To Read or Not to Read?

Normally, This Would be Cause for Concern by Danielle Fishel

Every so often I like to pick up a celebrity biography even though I usually don’t end up enjoying them as much as I assume I will. I almost always pick things by “funny” people, celebrities who are most well known for their humorous characters and quotes on their Twitter feeds and then I’m disappointed when their biographies aren’t so funny. In this case I wasn’t expecting funny necessarily. I was expecting the girl next door feeling from the girl who brought Topanga to life in Boy Meets World.

Fortunately, that’s exactly what I got. Little stories that made me feel all nostalgic for the 90s and that just made Danielle so real and so normal. It seems like a lot of celebrity bios try to convince you that the person is a normal person but then their personal stories are so far removed from anything I’ve experienced that I just can’t connect. With Danielle there weren’t a lot of crazy, messed up teenage escapades like a lot of celebrities write about (which is maybe why I liked it…I wasn’t the type to go crazy when I was younger either so some of those “I did all the drugs” kind of stories just aren’t things I can relate to) and most of what she wrote about was so normal.

There were also lots of mentions of Boy Meets World and her castmates from the show and some gossip I don’t remember hearing about which made me smile and feel all young at heart again. It was very nice.

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To Read or Not to Read?

Rocket Raccoon, Vol. 1 by Skottie Young

Minor spoilers for Avengers: Infinity Wars…

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After watching Infinity Wars I desperately needed something Marvel related that was going to make me laugh or at least smile a bit so I scoured through what graphic novels were available at the time. Obviously I crossed my Black Widow collection off the list because although the ones I’ve read are interesting she almost never has a story that I’d really deem comical.

I eventually decided that that meant I had to go with the Guardians of the Galaxy crew but it took me awhile to find one that I could start reading right away. That left me with Rocket Raccoon, Volume 1: A Chasing Tale. It’s a story about Rocket being framed for murder and there’s a whole side plot of him being chased by a bunch of ex-girlfriends. And unfortunately, I didn’t really like it.

First of all, the artwork wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. Rocket looks more than a little rabid and Groot looks absolutely terrifying which isn’t what I’m used to in regards to those characters. Peter Quill is shown in a few panels though he’s not in the main part of the story which I was actually kind of thankful for because he was drawn to kind of look like Shaggy from Scooby Doo and it was weirding me out.

Other than the art, the idea of Rocket being a playboy and having relations with a whole slew of women, most of whom looked vaguely human, kind of squicked me out because it made me wonder about the hows of a relationship between a slightly oversize raccoon and a human and I do not want to be thinking of that because ew.

The saving grace was the typical Guardians banter and the story that Groot told entirely in his “I am Groot” language.

To Read or Not to Read?

Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson

I’ve read a lot of the “Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi” associated novels in the last year or so, most of which solidly fell into the Young Adult section of the library. Now I generally love the YA section and think the books I find there can often be deemed of better quality than in the adult section but the recent Star Wars ones? Not so great quality. They just took old characters I loved and turned them into flighty teens or created new characters that I just didn’t care for. I thought maybe this would be different since it’s an adult book about a character that we don’t really know much about, Captain Phasma.

Now Phasma wasn’t horrible. I’d give it a solid 3 out of 5 stars. But there were some issues, partially in the writing itself and partially in the story.

Phasma starts out with Vi, a member of the Resistance, getting pulled onto the First Order’s Battlecruiser where she is met by a stormtrooper in red armor. This stormtrooper is Cardinal who ends up being very interested in the fact that Vi’s ship shows that she’s recently been to Parnassos, the home planet to none other than Captain Phasma. Now Cardinal, who kind of resents Phasma because she’s taking over more and more of his responsibilities, wants to know what Vi knows about the mysterious woman in the chrome armor.

So we start going back and forth between Cardinal’s interrogation of Vi and Vi telling secondhand stories of Phasma’s life on the planet. And that’s where it gets a little messy. Vi is telling Cardinal a story that she heard from someone else and instead of the scenes in the past being directly from the original storytellers point of view, Vi kind of inserts herself into the story too by adding little, unnecessary comments. I think the stories would have been stronger if Vi hadn’t done that.

Also, while the scenes from the past started out interestingly enough the journey just kind of seemed like it was dragging on and on.

All in all I thought none of the revelations about Phasma were all that surprising in the scheme of things. She fought and killed a bunch of people and betrayed a lot of them! No one else in the Empire or the First Order have ever done that! (Gasp!)

So a 3.5 because I didn’t spent the whole time thinking people were written out of character like I have in other “Journey to…” books but it lost some points for being awkward and stilted and the fact that I just didn’t really end up caring too much.

To Read or Not to Read?

Unqualified by Anna Faris

I don’t know why I keep buying celebrity memoirs/autobiographies instead of just borrowing them from the library because I never seem to really like them all that much. I mean, there were some very interesting tidbits and heartwarming stories but a lot of time it’s like celebrities are like “hey look, I have awkward life experiences just like you!” but then they also go on to mention a day in their life which is nothing like what I’ve experienced.

It was also a little awkward because it’s very much a book about Anna Faris’s relationships and advice and there are lots of mentions of Chris Pratt who was her husband while she wrote most of the book. Quite a few of the passages were about them still being together but then she’d throw in a sentence or two there that were clearly added after the split so it kind of made me a little uncomfortable. I mean, I understand that life happens but it was kind of weird to read.

Also, I think I would have liked it a lot more if I’d have listened to her podcast that is more or less on the same subjects as the book because she referenced it a lot and a lot of the sections were kind of re-enactments of segments she said she’d done on the podcast, only with her as the one being interviewed instead of doing the interviewing.

But I will say it was one of the better written celebrity memoirs I’ve read so that’s something.

To Read or Not to Read?

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Note: I received a free ARC of To Kill a Kingdom from NetGalley a very long time ago and finally got around to reading it.

I was drawn to this novel for multiple reasons. First of all, I requested it from NetGalley not too long after having read another interesting YA book about sirens so I was kind of on a siren themed roll. Plus, the description sounded interesting. A siren Princess named Lira, the killer of many princes, gets turned into a human and is told to make sure she kills Prince Elian, one of the few humans known to have killed multiple sirens? Sign me up! And, third of all, it was being marketed as a standalone! It’s not too often that I come across fantasy standalones! (Because sometimes I just get so annoyed when I come across the first book in a who knows how long it will be series that sounds interesting because it could take years for it to come to its conclusion.)

Now I was a little worried because I had a feeling that, of course, this book was going to turn into a romance and I expected it to feel forced or the insta-love type of deal. That’s not exactly the case. Lira and Elian are surprisingly deep and their relationship has a very natural progression as the book goes on. I also like how they were both very gray characters. Lira does kill princes and she seems to enjoy it when she’s doing it but she spends a lot of time wondering what life would be like if her mother wasn’t commanding the sirens to take hearts. Elian feels obligated to rid the world of sirens and yet he doesn’t exactly enjoy it. It makes them very interesting and well rounded characters.

I also liked most of the side characters as well which is always a plus.

The main issue I have is that most of the booked was slower paced (but not in a bad way…in a way that was perfect for character growth and development) but then the end was maybe just a little bit rushed.

But overall I really, really liked To Kill a Kingdom.

To Read or Not to Read?

People Like Us by Dana Mele

Note: I received a free copy of People Like Us by Dana Mele from NetGalley a very long time ago and then forgot that they’d sent me a free copy until I checked it out from the library. At that point I decided to bring it up on my Kindle as well and I realized that it’s a good thing I hadn’t intended on reading the NetGalley version because it was formatted horribly and was basically unreadable. (Though I’m sure they would have happily replaced it if I had noticed it before and requested a new copy.)

So People Like Us is set in a boarding school where, in the first chapter, a bunch of mean girls, one of which is the protagonist Kay Donovan, find the dead body of a classmate floating in the school lake. Not too long after the discovery of the body Kay finds an email, from the dead girl, leading her on a computer-coded scavenger hunt, targeting a handful of girls that treated the dead girl like crap and may have had a part in her death. These girls are Kay’s friends and she starts to worry because it seems like she’s more connected to the dead girl than she thought, connected enough that she looks very, very suspicious.

People Like Us was a fun romp of mean girl cattiness and twists and turns. There’s friendships that turn into more, there’s jealousy, and bitchiness and self discovery. No character was really black or white, they all had reasons and excuses and history that made what they’d done understandable though not right.

And it was also a book where I wasn’t entirely sure how reliable the narrator was considering the things she hid from herself and how and when her secrets were revealed. (Unreliable narrators can just be so fun!)

All in all it was a little cheesy but I actually liked it.

To Read or Not to Read?

The Amateurs by Sara Shepard

The only reason this book is getting two stars from me is because I was reading it at the right time. My puppers has been sick this past week which has made me upset and nervous as well so it was the perfect time to have a book that didn’t require any focus. And boy, this book definitely did not require any focus which isn’t great for a supposed mystery.

Now I’ve read other books by Sara Shepard so I knew not to expect much substance. Her books are kind of good for those quick easy reads that are cheesy guilty pleasures. But this was even worse than the worst book in the Pretty Little Liars book because at least in that series I’d watched the show and read so much of it that I was kind of hooked to the characters, as ridiculous as they were. In The Amateurs I didn’t really care about any of the characters.

In The Amateurs a group of young adults who enjoy amateur sleuthing via a website called Case Note Closed (where people post ideas about unsolved crimes and attempt to solve them) get together at the request of Aerin, whose sister Helena went missing and was then found dead years earlier.

Now Aerin is the first of many stereotypical characters in this book. She’s beautiful, blonde high schooler and her sister going missing damaged her and her family so much that she lashes out by drinking and either hooking up with or just more or less flashing a fair number of guys from her city, including one who is now a cop.

Then we have Seneca who has been interested in Helena’s case because it happened around the same time her mother disappeared and then was found murdered. She starts out the book at college where she’s super struggling even though she was apparently the perfect student in high school. She ends up proving to be super judgmental and quick to jump to conclusions.

We also have Maddy (Maddox) and his stepsister Madison. Seneca and Maddy were friends on the Case Not Closed message boards and plan to work together on Helena’s case but that plan is almost derailed when Seneca visits him and realizes that Maddy is actually a guy and not a girl like she assumed. Maddy is a kid who went from being a loser to being popular and he’s super athletic. His inner monologue goes from being worried that Seneca will think he’s just a dumb, girl obsessed jock to proving that that’s exactly what he is because his immediate thought is about how good Seneca will look in a swimsuit. Urgh. Madison, on the other hand, is a spastic weed user. In stereotypical fashion she’s Korean and loves Hello Kitty.

Then there’s Brett, another Case Not Closed user who joins up with them. He’s hot, rich, and immediately takes a liking to Aerin. He also has good instincts in regards to clues and what not.

Not a very likable cast of characters over all. Everyone is judgmental, vapid, self-obsessed, and kind of crazy.

And here’s a few other major issues:
– Maddy starts a relationship with his older track coach, a relationship that he quickly wants out of when she proves to be a little crazy. And then she starts blackmailing him. (“If you break up with me I’ll call the coaches at the college you got a scholarship for and they will revoke your scholarship.”) He tries to tell Seneca what the coach is doing, especially since he and Seneca end up liking each other and Seneca just scoffs and goes all “oh, you expect me to feel sorry for you?” Girl, there’s straight up blackmail of a student by a teacher going on.
– Of course a young cop flirts with a high school girl because that hasn’t happened before in a Sara Shepard book.
– Just all of the stereotypes.
– All of the designer name dropping. Come on Shepard, we don’t need to know who designed Aerin’s dress.

Okay, I’ve rambled enough for the day. Just basically know that the only reason I even liked this book at all was because I needed something that was just kind of nonsensical and easy to read.