To Read or Not to Read?

The Evolution of Claire by Tess Sharpe

A month or two ago I was scrolling through a list of recently released Young Adult books (an action that is not uncommon for me, given that I order the Young Adult books for the library where I am employed) and I stumbled upon a book that sounded pretty interesting. The Evolution of Claire by Tess Sharpe, a YA novel all about Claire Dearing from Jurassic World and her college internship at the park a few years before the movie takes place.

Now I’m going to preface the rest of this review by saying that I am a huge Jurassic Park movie fan though I haven’t read any of the books the movies were based on. And actually the first Jurassic Park movie was also the first movie I ever saw in a theater. Though looking back on the date it came out I have to question my mother’s judgement given that the movie came out when I was five years old. And yes I do remember being mildly terrified by the opening scene but then I enjoyed it to the point where the movies may be the series I’ve rewatched the most.

So, needless to say, I was very interested in a book about a character we really didn’t know much about, especially one who was portrayed in the first Jurassic World movie, as originally being very out of her element.

Unfortunately the book didn’t even come close to the entertainment factor of the movies. The pacing was very slow. Claire’s inner monologues were grating. It’s not really that pleasant to be in the head of someone who is so cold, calculating, and logical. And I would have liked to see what exactly made her that way. It would make sense if she turned all non-emotional after the events in the book but she started out that way so I didn’t really see an “evolution” of her character per say. Plus, she was supposed to be nineteen in this book and all of her fellow interns at the park were supposed to also be college students and yet they usually behaved like lower high school students and weren’t all that mature.

I did like that the book talked about the importance of women in STEM fields and that there were characters that represent people of color and the LGBT community. And there were some adorable interactions with some playful dinosaurs and a bit of the mayhem that I’ve come to expect from the franchise. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to actually make this a book that I would recommend.

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Literary Musings

Audio Books

Blog post idea taken from “Lit Chat: Conversations Starters About Books & Life,” a book/game/ice breaker box produced by Book Riot. The question was: “Do you ever listen to audio books? Why or why not?”


It’s actually pretty funny that I’m reading and responding to this question in 2018 because I’ve read tons and tons of books in my life but I didn’t listen to my first audio book until earlier this year.

I used to always shy away from audio books because I never really liked it when people would read out loud to me unless they had just the right voice, tone, and reading speed which is hard to come by. And then I saw where people were gushing over the audio book versions of The Illuminae Files trilogy which is written in an an interesting format with online chats, interviews, and descriptions of video surveillance. I was really curious as to why so many people loved listening to someone else read them such a visual book.

And then I listened to the audio book for Illuminae, the first book in the trilogy, and I was hooked. Having it read out was actually a very good choice for the book because they hired a full cast. Each character had their own voice actor, certain characters had fun accents, and it was actually kind of easier to follow along with verbal chats and interviews than it was to read them because I could tell by hearing the voices who was speaking.

But, while that trilogy was such a hit with me that I used an Amazon credit to buy the audio book for the third book since my library didn’t have access to it at the time, I’ve tried a few other audio books since and they were both misses. One case was a book where I started the sequel to something I’d already read and the voice they used to narrate just did not fit with how I’d pictured her voice. The second was an audio book version of a Shakespeare play and everything was so messed up. Most of the accents were over the top and some characters genders were switched for no reason.

So though I definitely prefer reading I will probably keep trying audio books here and there since I did start out with a win.

To Read or Not to Read?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I remember back when I was rereading the Harry Potter series for the tenth time I did a little posting about my thoughts along the way. Since I’m covering the whole series for my Teen Book Club I figure maybe I should do the same for Cursed Child, which I absolutely hated the first time around and just feel as though I should reread in case the teens want to talk about it. And I hope they do. And I hope that they hated it too.

  • I remember that I was so excited to have a new Harry Potter book in my hands the first time around so it kind of made me sad to pick it up to reread it knowing that it would in no way match those expectations.
  • At first the family relationship of Harry and Ginny and their kinds seems kind of sweet. But I know this will dissolve so quickly. Also, this makes it seem like the younger kids have never been to Platform 9 3/4 even though I’m sure they all showed up for James’s first year?
  • Ron is a freaking idiot and that’s just so not cool of the author’s to do. Sure he was a bit ridiculous in school sometimes but not nearly this bad. It’s taking “dad jokes” to an extreme.
  • Rose Granger-Weasley is an awful character. I mean, I know Draco Malfoy teased her parents and what not but I can’t imagine Hermione would have raised her daughter to be so awful to another child just because of his parents. Especially when Scorpius Malfoy seems to be the nicest kid.
  • The son of Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter says he’s not allowed to eat sweets! Ginny and Harry would not make that call!
  • Just the rumor in general that Scorpius is Voldemort’s son is ridiculous. And if Draco was so worried about it, weren’t there wizarding DNA tests?
  • The fact that Amos Diggory immediately hears about a Time Turner and wants to save his son and gets mad. We all know the time travel restrictions and what can go wrong just going back a couple hours. Sigh.
  • The trolley witch being a security guard with spikes for hands…enough said.
  • Hermione, Minister of Magic, knows that when she was younger the security for the Ministry wasn’t that great so why hasn’t it approved so that people can’t sneak in with Polyjuice Potion anymore?! And why wouldn’t she hide something so important as a fancy Time-Turner in a better place?! So. Ridiculous.
  • Once the alternate time lines start…
    • In the first one Harry is awful. Assuming Scorpius is evil though he’s never talked to the boy and threatening to keep constant surveillance on his son. Harry wouldn’t do that. He knew how bad being watched and isolated was. And threatening McGonagall? And Hermione becoming a complete and total bitch just because she didn’t end up with Ron? I don’t think so.
    • And the next alternate time line where Cedric gets humiliated, becomes a Death Eater, and Voldemort wins. I just can’t picture Cedric becoming a Death Eater just because he failed at the Triwizard Tournament. It doesn’t fit in with his character at all.
    • In each of these timelines they have Ludo commentating on the Triwizard Tournament and he’s just saying the weirdest shit. Why?
  • None of the scenes with Hermione/Ron inspire any confidence in their relationship. They’re always nagging at one another and then Hermione melts when he says something even remotely normal. Honestly though, I’m not surprised. Given what we read in the original series I didn’t really think their marriage would last but they could have at least tried to make it sound like something that wasn’t awful for the both of them.
  • Why did the script writers create new, awful named spells to do things that we already have a named spell for?
  • The whole ending made little to no sense. If magic could be used to physically transform someone like the group does then there is little need for Polyjuice Potion. Also, why would Ginny worry that physically changing Harry would also mentally change him? That doesn’t make any sense at all.

Now I’m sure there are a dozen more points I could make but honestly I just want to forget that the Cursed Child even existed in the first place. It hurts my soul.

To Read or Not to Read?

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender

Famous Last Words had a decent enough premise. Teenager Willa’s mother marries a Hollywood director/producer and so the family is swept away to LA even though a killer is stalking young women in the town, coercing them into recreating famous movie murder scenes. And then Willa starts seeing things in her new house. Dead bodies and mysterious messages on the walls and she starts to wonder who exactly is haunting her.

Now this book lost points for me because a big part of it was about the murder mystery I knew who the murderer was pretty much the minute we met them, partially because the author just didn’t give the reader a whole bunch of options. (Though having it be an obvious character is far better than having the solution to the mystery be someone entirely out of left field. It’s so much worse when it’s someone that you literally have to go back and reread pages just to figure out who said person is/was.)

I also had issues with how the supernatural meshed with the real world. I’ve read books where the author made it make as much sense as she could while Alender just kind of had it happen with no explanation and no set rules. (For example: early on in the book the ghost kept doing things that Willa could see but nobody else could but then at the end one of the other characters could see the ghost. And sometimes what Willa saw ended up not actually being there like when she saw rose petals appear on the floor and then they were gone while other times she saw the ghost break something and it would stay broken after the haunting.)

Also, I just didn’t like Willa. I understand that she’d had some rough times in the past what with her father’s death but she just wasn’t a sympathetic character. She really only befriends two people at her school, Marnie and Wyatt and she’s all super judgmental of Wyatt just because of some gossip and yet she starts out giving Marnie the benefit of the doubt about everything even when Marnie acts weird.

So overall I just didn’t really enjoy Famous Last Words though it kept my attention enough that I had to finish it in order to figure out how it all played out.

To Read or Not to Read?

The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

Note: I received a free Kindle version of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Honestly, I’m not even sure why/how I found The Room on Rue Amelie on NetGalley since I typically choose science fiction or fantasy Young Adult novels over on that site and The Room is an adult historical fiction. But every so often I really do enjoy reading a historical fiction novel and so I recently finally got around to reading it. And it was great!

The Room on Rue Amelie is mainly set in Paris during the years of World War II and is centered around three main characters who are very different but end up very close by the end of the story.

Ruby is an American girl who ends up marrying a French man and moving to Paris with him only to find the city occupied by the Nazis just a few short years later. This puts an even bigger strain on her already strained marriage. Even though her life hasn’t turned out how she’d hoped, she is a fighter and wants to do everything she can to help the Allied cause.

Charlotte is Ruby’s next door neighbor, a young Jewish girl who finds that her life just keeps getting more and more complicated. Charlotte is an old soul who truly cares about her friends and family and grows up far too soon.

And then there’s Thomas, a member of the British Royal Air Force. When he’s shot out of the sky he discovers a secret organization of people helping pilots like him and finds more than he ever thought he would after being shot down.

I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to tell you right now that the three main characters end up running into each other but I want to add some more details because it does get all coincidental by the end. So…

*********************SPOILERS BELOW THIS POINT******************************

Part of the reason why Ruby’s marriage dissolves is that her husband starts harboring downed pilots as they make their way through France to safety and even though Ruby swears she understands the risks, he refuses to let her help. But then her husband gets caught and shot and Ruby takes it upon herself to harbor the pilots he’d been helping. Eventually her husband’s “handler” as you might call him agrees and Ruby helps a whole slew of pilots, including Thomas, who she almost immediately falls in love with.

A few of the coincidences that made the story a bit too well wrapped up for me…

  • Ruby happens to hear the police come around to collect Jewish families and warns Charlotte’s family who asks her to take Charlotte in. The fact that she noticed the commotion and quickly realized the families they were targeting only Jewish families AND had time to warn the family was a bit too convenient.
  • Even amidst the war Thomas and Ruby end up falling for each other after their first meeting and continue to think of one another even as they’re fighting for their life. I know I’ve heard that war can make you a bit crazy but it seemed like they’d barely gotten to know one another? She had other pilots that stayed with her for quite a bit longer…
  • Charlotte’s parents ask Ruby to keep Charlotte and, since Ruby is part of the escape line she is able to get someone to force documents saying Charlotte is related to her. It all kind of falls into place.
  • Thomas manages to survive getting shot down not once but twice and finds Ruby again even though she’s moved because Ruby just so happens to walk next to her old building almost in hopes that just such a thing happens.
  • Not only does Ruby fall pregnant and manage to keep the baby growing in her belly during crazy rationing but she even gets sent to a work camp and manages to last there. (Though the fact that she landed a factory job certainly helped.) It’s said that she more or less wastes away but upon escaping and giving birth the baby turns out healthy. And then she dies, more or less on the day that France is liberated. As does Thomas because of course he survives multiple crashes just to die in a non-combat accident.
  • Ruby’s parents are notified of what happened and manage to get to France, get the baby and Charlotte and get back to the United States.

I did end up really liking the characters and it was an emotional read but everything got a little convoluted at the end. But if you like historical fiction and romance it’s definitely a great choice.

To Read or Not to Read?

The New Dark by Lorraine Thomson

Note: I received a free copy of The New Dark from NetGalley a long, long time ago and have just gotten around to reading it and reviewing it.

“There is no “Before”, there is only “Now”. Because now there’s no internet, no TV, no power grid. Food is scarce, and the world’s a hostile place. But Sorrel lives a quiet life in the tiny settlement of Amat. It’s all she’s ever known …”

So begins the synopsis for The New Dark, the first in a Young Adult trilogy that started in November of 2017. I thought said synopsis was interesting enough, especially since it goes on to mention that her village gets destroyed by mutants and she has to journey off to somewhere else to find her stolen baby brother and boyfriend. Dystopian style world with mutants and what-not sounded like it might be a fun read. And the cover was pretty. (Not that that mattered much because I got a free digital copy to review but that’s beside the point.)

When I first started reading it I kept mentally comparing it to The 100 (the TV show…I’ve been watching it on NetFlix) because there were so many similarities even though The 100 is more of a science fiction while The New Dark didn’t have the “people having fallen from space” plot line. So that threw me off quite a bit.

And then by the end there were just so many convenient plot points and unanswered questions. One of the big things with Sorrel is that she has this birthmark that her grandmother thought was super special but none of her fellow villagers seemed to really care for. But then Sorrel goes on this journey and finds out that everyone else in the world seems to recognize her birthmark and that it means something far more than she’d originally thought. But we never figure out why. There should have been some sort of indication to keep me interested given that this is the start of a series and the characters are trying to turn Sorrel into some figurehead style person for their rebellion.

More convenient plot points:

  • Even though people travel for days and weeks and Sorrel gets waylaid for weeks it just so happens that all of her fellow lost villagers end up at the same city that she eventually goes to? Wouldn’t at least one person have been shipped off somewhere farther?
  • Sorrel always finds someone she can trust even in the most dire circumstances.
  • Apparently they use the word “mutant” for any kind of genetic difference? Some were described as being pretty grotesque but then there are others that Sorrel just kind of says he has a broader forehead than most people?

Overall, I liked the book enough that I kept reading it and finished it in just a few days but I’d probably consider this to be more of a 2.5 star read out of 5 but since I can’t do half stars I’d settle with 2. There were just too many unanswered questions and convenient plot points and I will not be choosing to continue this series.

Literary Musings

Unfinished

I am having a horrible time finishing anything I’ve started writing this year. Now, I’m not surprised that this is happening in regards to my novel writing or updating my fanfiction on the sites where I post it.

When it comes to novels I usually like to write and write and kind of finish an idea but then table it for awhile. My first novel, still not yet published, was started when I was in eighth grade and then wasn’t actually “finished” until I got to college. And I’m still saying it’s not “finished” since I keep going back to read it over and finding all sorts of things to fix and I refuse to let anyone else edit it…sigh. And my trouble with fanfiction is that I finish writing it up, let it lay around for awhile because I feel like it’s actually completely finished and then I struggle to find the motivation to type it up and post it online. That’s typical of me.

What isn’t typical is the fact that I’ve started more than a half dozen fanfiction pieces, for a variety of fandoms, and haven’t finished writing up a single one. I have bits and pieces of a couple Avengers ideas, a couple Star Wars ideas, and a couple Harry Potter ideas all rolling around in various folders and notebooks and not one has more than five handwritten pages finished.

I think this is likely because I usually start out with a fairly simple idea and then it gets out of hand. I’m also blaming my dog. I used to be able to spend hours after work typing up or handwriting things and since I’ve gotten a dog the time gets taken up by walks (why pull out all my writing supplies when I’ll just have to put it down to walk the dog within the next hour or so? It’s so much easier to just hold a book or mess around on my phone while the TV is on!) and it’s additionally hard because the dog likes to snuggle. Normally this is great. Pupper cuddles can be awesome but usually what happens is that when I’m in the mood to just relax and read, he wants nothing to do with me but the minute I pull out a laptop or gather a whole bunch of supplies he decides that’s a great time to push everything out of his way and just plop down on my lap or chest.

I can only imagine how much crazier the struggle will be if and when I have kids…