar, but a comforting kind of familiar.  More than anything, I was reminded of the movie “A Cinderella Story” with Hillary Duff–only with more cosplay and a pumpkin-themed vegan food truck.  It was a clever, fresh retelling of one of my favorite fairytales.  And, oh, how I wish that Starfield was a real show–it sounds like something I would love to watch.


The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

4.5/5 stars

This was easily one of the best YA contemporaries I’ve read in a long while.  Lately, I’ve found it harder and harder to relate to that corner of the genre.  This book, though, hit home in so many ways.  It’s about a Christian girl who, after discovering that her mom’s cancer has returned, spends her summer as a counselor at a camp for troubled youth.  There, she wrestles with her faith and learns about life, love, and friendship.  The book is about growing up, discovering yourself, and allowing your worldview to grow and change.  Although our circumstances are different, I deeply related with Lucy.  I spent several summers camp counseling, so the exhausting pace of her days was familiar.  What I love about this book is that, while Lucy questions and struggles with her faith, she doesn’t walk away from it.  It’s really hard to write about faith journeys in a way that doesn’t come off as preachy and Lord handles Lucy’s journey so, so well.  Her faith shifts into something new, but it doesn’t go away.  The book also features a rich array of diverse characters and I adored the friendships Lucy forms.  They reminded me of the friendships I forged in my own camp years.  This is a book that doesn’t shy away from life’s biggest questions–it leans into hard questions, tough situations, and embraces the challenges of life.  I’m thankful for books like these–books that act as mirrors to our own experiences.


WIR8517

Continue reading

Book Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

acowar_usI’ve been antsy with anticipation over this book for weeks and, oh my, what a payoff.  While A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOWAR) wasn’t a perfect novel, it was a satisfying conclusion to a series that I have come to dearly, dearly love.


Title
: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

My Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

 

Summary: 

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

My Thoughts (Without Spoilers):

I took my time with the book, treating it like a delicate feast I didn’t want to end.  I read it slowly–carefully tasting each paragraph, savoring the pulse of the plot, not wanting it to end.  At night, the characters wove in and out of my dreams, calling me to keep reading.

For the most part, this was my state of being while reading this book:

tumblr_nifvyeiobm1qm4zjuo1_500

Without going into details, one of my favorite parts of the book was seeing more of Prythian and the people who live there.  We see several new courts and an array of wonderful new side characters.  There is an epic library, was a huge highlight.  I also loved that some of the more minor characters from the previous books take larger roles.

In the discussion ahead, I address some of my criticisms with the ACOWAR.  After I had written them out, I realized that it may sound like I didn’t like the book or am overly picky.  I’d like to note that you can be critical of a text and still love it to pieces.

SPOILERS AHEAD: Continue reading

Inbox // Outbox 5/1/17

Inbox:

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

THIS BOOK COMES OUT ON TUESDAY AND THIS IS ME RIGHT NOW:

9832211

I feel like I don’t even need to say anything else.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I keep seeing this book everywhere and am deciding to give it a go.  While it looks pretty trippy and weird, it has a high Goodreads rating.  And the main character is a librarian… which, of course, is awesome.

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

This has been on my TBR list for ages… in a moment of weakness, I ordered the audiobook from the library.  I love Sanderson’s fantasy books, but I honestly don’t know if I can handle listening to this one.  It is 45 hours long–which is even longer than the Geroge R.R. Martin books I listened to earlier this year.  So, while I still really want to read this book and am including it in my list this week… might not actually get to it for a while.

Inbox 5117 Continue reading

Inbox // Outbox 4/3/17

Inbox

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

I hated, hated, hated the Divergent series… but am willing to give Roth another try.

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

This is my go-to read for this weekend.  I wasn’t overly impressed by the first book in this series, but

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

One of my favorite podcasts just did an episode discussing this book and it made me want to pick it up again.  I haven’t read it since early high school!  That was ten years ago and I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it properly.  Thankfully, my library had an audiobook copy available on the shelf.  I will be traveling long-distance next weekend and hope to convince my car buddy to let us listen to it.

Inbox 4317


Continue reading

Inbox // Outbox 12/5/16

Inbox

Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

I’m really intrigued by this book because it’s about an extremely driven girl who, after winning a competitive national scholarship, finds out that she’s an illegal immigrant.  I’m a few pages in and, while I don’t find the protagonist’s voice super compelling at this point, am eager to keep reading.

This Day: New and Collected Sabbath Poems 1979 – 2012 by Wendell Berry

I just got this collection in the mail and can’t wait to sink my teeth in.  I’m currently working my way through the complete works of W.B. Yeats, reading a few poems every morning.  This is my next project.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

I checked this one out of the library on a whim.  The reviews on Goodreads aren’t amazing, but several of my friends have given it high rankings… so I’ll see how it goes.

Inbox12516.jpg

Outbox:

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

I listened to this one on audiobook during my commute.  I found the composition of the book jarring.  Moyes jumps between two time periods, linking two stories together.  While I liked the two stories, the linking felt forced.  Also, the trial at the end goes on for WAY too long.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

I’ve been tearing through Matson’s novels over the past couple of months.  This one fits the genre of YA summer romance perfectly, but is no less enjoyable for it.

Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton

Stanton’s book is a collection of pictures and quotes from his Facebook page, Humans of New York.  I’ve been a fan of his work for quite a while.  What I loved about seeing the stories in book form was the way that so many of them linked together.  It captures the diversity of what it is to be human while tying us all together.  While we all are different, on a deep level, we are all the same.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

I’ve heard good things about Sittenfeld’s modern day retelling of Pride & Prejudice.  I read the book in one sitting in the car and, while entertained, wasn’t blown away.  I liked some of the innovations, but a lot of the modern equivalents didn’t feel weighty enough.  Also, I didn’t actually LIKE any of the characters.

Outbox12516.jpg

My next Inbox // Outbox will be on December 19

For more of my bookish adventures, add me on Goodreads!

On the Shelf: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

I’ve noticed this book every time I’ve browsed through the Young Adult Fiction section at Target and finally decided to give it a shot.  Being a bit of a world explorer, I’ve always been drawn to coming-of-age-in-Europe tales and was excited to get a taste of Italy.

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

25756328“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

Continue reading

On the Shelf: Understanding Gender Dysphoria by Mark A. Yarhouse

I picked up this book last winter at Urbana, a student missions conference that takes place every three years in St. Louis.  It was a purchase made on a whim, a title in a large stack. With all the controversy about bathrooms this past spring, transgender issues were on my mind and I wanted to be more informed.  Although David Ebershoff’s The Danish Girl opened my mind to the nature of what it means to be transgender (I never really understood how deep the identity struggle is), there is so much I don’t know or understand.  My faith also spurs me to ask questions: How should Christians respond to transgender issues?  What does the Bible have to say on the subject?  So many of my fellow Christians have responded to transgender people with fear and hate–an attitude that makes me extremely uncomfortable.  So I picked up Yarhouse’s book to learn more. Continue reading

On the Shelf: The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

This is one of those books that have been sitting on the shelf for years, waiting to be read.  I knew I’d get to it eventually… and now I have.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

My Rating: 4 / 5

Here is the magical legend of King Arthur, vividly retold through the eyes and lives of the women who wielded power from behind the throne. A spellbinding novel, an extraordinary literary achievement, THE MISTS OF AVALON will stay with you for a long time to come….

Continue reading

On the Shelf: Winter by Marissa Meyer

FINALLY, the conclusion to Marissa Meyer’s fantastic Lunar Chronicles series.  This book was released on my birthday and it was one of my favorite gifts.

This post contains spoilers.

winter-finalMy rating: 4 / 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads: Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?

To answer the question in the summary: Yes they can.

I knew that these books would tie up neatly.  The tone in which they are written doesn’t imply defeat.  It was clear that all would end well, that Cinder would cast down Levana and reclaim the the Lunar throne.  I knew that the four couples would get together.

But, oh, how I loved the ride.

The thing about this series is that it’s not perfect.  To be honest, the characterization is patchy at points.  I like most of the male characters, but some of the heroines *cough*Scarlet*cough* are boring.  The plot tends to be predictable.

But what Meyer does is create a world and enjoyable that is so original that I can’t help overlook the weak points.  I loved my time in these books.  There are a lot of dystopian YA worlds out there and while the way her Earth is structured is similar to many of its contemporaries, the existence of Luna makes hers unique.  I mean, she’s got a society of magical aliens who can manipulate people’s minds who live on the moon!  How cool is that?

I adore the way Meyer merges dystopian lit with fairytales.  She balances them well.  Throughout the series, we see familiar moments: Cinderella losing her shoe, Red Riding Hood searching for her grandmother, Rapunzel escaping her tower, Snow White eating a poisoned apple.  But they’re morphed: Cinder is a cyborg and loses a foot and Cress is a computer-hacker and escapes a satellite.  Meyer strikes a wonderful balance between reteling stories from long ago while creating something new.  She has the hallmark moments, but those moments don’t overwhelm the story.  It’s almost as if the story pauses over the moments, acknowledges the source material, and then pulses forward into something entirely new.

While some of her characters get old, the rest are incredibly endearing.  Cinder is probably my favorite.  For those of you who have been with me for a while, you know I’m a sucker for a good Cinderella retelling and Meyer’s princess has stolen my heart.  I mean… she’s a cyborg mechanic!  How cool is that?  She meets the fairytale requirements, but also throws them off entirely.  I also really love Carsewell Thorne, the dashing, obnoxious thief who is the hero of the third installment of the series.  Cress is timid to the point of being annoying, but definitely grew on me.  I couldn’t help love Winter and Jacin’s relationship.  Iko, though, remained one of my favorite characters.  Even though she’s an android, she is incredibly human.  She’s the perfect companion for Cinder, matching Cinder’s quiet intensity with her bubbly charm.  More than once, her swooning and sighing over attractive men and beautiful fashion made me laugh out loud.

I won’t go too far into revealing plot details, but the story doesn’t disappoint.  Characters are constantly coming together and becoming separated, various storylines weaving together towards the final conclusion.  The final showdown between Cinder and Levanna is extremely satisfying.  The happily-ever-after wraps up all the loose ends.

When I reached the end of Winter, all I wanted to do was go back and read the series again.  Meyer’s fairytale retellings are endearing, successful, and I know they will grow on me the more time I spend with them.

the_lunar_chronicles_by_candy8496-d81xzet
Fan art by candy8496 on DeviantArt

Be sure to check out my review of Fairest: Levanna’s Story as well!