Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld

The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries magical visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs, with the devastating violence of prison life. 
Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest, and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners' pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honor and corruption—ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.

Review: This is a difficult book to review. I can barely explain what it’s about let alone tell you why I love it.

The Enchanted is narrated by an omniscient death-row inmate. He’s an unusual guy. He believes that golden horses live under the prison, men live inside the walls, and creatures come out to steal the warmth from the urns of cremated prisoners. The unnamed narrator tells the story of the prison and the people who live and work there.

I’ve always struggled with adult literary fiction because a lot of it is plotless. This book also lacks a strong plot, but the characters are so compelling that I wanted to keep reading. The narrator tells several intertwining stories. One of them is the romance that happens between a death penalty investigator and a fallen priest. Another story is about how a corrupt guard’s greed permanently alters the life of a teenage prisoner. The final major story is about a death-row inmate who is eagerly awaiting his own execution and fighting the efforts to get his death sentence overturned. Through it all, the narrator reveals his own life story and explains how he ended up on death row. It’s hard to tell which stories are real and which are a product of the narrator’s imagination.

The writing in this book is some of the best writing I’ve read in a long time. It’s eerie. I especially love the descriptions of the cremations and the creatures that come out to hug the warm urns. I thought about those creepy creatures for a long time after finishing the book.

This story is brutal. There is rape and murder and many forms of abuse. Most of the characters are horrible people, but the author humanizes them. They aren’t likeable at all, but it’s easy for the reader to understand how the characters ended up in prison. The death-row inmates are not one-dimensional monsters. They are complex (and profoundly screwed-up) humans. All of the characters are realistic and fascinating to read about.

The ending is haunting. No matter what your opinions are about the death penalty, the ending will make you think. It’s powerful in a quiet sort of way.

I do have an issue with how this book is advertised. I read the book because I saw it labeled as ‘magical realism’ on a website, but I don’t think ‘magical realism’ is an accurate label. This book is not like other stories I’ve read in that genre. I think that people who go into the book wanting magical realism will be disappointed. All of the magic seems to happen in the narrator’s head. He uses it as a way to cope with being in a terrible environment. So, I’d recommend abandoning all of your expectations before starting the book.  

This bizarre little story is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. If you’re okay with slower-paced books, I’d highly recommend this one.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman (Author) Dave McKean (Illustrator)

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy—an ancient indigo man, a gateway to an abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will be in danger from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family . . .

Review: The Graveyard Book is a composite novel made up of loosely connected chapters that tell the story of Nobody Owens, a living boy who is being raised by ghosts in a graveyard. The story starts when Nobody is a toddler and ends when he is around fourteen years old.

My favorite thing about Neil Gaiman’s children’s books is that he doesn’t write down to children. He knows that kids are intelligent and that they want smart, edgy, well-written literature. This book has murder and graveyards and great writing and all the things that I would have loved as a kid. None of it is graphic, but it is occasionally depressing. The illustrations are creepy in an awesome (non-scary) way. The writing style and word choices may confuse younger children, but they may be perfect for older kids or advanced readers. Some elements of the book—such as the structure—feel more like a novel for adults than for children.

Nobody “Bod” Owens is a sweet kid. He’s easy to like, even when he makes stupid decisions. I think he’s a believable child character. I really like the bond that he has with his ghost family. It’s obvious that Bod loves his family, and they love him, even though they are not a “traditional” family. Bod’s guardian, Silas, is my favorite character. He’s a vampire-ish creature who takes care of Bod and helps him when he gets in trouble. Unlike a lot of parents in children’s books, Silas is a very responsible and realistic guardian. He’s not perfect, but he does a good job of parenting Bod.

I love the characters and setting of this book, but I did get bored with other parts of it. It’s a composite novel, so each chapter feels more like a short story than a book chapter. Some parts of the book are very slow. Since there isn’t much of a plot, I wasn’t sure where this story was going, and I struggled to stay interested. I also wish that the villains had been better developed. Their motivation for killing Bod’s biological family is a little flimsy.

I don’t want to give away spoilers, but the ending is depressing. I understand that this book is about growing up, but Bod is fourteen at the end. He isn’t “grown up,” even if he thinks he is. I would have liked the ending more if he had been older.

The Graveyard Book is an interesting story for both adults and kids. It shows a healthy nontraditional family, which is wonderful. Children can relate to Bod’s struggles of growing up, and adults can relate to the challenges of helping a child grow up. If you can get past the slow bits, I think this would be a great book for a parent and child to read together.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Sunday Post #20—I’m Back (I Think)

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
  • On Wednesday I review The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld.
  • On Thursday I wrap up September.
  • On Friday I talk about fictional characters that I want to kiss, marry, or kill.
  • On Saturday I show you my B&N book haul (this is what happens when Amazon messes up your book order, and you have to make a surprise trip to Barnes & Noble).

In My Reading Life

This week, I read The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld and Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira. Right now, I’m reading The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. I started this book at the beginning of the month, and I still haven’t been able to finish it. I swear it will get read.

In My Blogging Life

I’m looking for interesting memes and tags to do. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

In The Rest of My Life

I think I’m back from my hiatus. I had to take a break from blogging because I got sick, and then one of my dogs had a stroke and died unexpectedly. I still don’t feel great, but I did write some blog posts last week, so I don’t feel completely useless.

Here are 5 things that made me happy last week:

  1. I got to spend 11 years of my life with a sweet, happy dog that I loved very much.
  2. I took my other dogs to a new dog park, and they had a lot of fun swimming in the creek.
  3. New books!
  4. In about a week, I will officially be halfway done with graduate school.
  5. Survivor and The Amazing Race started. I know it’s not cool to like reality TV, but I love those shows.

I hope you had a great week. I'll see you around the blogosphere!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Used Book Haul

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. I get to show off all the books I’ve gotten recently.

I know that I wasn’t supposed to get any more books until I read the ones I already have, but I’ve somehow acquired a bunch of books over the past few weeks. These are all used books that I traded for. Let me know if you’ve read any of them.

Postcards from No Man’s Land – Aidan Chambers

Seventeen-year-old Jacob Todd’s plan is to go to Amsterdam to honor his grandfather who died during World War II. He expects to go, set flowers on his grandfather's tombstone, and explore the city. But nothing goes as planned. Jacob isn't prepared for love—or to face questions about his sexuality. Most of all, he isn't prepared to hear what Geertrui, the woman who nursed his grandfather during the war, has to say about their relationship. Geertrui was always known as Jacob's grandfather's kind and generous nurse. But it seems that in the midst of terrible danger, Geertrui and Jacob's grandfather's time together blossomed into something more than a girl caring for a wounded soldier. And like Jacob, Geertrui was not prepared. Geertrui and Jacob live worlds apart, but their voices blend together to tell one story—a story that transcends time and place and war. By turns moving, vulnerable, and thrilling, this extraordinary novel takes the reader on a memorable voyage of discovery.

Kit’s Wilderness – David Almond

The Watson family moves to Stoneygate, an old coal-mining town, to care for Kit’s recently widowed grandfather. When Kit meets John Askew, another boy whose family has both worked and died in the mines, Askew invites Kit to join him in playing a game called Death. As Kit’s grandfather tells him stories of the mine’s past and the history of the Watson family, Askew takes Kit into the mines, where the boys look to find the childhood ghosts of their long-gone ancestors. Written in haunting, lyrical prose, Kit’s Wilderness examines the bonds of family from one generation to the next, and explores how meaning and beauty can be revealed from the depths of darkness.

Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin

In the Deep South of the 1950s, journalist John Howard Griffin decided to cross the color line. Using medication that darkened his skin to deep brown, he exchanged his privileged life as a Southern white man for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man. His audacious, still chillingly relevant eyewitness history is a work about race and humanity that in this new millennium still has something important to say to every American.

A Step from Heaven – An Na

When Young Ju is four years old, she learns that her family is leaving their small fishing village in Korea to live in Mi Gook. Young Ju has heard enough about Mi Gook to be sure the place they are moving to is paradise, that she and her family are going to heaven. 
After flying through the sky for a long time, Young Ju finds out that Mi Gook is actually a regular earthly place called America. And it doesn't feel at all like heaven. A Step from Heaven follows Young's life from the age of 4 all the way up until she is ready for college, as we watch her change from a hopeful girl into a hardened young adult.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Review: The Martian – Andy Weir

The Martian – Andy Weir

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Review: This book kept me on the edge of my seat, but some elements of the writing . . . ouch.

I’m obsessed with survival stories, and The Martian is the ultimate survival story. Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded alone on Mars. Literally everything can kill him: the extreme cold, the lack of oxygen, the absence of food and water, equipment failures, dust storms . . . . The only thing that Mark can rely on is his own intelligence.

An incredible amount of research went into this book. It’s science fiction with actual science! I think that’s becoming rare these days. It’s refreshing to read, and it feels real. I could actually imagine something like this happening in real life. It’s both fascinating and terrifying.

Mark is an easy character to root for. His optimism and humor help him persevere in situations that would cripple most people. This book is like a strange form of wish fulfillment. The reader wishes that he/she could be as resourceful and resilient as Mark. I don’t think Mark is a realistic character, but he’s interesting to read about because he’s the person that everybody wishes they could be. He’s funny, brave, brilliant, level-headed, and not afraid to rebel against authority and misuse multi-million dollar equipment. He’s like a nerdy action hero in a thriller movie.

The story starts slowly (with lots of details about potato farming), but once it gets going, it doesn’t stop. Mark faces one harrowing challenge after another. The plot is captivating. Whenever I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it. I rushed through parts of my day so that I could get back to reading. I loved watching the characters overcome problems that seemed insurmountable at first.

Unfortunately, some elements of the book feel amateurish to me. I think the author is more of a storyteller than a writer. There’s nothing wrong with that because the story is amazing, but it had the potential to be even better. The writing itself is pretty lackluster, which makes it hard to get into the story at first. At some points, it reads more like a technical manual than a novel.

The character development, structure, and dialogue also could have used more work. I actually cringed at some of the dialogue because it sounds so unnatural. I questioned the placement of a few scenes, and I wish that all of the characters had been better developed. The secondary characters are indistinguishable from one another and all feel like less-awesome versions of Mark. I wanted to know Mark’s backstory and see more of a character arc for him. He spends over a year struggling to survive alone on Mars, and the experience doesn’t alter him at all. I needed a tiny bit of introspection.

I am curious about what Andy Weir writes next. Even with the flaws, this is the most believable piece of science fiction that I have read in a long time. I enjoyed it. 


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books on my fall TBR. My biggest goal this fall is to finish some of my unfinished series. I also have a few standalones sitting around.

1-4. The Unwind Dystology – Neal Shusterman

After the Second Civil War, the Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. However, a loophole allows parents to retroactively get rid of a teenager through a process called "unwinding." 
Three teens defy the system and run away from their unwinding: Connor, a rebel whose parents have ordered his unwinding; Risa, a ward of the state who is to be unwound due to cost-cutting; and Lev, his parents’ tenth child whose unwinding has been planned since birth as a religious tithing.  
As their paths intersect and lives hang in the balance, Connor, Risa, and Lev must work together to survive and to change the fate of America in the process.

5-7. The Time Trilogy/Quintet – Madeleine L’Engle

This series follows the lives of Meg Murry, her youngest brother Charles Wallace Murry, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe as they try to save the world from evil forces. The remaining Murry siblings, twins Sandy and Dennys Murry, take up the struggle in one volume from which the other protagonists are largely absent. A further book about Polly O'Keefe, the eldest child of Meg and Calvin, features several characters from the other novels and completes the Time Quintet.

8. I’ll Give You the Sun – Jandy Nelson

Jude and her twin brother Noah are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.  
This radiant novel from the acclaimed, award-winning author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once.

9. The Game of Love and Death – Martha Brockenbrough

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.  
For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.  
Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?  
Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured—a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.  
The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess. 
Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

10. All the Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. 
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. 
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly – Stephanie Oakes

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly – Stephanie Oakes

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered, and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something—but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

Review: Seventeen-year-old Minnow is in juvenile detention and suspected of murdering the leader of the cult where she grew up. As Minnow’s backstory unravels, the truth about what really happened to the prophet becomes crazier and crazier. This story is a retelling of The Handless Maiden.

This is one of those books where you say, “I’ll just read a few chapters before bed.” Then, it’s suddenly morning, and you’ve read the whole thing. That’s what happened to me. I didn’t want to stop reading. I needed to solve the mystery of what happened to the prophet.

The plot is fast-paced and intense. Most of the book takes place in a prison, but there are short flashbacks to Minnow’s childhood in the cult. There is a mystery element to the story, and I spent the whole book wondering how Minnow is involved in the prophet’s death. The terrifying truth is something that you’ll never see coming.

The beginning of the book is bizarre and atmospheric. It’ll hook you right away. Minnow is an easy character to like. She’s naïve because she has lived most of her life in an isolated community, but she’s very curious about the world and not afraid to ask questions. I love that she questions her religion and the religions of the people around her. One of the reasons that religious abuse happens in real life is because people are afraid to ask questions and explore options when it comes to religion. After Minnow leaves the cult, she starts searching for a belief system that works for her. It’s awesome. I wish more people in real life would have that type of courage.

All of the characters are well-developed, but Minnow’s cellmate, Angel, is my favorite. She provides the comic relief, and she teaches Minnow about the world. I also really like Jude. He’s a far-from-perfect love interest, which is rare in young adult novels. The romance is realistic, and Minnow has to make some difficult choices about it in the end.

I could keep gushing about this book forever. The writing is poetic. The setting is vivid. The plot is compelling. And, best of all, it’s actually a believable story! I study religion as a hobby, and there are many fictional books about religion that make me roll my eyes and go “Really? REALLY? People do not behave that way.” I was so happy to find a fictional cult book that isn’t completely stupid. Reading this novel was especially creepy for me because I was just studying how amputation is used as a punishment in some religions. My background knowledge made this book very realistic for me.

I do have some criticisms, but I can’t talk about them because they’re major spoilers. I’ll just say that I’m not a massive fan of the ending. There are a few things that I think are wrapped up too quickly or too vaguely. The prophet’s death especially disappointed me because there is so much buildup to it, but it’s anticlimactic and convenient. I was hoping for more.

Overall, I love this book. It’s strange, and thrilling, and has minimal romance, and I’d recommend it to everybody.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Tropes I Love & Hate

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is whatever I want. I chose to list some tropes. When people hear the word “Trope,” they usually think of something negative, but there are thousands of tropes, and some of them have been around for centuries. They’re not necessarily a bad thing. So, I decided to list 5 tropes I love and 5 I’m sick of seeing.

The Tropes I Love

1. Anti-heroes and anti-villains: These are the morally gray characters. You’re never quite sure if they’re good guys or bad guys, but they’re super-interesting to read about. These characters are pretty common in sci-fi/fantasy/horror.

2. Slow-burn love: The opposite of insta-love. The characters are friends long before they are romantic partners. Ron and Hermione are probably the most well-known example of slow-burn love. It takes them thousands of pages to get together.

3. Unusual formatting: Strange fonts? Mixing poetry and prose? One-sentence chapters? Creepy old photographs? An entire book written in lists? All those experimental things that reviewers call “Gimmicky and annoying”? YES, PLEASE. I want more.

4. Parallel universes: These have been a staple of science fiction for as long as the genre has been around. As a kid, I was obsessed with His Dark Materials and The Talisman. As an adult, I loved the Dark Tower series and A Darker Shade Of Magic. I’ve never met a parallel-universe book that I didn’t like.

5. The unexpected hero (A.K.A. the non-action guy): This is the character who doesn’t have traditional “hero” traits, but ends up doing something heroic anyway. Neville Longbottom is an unexpected hero. Peeta from The Hunger Games may also fit into this category.

Honorable mention: The coming-of-age story: In these stories, the characters go through an event that forces them to grow up a little. At the end of the book, the characters are psychologically or morally different than they were in the beginning. A lot of contemporary YA books are coming-of-age stories. I never get sick of them.

The Tropes I Hate  

1. Abusive “bad boy” love interests: Nothing makes me angrier than seeing a character stay in an abusive relationship. I know that real-life people do stay in bad relationships, but I hate reading about it. I especially hate when the girl says, “Oh, he’s just being cute and protective.” No. He’s being crazy. Get away from him. Now.

2. Unpronounceable names: Fantasy authors, why do you do this to me?

3. The chosen one / one person against the world: I don’t completely hate this trope, but it’s used a lot. I wish authors would be a little more creative. Sometimes it seems like every protagonist is the only person who can save the universe.

4. Romanticized illness: You know all those moody bad boys with anger-management problems? Is that sex appeal or some kind of mental disorder? Also, as much as I adore The Fault In Our Stars, I’m not sure if it’s a realistic story. Does being deathly ill really put you in the mood for love?

5. The annoyingly quirky girl: Stargirl was one of my favorite books as a kid, but I don’t think I would have liked the book if Stargirl was the narrator. She’s just so annoyingly weird. Other annoyingly quirky girls: Alice from Twilight and Margo from Paper Towns. Both characters got on my nerves a little. Quirky is fine, but some characters overdo it. On a related topic, where are all the quirky boys?

What tropes do you love and hate?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Sunday Post #19—Hiatus

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to take a break from posting on the blog. I’ve felt really sick over the past few weeks, and school has been overwhelming, and one of my dogs had a stroke and died on Friday. As a result of all this, I’m way behind on blog posts. I have some Top Ten Tuesdays scheduled, but that’s it. I don’t think I can get all the reviews and stuff written for this week. I can’t concentrate and just want to sleep all the time. So, I’m going to call the doctor and find out what’s wrong with me. Then hopefully I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled bookish ramblings.

So, hiatus for now, but I’ll probably see you around the blogosphere.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Discussion: Are There Subjects That You Can't Read About?

Are There Subjects That You Can’t Read About?

One of my favorite young adult authors is Ellen Hopkins. I love her writing style. I love the difficult topics she tackles in her novels. Her books are some of my all-time YA favorites. But, she has this book called Crank, and . . . I can’t read it. A lot of people have told me that Crank is Ellen Hopkins’s best book, but I can’t do it. The synopsis alone makes me feel like I’m going to throw up.

Crank tells the story of a teenage girl who becomes addicted to meth. That’s all I know about it. I’ve never bothered to find out more because drug addiction is a topic that I can’t read about. Casual drug use in books has never bothered me, but once the drug use becomes an addiction, I completely lose interest in the book. I just don’t want to read it anymore.

Does anyone else have a subject that you can’t read about?

I’ve never been a drug addict myself, but I have known quite a few of them. Heroin and meth addictions were very common at my high school. A lot of my friends became addicts. For me, stories about addiction feel way too realistic. Reading them makes me stressed out, sick, and really, really angry. It’s weird. Reading about addiction kills the sense of escapism that I get from books. I don’t want to read something if I’m not getting any enjoyment out of it.

Even though I don’t like addiction books, a sadistic part of my brain wonders what would happen if I read Crank. If I forced myself to read it, would I get over my dislike of the subject?

Another part of my brain wonders how big of a deal it is to dislike certain subjects. There are millions of books out there about topics that interest me. I have plenty of reading material to keep me happy. I’m probably not missing much by avoiding books about topics I don’t like.

What do you think? What do you do about the subjects you dislike? Do you avoid books about those subjects? Have you ever attempted to get over your dislike? How did it work for you?

I’m linking back to Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts At Midnight. They host the 2015 Discussion Challenge.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Review: The Wrath & The Dawn – Renée Ahdieh

The Wrath & The Dawn – Renée Ahdieh

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad's dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph's reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she'd imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It's an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid's life as retribution for the many lives he's stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end. 

Review: The premise is what drew me to this book. I was somewhat familiar with One Thousand and One Nights, and the story of a murderous king was too intriguing to pass up.

Every night, king Khalid marries a new bride. Every morning, he has her killed. After the king murders sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s best friend, she volunteers to marry him and vows to get revenge. However, she quickly discovers that the motive behind the murders is much more complex than she imagined. The king is not everything he seems. This book is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights.

The Arabic setting is the best part of the novel. It’s so vivid. I love the rich descriptions of the clothing, food, landscape, and architecture. It makes it so easy to imagine this exotic location. For the most part, the writing is strong. There are a few times where I thought it bordered on melodramatic and purple (way too much description of people’s mysterious color-changing eyes), but overall, I really like the descriptiveness and the atmosphere that the writing creates.  

The dialogue and the secondary characters are great. The dialogue is so sharp. There is a lot of verbal sparring between the characters, and it’s very entertaining to read. The secondary characters have vibrant personalities that really show in their dialogue. Jalal is my favorite character. I love his charisma and sense of humor. I want a whole book written from his perspective.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like either of the main characters. If I had known that this book was so romance-heavy, I probably wouldn’t have read it. I’m massively picky about romances. The smallest thing can be a huge turn-off for me. I just couldn’t get in to this romance, and honestly, it creeped me out a little. I think I was most bothered by the sex scene that happens on Khalid and Shahrzad’s wedding night. It creeps me out that Khalid wants to have sex with a girl who believes that he will murder her in the morning. Shahrzad is a somewhat-willing participant in the scene, but the power dynamic is so yucky (and slightly rapey) that I immediately hated Khalid. There was nothing that the author could do to overcome my dislike of him after that scene. I disliked him the whole way through.

This book is supposed to be a hate-to-love story, but I didn’t believe the hate or the love. Shahrzad never tries to kill Khalid, and she doesn’t even have a good plan for how to do it. She also falls in love with him very quickly, so she can’t hate him that badly. I’m not sure why they fell in love. What makes Shahrzad different from all of the other girls that Khalid murdered? She doesn’t seem that special to me.

Shahrzad’s boyfriend Tariq also confuses me. He’s totally in love (or maybe lust) with her, but she falls in insta-love with Khalid. So, she obviously doesn’t love Tariq very much. I spent the whole book wondering how Shahrzad and Tariq could have such different ideas about their relationship.

I know this seems like a lot of criticism. I did like the book. I was completely absorbed in the plot and the world, and I was never bored while reading. This novel puts a unique spin on the One Thousand and One Nights story. But, I don’t think I’ll be reading the next book. I just wasn’t in love with the romance. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Finished Series That I Haven’t Finished Yet

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten finished series that I have yet to finish. I don’t read a lot of series, so I couldn’t come up with ten. Also, some of these series aren’t officially finished yet, but they probably will be by the time I get around to reading them.

1. The Unwind Dystology – Neal Shusterman

After the Second Civil War, the Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. However, a loophole allows parents to retroactively get rid of a teenager through a process called "unwinding." 
Three teens defy the system and run away from their unwinding: Connor, a rebel whose parents have ordered his unwinding; Risa, a ward of the state who is to be unwound due to cost-cutting; and Lev, his parents’ tenth child whose unwinding has been planned since birth as a religious tithing.  
As their paths intersect and lives hang in the balance, Connor, Risa, and Lev must work together to survive and to change the fate of America in the process.

I have a boxset of this series. How many of the books have I read? Zero.

2. The Mistborn Trilogy – Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn is an epic fantasy trilogy and a heist story of political intrigue, surprises and magical martial-arts action. The saga dares to turn a genre on its head by asking a simple question: What if the hero of prophecy fails? What kind of world results when the Dark Lord is in charge?

I got books 2 and 3 from a used bookstore, but trilogies are pretty useless when you don’t have book 1.

3. The Time Quintet – Madeleine L’Engle

This series follows the lives of Meg Murry, her youngest brother Charles Wallace Murry, and their friend Calvin O'Keefe as they try to save the world from evil forces. The remaining Murry siblings, twins Sandy and Dennys Murry, take up the struggle in one volume from which the other protagonists are largely absent. A further book about Polly O'Keefe, the eldest child of Meg and Calvin, features several characters from the other novels and completes the Time Quintet.

I read A Wrinkle In Time as a child, and now I own a bind-up of the first three books. I have not read them.

4. The Giver Quartet – Lois Lowry

The series takes place in the Giver world. Each book has a different protagonist, but is set in the same futuristic era.

I loved the first two books and felt “Meh” about the third one. I haven’t read the fourth and don’t even own it.

5. Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children Trilogy –Ransom Riggs

This series tells the tale of a boy who, following a horrific family tragedy, follows clues that take him to an abandoned orphanage on a Welsh island. The story is told through a combination of narrative and vernacular photographs from the personal archives of collectors listed by the author.

Other than the creepy romance, I loved the first book. I just haven’t had a chance to read (or buy) the others.

That’s it. I have a ton of other unfinished series, but these are the only ones that I intend to finish. Let me know if you’ve read any of them.