Monday, March 27, 2017

TTT: Top Ten books I devoured the quickest



I don't usually read books in one sitting. I like to digest books slowly, and my attention span for books is pretty small;  I can't sit and read for more than an hour at a time. Sometimes I'll love a book so much that I read it for an hour, take a break, and keep coming back for more! Other times I'm stuck at the airport with nothing to do, so I end up reading for a lot longer than I usually do. And sometimes I just think "One more chapter..." and end up staying up hours past my bedtime. Here are the books that grabbed my attention so well that I devoured them really quickly.

 11515875

One of my favorite books ever, this book grabbed my attention from the first paragraph and did not let go until I was up waaay too late turning the last few pages.
 25733990

Sleeping Giants was a quick read because it's entirely dialogue/journal entries, but it's also an intense, fast-paced, and intelligent sci-fi novel that keeps you hooked.
 23437156

In case it wasn't clear from my love of Locke Lamora, I have a soft spot for heist stories. This one was a lot of fun and I read it on every bus ride, lunch break, and free moment I could.
 22055262

I read this book as a study break during one of my finals weeks. My study breaks always ended up being way longer than I expected because I just couldn't put this book down!
 20821043

Who knows what happens in the world of catty teenage girls? This book had such a sinister mystery and such unbelievable suspects that I was racing to find out the answer to the mystery.
 13526165

This book is sort of a mystery, sort of a coming-of-age story, and sort of contemporary fiction? It's a quick, entertaining, and insightful read.
 13055592

This book was hilarious, but I kept turning the pages to see what twists and new connections were in store.
 16046182

I'm an engineer and science geek, so the Martian was really hard for me to put down. I really enjoyed this book!
 9533378

This book was a lot of fun, and a really quick, fast-paced read.
 17378527

The only book I've actually read in one sitting! By the end of it I had gone through so much emotional whiplash I was completely catatonic and sitting on the couch until my roommates all got home and wondered what on earth was wrong with me haha


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Monday, March 13, 2017

TTT: Top Ten Spring TBR



Haven't done one of these in a while! Here are the books on my spring TBR that I'm looking forward to!

 25147754

A nonfiction book and an Obama recommendation that I've been meaning to read for a while, looking forward to reading it soon!
 29939390
I enjoyed Truthwitch and I'm looking forward to the sequel, hopefully I can get my hands on a copy this spring!
22299763

I adored book 1 and I got this one at the library so I'll be reading it very soon! I'm so excited to see how this crew works together to get out of this next mess :)

 25667918

I've been seeing this novella around everywhere and it's been getting such great reviews, I'm really excited to read it soon.
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The only way to cure a VE Schwab-induced book hangover is to read more VE Schwab, right? ;)
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Pyrre was one of my favorite characters in the Unhewn Throne books, and I got approved for the eARC on Netgalley, so I'm excited to read about Pyrre's adventures
 30134847

Sleeping Giants was one of my favorite sci-fi books of 2015, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how this series plays out. Another eARC to read :)
 

Kameron Hurley is awesome and I can't wait to see what craziness she's thought up in this sci-fi standalone
 Strange the Dreamer'

A new Laini Taylor book? YES PLEASE.
 20518872

This keeps getting recommended to me, it's about time I actually read it this Spring!
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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bullet Reviews: Dangerous Women, Arcanum Unbounded, Stories of Your Life


I'm catching up, now I'm only a month and a half behind on reviews instead of 4 months XD
I've been on and off the blog a lot because I've been flying out every weekend for grad school interviews, but now I'm done! Hopefully this means I will get a regular schedule going again and I will finally stop being months behind on reviews.

This week's bullet reviews are all anthologies. I usually review each story in an anthology separately, but Dangerous Women was just too big for that and I loved basically all the stories in Arcanum and Stories, so I don't have too much to say about each short story/novella. I will talk about my favorites in each anthology though!

17279560Dangerous Women edited by GRRM and Gardner Dozois

Genre: fantasy, science fiction, mystery, contemporary, historical fiction
Rating: 3/5 stars

What I liked:
  • I like how this anthology covers literally every genre, every story is something completely new!
  • Lots of badass women of many kinds, from vengeful ghosts to vampire slayers to protective mothers
  • Favorite stories: Shadows For Silence in the Forest of Hell (obviously, I loved it because it's a Sanderson story; many strong women and terribly frightening creatures/awesome wordbuilding), Hell Hath No Fury (a ghost story featuring POC, yessss), Lies My Mother Told Me (zombie apocalypse, sort of...),, Second Arabesque, Very Slowly (a really poignant story about finding beauty in a post-apocalyptic world), Pronouncing Doom (when women leaders have to make really tough choices...), Name the Beast (mother-daughter bonding in a sci-fi world)

What I didn't like:
  • There were some stories I didn't like because they just weren't my thing, I didn't connect with the characters or I didn't find the plot very engaging (Some Desperado, Neighbors, Virgins)
  • There were a couple of stories that used the femme fatale trope for their dangerous women, and instead of subverting this trope they kind of just made use of stereotypes/focused on men who ogle and objectify women and I found this problematic (The Hands That Are Not There, Wrestling Jesus)
Recommended for... 
People who are looking for a really varied anthology and enjoy stories featuring powerful women. The Rogues anthology was a better anthology as I whole, I felt, but this one had some gems!

28595941Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson

Genre: fantasy
Rating: 5/5 stars

What I liked:
  • I LOVED EVERY STORY. No surprises there, I love basically everything Sanderson writes
  • I love how varied the stories are! There were fun ones (Allomancer Jak), some that were more sinister, some that had flavors of different cultures in our world (Sixth of the Dusk) 
  • The maps and notes on each system and the hints about Silverlight were really cool. It's nice to see how the cosmere is coming together
What I didn't like:
  • um...honestly can't think of anything haha
Recommended for: people who are old cosmere fans and new cosmere fans! There are spoiler warnings for different books so you might not be able to read all of the stories if you aren't caught up, but there are plenty of standalone stories to enjoy

18626849

Stories of Your Life by Ted Chiang
Genre: Science fiction
Rating: 5/5 stars

What I liked:
  • I might write a full review for this one again later, because I LOVED it. Every story was full of such poetry. Every word was chosen for a reason and the prose was very sparse but beautiful
  • Every story was a sort of love letter to mathematics, linguistics, and human nature. All the stories played with human emotions and our relationships with one another while also bringing in natural laws, mathematical formulae, and the supernatural.
  • My favorite stories were Stories of Your Life, Division by Zero, and Hell is the Absence of God
What I didn't like:
  • There were one or two stories that I wasn't completely amazed by (Seventy Two Letters and Tower of Babylon), but I still enjoyed them. Honestly that's not much of a complaint, I loved the entire anthology.
Recommended for... anyone who enjoys science fiction and thoughtful, profound stories about what makes us human
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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

ARC Review: Roanoke Girls


30689335Title: The Roanoke Girls
Author: Amy Engel
Genre: Mystery, psychological thriller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:After her mother's suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother's mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.
Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.
As it weaves between Lane s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart. 


This was a really hard book to read at times because abuse is such a hard thing to read about, but I did enjoy it overall! I didn't know much about Roanoke Girls going into the book, but I had been reading a lot of mysteries lately and I was in the mood for another one. This one isn't quite a mystery in the traditional sense; yes, there's a missing woman and no one knows what's happened to her, but it's more about the strange events that have haunted all the Roanoke Girls over multiple generations.

I liked how this book was very character-driven. It is narrated by a bunch of dysfunctional women, but it doesn't play too much into the "hysterical woman" stereotype that a lot of psychological thrillers use. Instead, we see all the women as complicated people who deal with a disturbing family secret in different ways. Mental health and mental illness are at the forefront of this book, and I think the author did a great job of showing how toxic environments exacerbate mental illness without defining characters as "crazy". All the women in the book are given a voice to tell their own side of the story, which I thought was very important.

My favorite part about this book is how things aren't tied up neatly at the end. There is a solid ending, don't get me wrong, but considering how dark the family secret is, I'm glad that Lane is still working towards finding her happiness at the end of the novel. Things don't just fall in her lap, she has to face her own demons and work at forming healthy relationships.

This book was a really quick and interesting read. I wouldn't call it fun, because there is some pretty icky/disturbing stuff, but I did enjoy reading about Lane's journey.

A free eARC was provided by Crown Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

My first Author Event: ACOL Tour by VE Schwab


Sorry I've been AWOL for a couple weeks, I've been flying out all over the country for grad school interviews. This week is my last one (thank goodness, all the traveling and meeting new people is so tiring even though it's a lot of fun), so hopefully I'll get back into the rhythm of updating the blog regularly. I also have to decide where I'm going soon...that's gonna be tough o.O

I wasn't flying around this past weekend, but I did go to my first author event! I've been trying to meet at least one of my favorite authors for 5 years now but something always comes up last minute or I'm not able to get to where the signing is because it's 2 hours away on a Tuesday night and I'm a broke college student without a car.

But this year, I'm no longer a college student and I have a car! Double jackpot. I went down to Huntington Beach on Saturday to see Victoria Schwab on her A Conjuring of Light Tour, and I had such an amazing time. I was sitting on the floor, in a corner right at the front, and it just happened to be the corner that Victoria stood at while she was being introduced. I might have internally screamed when she said her first nervous hi to me and a friend I'd dragged along before she walked over to her fancy podium :D

It was really cool getting to meet an author because 1) It's finally sunken in that authors are actual human beings with actual lives (somehow twitter didn't quite do that for me haha) 2) It's so awesome to learn firsthand about the process and thought and effort that went into a book because then you enjoy the book way more.

So many things Victoria said had me jumping up and down in my head because I agreed with her or was really inspired by what she had to say. For example, her whole thing about how she isn't anti-romance, she just thinks other relationships are just as/more important and interesting. Most of my favorite books involve complicated relationships, really strong friendships, and/or siblings, so I loved that she delves into all of those instead of focusing on just romance. She also talked about her kind of insane writing process (as a very methodical engineer it kind of stressed me out), Neil Gaiman and other inspirations, YURI ON ICE, what it's like to be basically the god of your own worlds, and how giving your story to a reader makes the book almost like a new creature entirely. It was so awesome!

Here are some pictures of me fangirling, I hope I didn't freak her out haha







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Monday, February 13, 2017

ARC review: Miranda and Caliban


25670396Title: Miranda and Caliban
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Miranda is a lonely child. For as long as she can remember, she and her father have lived in isolation in the abandoned Moorish palace. There are chickens and goats, and a terrible wailing spirit trapped in a pine tree, but the elusive wild boy who spies on her from the crumbling walls and leaves gifts on their doorstep is the isle’s only other human inhabitant. There are other memories, too: vague, dream-like memories of another time and another place. There are questions that Miranda dare not ask her stern and controlling father, who guards his secrets with zealous care: Who am I? Where did I come from? The wild boy Caliban is a lonely child, too; an orphan left to fend for himself at an early age, all language lost to him. When Caliban is summoned and bound into captivity by Miranda’s father as part of a grand experiment, he rages against his confinement; and yet he hungers for kindness and love. 

I am a huge fan of retellings/re-imaginings of classic stories, be it fairy tales or Shakespeare. I was naturally really excited to read this prequel/re-imagining to Shakespeare's The Tempest. Full disclosure, I didn't love the original but I thought it had a really cool premise and I was excited to see how Carey put a spin on it.

I liked how this book subverted the roles/morality of characters from the original; Prospero is a sinister patriarch, Ariel is a malicious spirit, Caliban is a wild yet innocent boy growing up under Prospero's tyrranical watch, Miranda is an intelligent young woman who learns that perhaps Papa doesn't know best.

This book is at its core a coming-of-age story of two children from very different backgrounds growing up in the same harsh environment. I liked how the writing style for the character's POV chapters evolved along with the maturity of the characters themselves. There were a lot of familiar elements in this book that I'd seen in books set in the Victorian era; emphasis on beauty and morality being intertwined, using phrenology and other strange pseudo-sciences to classify and draw lines between men/women/different people, rigid moral codes and sexual repression.

I generally did enjoy this book, but it wasn't as lyrical or engaging as I was expecting. Prospero's motivation and near-madness could have been fleshed out more; he was definitely mysterious and sinister but I wanted to get into his head more, or at least see more moral ambiguity. Caliban's development was largely centered around his discovery of his own sexuality and feelings for Miranda, and I wanted him to grow and mature outside of that context. Miranda herself was pretty dull, and I didn't really care about her until the very end. I also expected more of the book to tie into The Tempest, but those events only came into play during the last few chapters.

This was an interesting retelling, but I think it could have done a better job of playing with my expectations or adding a new spin to the original. I would definitely recommend it for people who love The Tempest, but not for people who just like retellings in general.

A free eARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Bullet Reviews: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Ancillary Sword, The Last Mortal Bond



I'm halfway through December reviews, I'm hoping to finish up some bullet reviews for December/January in the next week or two and then start writing actual reviews again soon!

This week is a little bit of a hodge-podge set of reviews; they are all loosely connected because they are all books that I didn't like as much as I thought I would. I had heard so much about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I liked it initially, but then I just got kind of bored with it. I was really enjoying Brian Staveley's Unhewn Throne trilogy, and I'd heard glowing reviews about the conclusion, but I liked the second book better than the third. And finally, I read the sequel to Ancillary Justice since I loved the first book so much, but the second just didn't compare.

Here are the reviews!

2429135The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Genre: mystery, suspense
Rating: 3/5 stars

What I liked:
  • I listened to the audio version, and I really liked the narrator. He had a perfect tone of voice for this story, I can't put my finger on why I liked it so much but the narration was a definite plus
  • This is sort of a plus and minus: I learned a lot more about random topics than I thought I did. This book goes into a lot of detail about everything from Swedish industry and economics, how the media works, and how guardians are assigned for the mentally ill. It was interesting, but it was also sometimes distracting/annoying because it slowed the book's plot down
  • Lisbeth is pretty cool, even if she's an unconventional protagonist. It was funny to see how so many normal social interactions went sideways when Lisbeth was involved. She is also really amazing at what she does, and I liked seeing how far she would go to achieve something she wants.
  • I was really scared to pick this book up because I'd heard there was a really terrible rape scene and I didn't think I could handle it; thankfully the scene wasn't horrifically graphic or long. It's definitely intense but the writing is dry and goes more into mechanics of the rape than the emotional trauma during the event, which makes it slightly easier to stomach (it's still horrifying though).

What I didn't like:
  • In general, I found the characters rather flat. I didn't really care about any of them, and they all could be described with 5 words or less. Even Lisbeth was just "pretty cool", not particularly compelling. I found her story interesting but I wasn't too emotionally invested in it (and considering the trauma she undergoes, that's saying something)
  • the suspense/mystery wasn't as surprising or compelling as I thought it would be. There are so many pointless interactions and subplots
  • The pacing was really wonky. Nothing much happens for the first quarter of the book, and then the climax happens about 3/4 of the way through the book. It's really hard to focus on picking up the pieces when nearly a quarter of the book is devoted to it instead of just a chapter or an epilogue.
Recommended for... 
People who are curious about the hype surrounding The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I honestly wouldn't recommend it to people who have read a lot of suspense/mystery novels

20753341The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley (Unhewn Throne #3)

Genre: fantasy
Rating: 3/5 stars

What I liked:
  • I like how every book just gets more and more intense. This book really ratchets up the stakes and intensity with every book; you think things can't get worse for the protagonists and then somehow they do!
  • I think my favorite part about this book was the epilogue. I kind of wish the trilogy was plotted so that the story of the first 3 books was compressed into the first 2, and then the third book was all about what happens in the epilogue. I would have liked that story much better :)
  • I really liked Gwenna's subplot and how she got more POV chapters in this book. The Kettral subplot was really cool, even without Valyn. In general the women of this series have grown from being accessories to being important and complex main characters, which I appreciated.
What I didn't like:
  •  I felt like the characters went through tremendous growth in Providence of Fire, but remained pretty stagnant in this book. They are pitted against one another and make difficult choices, but as characters they don't really change motivations or mature or change in any tangible way.
  • This book started to feel too much like a grimdark fantasy for my taste. Grimdark is so brutal, and just so hopeless. It spreads this message of futility and brutality in the world that just makes my bones weary and my soul ache. I don't mind dark stories, but I just don't enjoy this level of hopelessness and futility.

Recommended for: people who enjoy grimdark and aren't scared away by violence and gore.

20706284

Ancillary Sword (Ancillary Justice #2) by Ann Leckie
Genre: science fiction
Rating: 2/5 stars

What I liked:
  • Ummm...this is hard. Most of what I liked about this book was just residual feelings of what I liked about book one. I enjoyed the writing style and the world and playing with gender stereotypes
What I didn't like:
  • This book was a very blatant "Ann Leckie takes on racism" and I just felt like the message about prejudice and race was very blunt and unsubtle. I felt like I was being beaten over the head with it.
  • This story is told linearly, unlike Ancillary Justice. Most of the fun of Ancillary Justice was switching back and forth in time as you figured out what was happening and its repercussions, and that's just missing here. There aren't any really big reveals like book 1 either.
  • The complexity of the situation at the end of book 1 is sort of brushed aside. It's hardly addressed, there is literally no progress regarding the Anaander Mianaai situation at the end of this book, it's all about combatting racism/classism on one little planet.
Recommended for... people who don't mind heavy-handed preaching about why racism sucks? I don't know, I honestly wouldn't recommend this book but I do highly recommend the previous one.


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