Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’m frugal with my five-star ratings, but any book that can make me cry deserves all the stars.

When I first read The Book Thief at sixteen, I didn’t see what the fuss was all about.  It was good, but not great.  I liked the writing, the story, and enjoyed the characters well enough, but it didn’t make an impression.

This time around, the book absolutely wrecked me.

I picked it up for one of my summer grad school classes and it was love from page one.  I opted for the audiobook and soaked in every minute of my daily commute.  Zusak’s writing is incredible.  The characters are well-formed, with realistic development and motivations. The book’s themes about the power of words and the inconsistency of humanity are so well-implemented, I can’t get them out of my head.  It’s taken me a month to sit and write out this review because there’s just so much to think about.

Reading The Book Thief as an adult was also a very personal experience.  I’ve recently experienced several deaths and this book helped me grieve.  I finished the same day I learned one of my favorite library patrons had died and the last fifteen minutes of the audiobook had me sobbing uncontrollably on my way home from work.  I was a total traffic hazard.  For someone who doesn’t cry often, this kind reaction is noteworthy.  I haven’t connected with a story on this a visceral level like this in a long time.

Overall, this is the kind of book that you can’t look away from.  It’s the kind of story that haunts you for years after reading and keeps bringing you back for more.  It’s the kind of story that worms its way into your being.  It sounds strange, but I feel a more complete person after reading this book.

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Reading Recap: May 2018

Yay, another reading recap!

My main goal this month was to get through all the required books in the syllabus for my Young Adult lit class before term starts.  I’m happy to say that I succeeded with three days to spare!  Required novels dominated my pleasure reading this month.  Eight of the following books were for class.  There were some really great titles and I’m really looking forward to discussing Maus, Brown Girl Dreaming, and the book on the Romanovs with my classmates.

As for the books I picked up purely for fun… I was unimpressed with the newest Court of Thorns and Roses installment, but enjoyed being back in that world.  Naturally, rereading Cinder for my class launched another reread of the entire Lunar Chronicles series, which has been delightful.  For my morning cup-of-tea Christian nonfiction, both titles I finished this month were excellent.

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Overall Statistics:

  • Number of books read: 11
  • Number of pages read: 2,949
  • Number of audiobooks listened to: 2
  • Number of rereads: 2
  • Longest book: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  • Shortest book: Maus by Art Spiegleman
  • Highest ratings:
    • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (4.75 stars)
    • Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren (4.5 stars)
  • Lowest rating: Black Butler Vol. 1 by Yana Toboso, translated by Tomo Kimura

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Poetry Talk: Twirling in Flames by Tinu Bello

A couple of months ago, my friend Tinu approached me about helping review and publicize her debut poetry collection.  I hadn’t heard from her since college and, while I was swamped with grad school work at the time, couldn’t say no.  What’s the point of having being involved in the online bookish community if you can’t use your platform to support the creative endeavors of your friends?

It’s been a long time coming, but a short break between grad school semesters has given me the chance to sit down with the collection and pull together some thoughts.  This is by no means a comprehensive review, but I hope you get a sense for what the poems are about.  I had so much fun digging into them.

I hope you enjoy my scattered thoughts!

You can buy your own copy of Twirling in Flames by Tinu Bello on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Be sure to add it to your reading list on Goodreads.

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What I’m Reading: YA Fall Releases

It’s Thursday night and I’ve managed to talk myself down from the “I should be studying” ledge.  So, since I’ve decided that grad school is no excuse to not read for fun, why not talk about all the books I’ve been cramming in my spare time?  Thanks to my library, I’ve been on the top of the list for many of this fall’s hottest YA releases.

My mini reviews are spoiler-free, so no worries if you haven’t read them.

Here’s my lineup:

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In Appreciation of Tamora Pierce’s Alanna Books

As a lifelong reader, there are many books I read when I was young that have shaped me into the person I am today.  Harry Potter, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables (which I didn’t actually read until high school… but it still shaped me), the list could go on.  I remember loving Julie Andrews’ The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles and tearing through every Boxcar Children book I could get my hands on.

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve returned to several of these books and have found them disappointing.  Whatever spark they ignited in me no longer connects with the person I am today.  They lose their savor and I can no longer remember why I returned to it again and again.

But that’s not always the case.  There are some books that, when I enter in with my grownup perspective, only get better–books that I can go years without and, upon opening the first page, feel the magic rise up in me once more.

Tamora Pierce is one of those writers for me.

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Review: Monsters of Verity Duology by Victoria Schwab

Book Talk on Keep Your Feet

Format: eAudiobook from Overdrive / physical book

My Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars for both books


Over the past few months, I’ve read quite a bit of Schwab’s writing.  Recently, I finished her Shades of Magic series, which I adored.  Several of my friends on Goodreads were reading her YA Monsters of Verity duology, so I jumped on the bandwagon.  In this post, I discuss both books in a relatively spoiler-free fashion.

On the whole I was… underwhelmed by these books.  While there were aspects I really enjoyed, there was quite a bit that just didn’t capture my imagination.  I’m realizing more and more that dark dystopia might not be my thing.

A bit about the books: the series takes place in a dystopian America in which the states are split into territories named after virtues.  The main action takes place in the city of Verity, where monsters roam at night keeping everyone in terror.  Verity is a city split in two, held together by a tenuous agreement that is quickly fraying.  The north is lead by Callum Harker, who reigns through fear and uses the monsters to his advantage.  The south is held by Henry Flynn, an ex-surgeon who heads the military-like organization, FTF.

The series centers around Kate Harker and August Flynn, the children of these two leaders.  Kate is reckless, impulsive, and on a mission to prove her worth to her father.  August, quiet and sensitive, just wants to be human.  Pushed together by circumstances, they forge a deep friendship.

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Firebrand by Kristen Britain

30688516Firebrand by Kristen Britain

Format: Kindle ebook

My Rating: 3.75 / 5 stars

Amazon / Goodreads

My Summary: The sixth installment of Britain’s Green Rider series, the book takes place where the previous one left off.  After her journey through the mysterious Blackveil Forest and adventures in the future, Karigan has returned home to the castle.  While resuming her duties as a messenger to the king, she struggles to find peace and healing after her long journey.  Eager to establish a sense of normalcy, she is sent on a mission to establish allies among a mythical moose-people in the North, near the territory of the Second Empire, who is trying to overthrow the crown.  Meanwhile, the castle is attacked by an ice elemental, who kidnaps and impersonates King Zachary.  This sets off a sequence of events that puts the future of the kingdom in jeopardy.

Karigan, as a protagonist, wears on me at times–she’s a fantastic Green Rider, an honorary Weapon and sword master, the avatar of the death god, has a magical mirror eye, is blessed by the elven race, loved by the king… and on and on and on.  How special can one person be?!!!

My favorite thing about this book is that we got a large amount of Zachary’s point of view, which was a breath of fresh air.

I’ve been reading this series on and off for years.  Britain writes so slowly that, by the time another book comes out, I’ve forgotten everything that has happened.  Thankfully, she sprinkles reminders of past events and plot details into her narrative–which helped me get my bearings.  While this is helpful, it simultaneously comes across as sloppy.  Actually, most of the book feels sloppy and gratuitous… but in an endearing way.  Britain tries to write epic fantasy, but the result is more campy than anything.  The writing may not be great, but when I read Britain’s work, I’m wholly engrossed and having fun.  I spent six days on this 700 page long read and enjoyed every minute.

For more of my reading adventures, add me on Goodreads

Check out my regular reading update posts

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:

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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.


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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:

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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.

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