Book Review – The Book Thief

The book thiefI don’t write blog post book reviews for every book I read.  (Follow me on Goodreads if you want an update for everything I’m reading.)  But when I read something that stands out to me as a writer and not just as a reader, I think it warrants a book review.

This is a book that stole my heart, shattered it, and handed me back the broken pieces.

Germany, WWII.  A girl who steals books.  Darkness and hatred and hope and the power of words to change to world.

It’s amazing and earth-shaking and quiet and huge, and THE WAY THAT THIS AUTHOR USES WORDS IS MY FAVORITE.  I laughed, I cried, I sat on the edge of my seat.

Where do I start? The characters. They were so real and raw and funny and I feel like I’ve acquired new friends from these pages.  They were flawed and scared and brave and I just wanted to give them all hugs and a new chance at life.

The writing. Okay, so the book is narrated by Death. Sounds weird, but works brilliantly. He’s the perfect narrator.  He’s not harsh and evil, he’s sad and weary and terrified of how humans are killing each other faster than ever before.  It terms of the writing itself, Markus Zusak’s command of words is chilling and beautiful and soul-wrenching at times. The way that he molds images and sentences makes you feel like you’re reading something written by Someone Other-worldy, which is perfect because Death is our unfailing narrator.

Final Thoughts: I can’t believe that it took me so long to pick up this book, and I’m so glad I finally did. It left an imprint on my soul.  I want to write books like this – ones that will haunt my readers for years after they put the book down.

Book Review – Fangirl

fangirl It’s been a while since I’ve done a book review, but here you go:

Summary: Cather is a freshman in college.  She’s spent her whole life tailing around her beautiful-and-charming twin, Wren, and she’s liked that just fine.  But now, even though Cather and Wren are going to the same college, Wren wants to take her own path, leaving Cather to alone to navigate the frightening waters of being a freshman.

So Cather falls back on what’s always been there for her: fanfiction.  She’s practically famous to online fans of Simon Snow (ie Harry Potter), and she’s never happier than when she’s writing about the characters that have been her friends for years.  But soon she’ll be forced to learn that there’s more to college than sitting in your dorm by yourself.  With themes of family, friendship, and the joys (and pains) of writing, Fangirl is a pure delight.

There are some books that hit you right in the chest, because an author has put into words the exact things that you yourself were feeling and you thought inexpressible.  Rainbow Rowell did that brilliantly in Fangirl.  I think this book hit me particularly hard because I could relate so much to Cather – I read it after just finishing my first semester in college, I love to write, and I’m a die-hard Harry Potter fan.  I’m not exactly like Cather, but we are so alike in so many ways, and I loved that about this novel.

I also loved that this novel felt like a snapshot of real life.  It wasn’t just about fanfiction, or writing, or being a freshman.  It was about friendship and family and stepping out of your comfort zone and a million other beautiful things.

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I read it in a day, and I can’t wait to re-read it.

Content advisory: there is a bit of language, and there is some romancy stuff.  (Nothing explicit, no graphic scenes, etc.)  It is definitely meant for college or high school people.

If you’ve read it, let me know your thoughts!  Or let me know if you’ve read anything else by Rainbow Rowell.  I absolutely adored Fangirl’s plot, it’s characters, and it’s glorious writing.  It was funny and sad and happy and interesting and fantastic.

Five out of five stars for making me feel all the things.

Book Review – The Martian

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I read this back in March, but never put up a review??? Whaaaat???

It deserves a review.

When Mark Watney is stranded on Mars – alone – he will have to use every ounce of cunning to contact NASA and make it back home alive.

Here’s the mini-review I put on Goodreads right after I was finished:

“I’m speechless. This is a book that never got dull, never let me put it down. I stayed up past midnight TWICE to keep reading. Painfully wonderful. I loved Mark’s humor. I loved the other characters. Gah I just loved the whole thing.”

You know what?  I feel like that sums it up pretty well.  Amazing characters.  Fabulous humor.  Never a dull page.  Not a wasted sentence.  Cool sciency-things if you’re a science person, but not written in such a way as to confuse non-science people.  Space.  Mars.  Laughter.  Hope in the face of hopelessness.

GO READ IT.
EVEN IF YOU’VE ALREADY SEEN THE MOVIE.

Content advisory: quite a bit of language, but used in humor rather than to offend.

SERIOUSLY.  THIS IS A BRILLIANT BOOK.  GO NOW.

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The Siren

Kiera Cass, the author of this charming series:

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Has just released (or re-released) this delightful stand-alone novel:

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I really liked the Selection series.  It won’t go down in history as on my top ten list, but I enjoyed it.  It was fun.  Annoying at some points.  Endearing at others.  It was mostly well-done.  But The Siren?  It’s a whole new level of awesome.  I tore through it in just a few days, from one delightful page to another.

The premise?  The main character, Kahlen, is a Siren.  She sings for the Ocean.  And she is absolutely not allowed to fall in love.

Oops.

I’m not usually one for romance-focused books.  But this didn’t feel like a romance book.  It felt like a really good fairy tale to be read on a sunny beach instead of in a cozy bedroom.  It felt like Since You’ve Been Gone if it had been written in the Fantasy genre.  It was delicious.  The friendships were beautiful, the characters cool, and the premise was fascinating.  And it had none of the annoying things that I disliked about the Selection series.

Kiera Cass, well done.

4.5/5 stars.

If you want a fuller review, this one on Goodreads perfectly sums up my feelings.

 

Cinder / Lunar Chronicles

I love a good genre mashup.  One of the best TV shows of all time was a mix of sci-fi and western.  (I’ll always love you, Firefly!)  Spaceships and horses and bar fights and technology, all blended into the perfect setting for the perfect TV show.

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Now, Merissa Meyer puts a new type of mashup  on the line by taking classic fairy tales and giving them a sci-fi flare.

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For example, Cinder(ella) is a cyborg mechanic.  Instead of losing a glass slipper, she loses her mechanical foot.  In fact, throughout the book there are several clever twists on the classic story elements.  Then add in a whole new world, brand new characters, a deadly plague sweeping across the land.  Oh, and also an evil Lunar queen (yes, from the moon) and you’re in for a wild ride.

The first book, Cinder, is about Cinderella as a cyborg.  The next three books feature Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White.  I love the way the stories draw off of different pieces of the traditional fairy tales, and also how they weave together with each other.  It pulls you in more and more with each chapter.

Pros and Cons?  I love the concept of this world.  The characters are quite fun, the writing is pretty good (it gets better), although the plot was a little predictable in the first book.  But the series DEFINITELY improves with each book (which is always a good thing), and I enjoyed the rest of the series a TON.  (The fourth book is a little long, but the 2nd and 3rd are pretty much flawless).  This series isn’t perfect, but it’s doing a lot of things right.  It reminded me a lot of the way the Eragon series was done.

So if you’re a young person wanting a Firefly-Disney conglomeration, go check out the Lunar Chronicles (Cinder is the first book).  They’re delightful.  And if you’re like me, you’ll leave wanting to go re-watch Firefly.

The Night Circus

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”

The Night Circus

This is a book that chills and excites and enchants.  It is one I will read over and over so that I can go back to the magical, tent-covered land of the Circus, because what Erin Morgenstern has created is more than a masterpiece.  It’s magic.

This book review isn’t going to be a standard format, because this book isn’t standard.  It’s extraordinary in every sense of the word.

The writing is breathtaking, the characters are creative, the story is beautiful, the suspense is delicious.

Reading it was a sheer joy.  There were times I had to stop and make myself a cup of tea before continuing because I just couldn’t take all the glory of it.

So go.

Read it.

Now.

But be warned of two things:

First, I got “stuck” about a fifth of the way through reading it.  Don’t give up if you get “stuck.”  It was a tiny bit confusing with all the different plot lines, but DON’T GIVE UP because they all come together.  I promise.  And when they do, it’s magnificent.

Second, don’t read the second paragraph of the synopsis on the back of the book (or anywhere else you see the synopsis – Amazon, Goodreads, etc).  DON’T READ IT.  It contains a moderate spoiler that I believe detracts from the overall enjoyment of the book – especially the climax.

This book is sheer delight.  I’m going to stop talking now so you can go and buy yourself a copy.  It is tingling to the mind as magic might be to the fingers.

Five out of five stars any day for superb story telling.

Red Queen

Red QueenLook at this book cover.  Look at it.

It is everything magnificent.

On to the book review.

Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard, is a story of a 17-year-old girl named Mare.  She is a Red in a world ruled by the Silvers.  Reds are normal humans; Silvers have super powers – because of that, the Silvers rule and suppress the Reds.  Mare finds herself working at the palace of the Silvers, where she doesn’t fit in to either side.  Why?  Because although her blood is Red, she has a Silver power.

My thoughts: I have mixed feelings about this book.  Let me begin by saying that I read it all in one day.  ONE. DAY.  I stayed up until 1:00 in the morning reading this.  (Okay, so I guess it was two days then, cause it would be the next day after midnight…) ANYWAYS, that’s how engrossed I was.

HOWEVER.  There were a lot of things I didn’t like.

Allow me to break it down like this:

Writing Style: Amazing.  Victoria Aveyard knows how to word her sentences.

Suspense Level: Over-the-top.  As previously mentioned, I stayed up til 1 AM trying to get these characters to safety.

Characters: Here’s where the review is gonna go downhill.  I didn’t particularly love any of them.  They weren’t necessarily one-dimensional, it’s just that I never felt that I got to know them well enough.  They just didn’t feel special. 

In every great story, there are things that set characters apart and make them memorable.  Katniss is insane at archery and looks after her family.  Peeta is the boy with the bread.  Snape has a tragic backstory and a hooked nose.  Voldemort has no nose.  Kaylee from Firefly has teddy bears sewn on her clothes.  Agustus Waters smokes non-lit cigarettes and isn’t afraid to get his heart broken.

For each of my favorite characters, there’s something that makes them memorable.  But I honestly couldn’t tell you how any of these characters looked, dressed, talked, or acted.  They just didn’t jump off the page.

Plot: In one word, it was unoriginal.  It literally felt like X-Men, Hunger Games, and The Selection all rolled into one.  The ending distinctly reminded me of Divergent.  One scene reminded me of a Star Wars scene.  Because of that, I was more focused on going “Hey, this reminds me of that scene from Hunger Games” than on caring about what was happening.  I spent some time reading reviews on Goodreads, and a lot of other people agree that the plot felt like a bunch of others all combined.

Content Advisory: There’s a few kisses, some violence, and a ton of suspense.  But nothing super objectionable.

Rating: 3 stars.  It wasn’t my favorite, but it was fun to read.  I won’t be reading the rest of the series though.

Anyone else read it?  What did you think?