Literary Musings · To Read or Not to Read?

10 Books From My Past

  1. The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowry: I remember that this was one of my favorite Little Golden Books back in the day though looking over the description of the plot is making me laugh a bit because I don’t remember anything of the plot. I remembered that the puppy got into trouble a lot but not that stealing desserts was the whole gist. I’m guessing I just liked the cute puppies and maybe being an only child I liked the idea of the puppy having so many siblings?
  2. Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister: I remember Rainbow Fish being this beautiful book that I enjoyed reading and then I reread it to a group of kids for storytime and I found it so problematic. Yes, the message about sharing is a good one but it goes too far with the Rainbow Fish being made to feel bad because he’s special and then sharing so much of himself that he doesn’t really have anything special left.
  3. The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin: Even though I didn’t start babysitting until I was seventeen I started reading the series about pre-teen and teen babysitters way before that. I just enjoyed the group friend dynamics and how each girl had different personalities and interests and yet were still the best of friends. I read a whole bunch of them and still remember crazy details about this series.
  4. Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal: I read a lot of Sweet Valley High back in the day but honestly all I remember is that the series starred twins Elizabeth and Jessica and that I always identified more with Elizabeth.
  5. Goosebumps by R.L. Stine: I had a brief flirtation with the “scary” stories that were the Goosebumps series, probably because the TV show was on one of the few channels that my family’s television actually got. But I remember finding the Goosebumps series more gross than scary. Except for Slappy. Ventriloquist dummies are always terrifying.
  6. Fear Street by R.L. Stine: So it wasn’t very long until I aged up to the Fear Street books which I ended up enjoying a lot more. I loved the historical ones and the modern ones and especially liked the cheerleader series. I thought they were creepy in just the right way. And Stine has started up the series again, a couple of times actually. The last iteration was a no go for me. (Were these books always so cheesy and predictable?) And I have yet to start the most recent reboot though I have it checked out from the library.
  7. Animorphs by K.A. Applegate: I vaguely remember reading some of these books and there may have been a short lived television series? Honestly, the thing I remember the most is the holographic book covers.
  8. American Girl series: Though I never had an American Girl doll (mom did get me a Bitty Baby…I think because she was a little cheaper and had less cool accessories) I still read some of the books. I liked Samantha’s stories but always thought I was more of a Molly.
  9. Dear America books: I read so many Dear America books and then I reread them again and again. Not sure why. I just liked learning about different time periods and liked the diary formats.
  10. The Belgariad by David Eddings: I’m pretty sure I was still in elementary school when, thanks to my cousin, I stumbled upon this book series about a boy with a secret, magical past. I devoured the whole series even though I distinctly remember giggling my way through any kissy kissy scenes. And actual I wonder if this was a precursor to my love of Harry Potter? There’s actually quite a few similarities now that I think on it. I definitely plan on rereading someday.
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Literary Musings · To Read or Not to Read?

10 Favorite Books of 2018

The best books I’ve read this year but which may not have been published this year.

  1. Slasher Girls & Monster Boys: A Young Adult horror anthology featuring stories from a collection of YA authors, most of whom I were already familiar with. Overall a great, spine-tingling read.
  2. The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas: A fun mystery featuring accidents and murder that I raced through back in August because the characters were so well-written and I just needed to know all of the answers.
  3. Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas: The fifth book in the very YA tropey Throne of Glass series that I really enjoyed. Though it was a bit over the top at some points (holy sex scenes Maas!) I really loved how the author interwove all of the moving parts of the series and the characters.
  4. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: The first book in the Grisha Verse trilogy, Leigh introduced us to an interesting villain and a fun world with different types of magic.
  5. Obsidio by Amie Kaufman: The last book in The Illuminae Files trilogy, a fun series with the most unique format I’d ever witnessed, really brought everyone together in just the best way possible. And I read/looked over the book as I listened to the audiobook which actually made it even better because the audiobooks for this series are just the best.
  6. One by Sarah Crossan: A very emotional, quick read of a book told in verse about conjoined twins who have to face an impossible choice.
  7. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Illustrated Edition: I’ve always liked that Rowling had these little fun books that are set in the world of Harry Potter and the illustrated edition is just beautiful.
  8. The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas: A collection of short story prequels set in the world of her Throne of Glass series. It was a great introduction to the character, ended up helping quite a bit with things mentioned in her later books, and really showed how the main character changed.
  9. Saga, Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan: Over the past two years I’ve been slowly making my way through the Saga graphic novel series and volume three was my favorite.
  10. Macbeth by William Shakespeare: After so many years I finally got around to reading Macbeth and I loved it. I like how even Shakespeare’s tragedies have just random ridiculous scenes even though they are also full of angst.
To Read or Not to Read?

Because You Love to Hate Me: An Anthology

Because You Love to Hate Me is a YA anthology book all about the villains of literature and pop culture. And it was a pretty good anthology. Unfortunately I was also reading it at the same time as I was reading Slasher Girls & Monster Boys which is a similarly themed anthology with considerably stronger entries. (Special Note: these short stories appear to be responses to prompts posed by Booktubers and what not.)

Here’s what I thought of the entries in Because:

  • The Blood of Imuriv by Renee Ahdieh
    • A little science fiction tale of sibling rivalry and with mentions of past family mental disorders.
    • It was somewhat interesting and I liked seeing into the mind of the narrator who is a male who has been passed over for the throne because their society is ran by females. But even though there was a mention of violence being in the family the ending seemed sudden.
    • Very rough around the edges and the science fiction elements seemed out of place.
  • Jack by Ameriie
    • What if Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk made his way up into the castle in the clouds because of a lonely giantess? What if they became friends? Can they become friends?
    • The build up in this story was very nice and the ending was so very creepy.
  • Gwen and Art and Lance by Soman Chainani
    • King Arthur and the whole love triangle set in a modern high school which isn’t the worst idea but it was told only through emails and text messages and I just didn’t like it.
  • Shirley & Jim by Susan Dennard
    • A modern day boarding school with a female Sherlock Holmes and Watson and a male Moriarty. While hanging out in the library Shirley Holmes makes friends with Moriarty and so begins a tangled web of lies and deceit and manipulation.
    • It felt rather weird and like the feelings Shirley ended up with were rather abrupt as was Jim’s actions at the end.
  • The Blessing of Little Wants by Sarah Enni
    • Witches trying to save magic because it’s dying.
    • It was kind of weird and confusing at the end with hallucinations/projections or something. Not enough was explained!
  • The Sea Witch by Marissa Meyer
    • I’ve recently read another retelling of Ursula’s story called The Sea Witch. This story of a little mermaid who just wanted to belong was so much better. It had some dark elements and betrayal and I would have been pleased for this to take up far more space int he anthology.
  • Beautiful Venom by Cindy Pon
    • Medusa retelling where the villain isn’t who you might think.
    • Warning: it does contain a rape and a discussion of rape culture with one character thinking another got what she deserved for leading on a man/god. But Medusa had the exact right response.
  • Death Knell by Victoria Schwab
    • Oh, this was a good one. A boy is Death and attempts to take a girl down the well with him and she tries to fight back only to have a great twist ending.
  • Marigold by Samantha Shannon
    • The Fae queen takes little girls in nineteenth-century London. It sounds like she’s the villain here but then we hear back from Marigold, one of the girls who was taken.
    • Good discussion of gender politics in the time period.
  • You, You, It’s All About You by Adam Silvera
    • Teenage crime lord and drugs with weird effects. Personally I didn’t like it.
  • Julian Breaks Every Rule by Andrew Smith
    • I actually really liked this one. It’s about a boy named Julian who never gets in trouble for anything even when he tries. Oh, and whenever he wishes someone would die they end up dying in some strange, crazy way. Except for in the case of one guy.
    • It was kind of fun to see this character deal with life and wondering why he can’t get rid of someone he really wants to get rid of. It was funny and interesting more than creepy.
  • Indigo and Shade by April Genevieve Tucholke
    • What if Beauty is the Beast? And what if the Gaston character isn’t the villain we all made him out to be?
    • Very well down and interesting.
  • Sera by Nicola Yoon
    • Creepy children are super creepy. And then they grow up to be creepy adults.
    • Interesting and well written with fun flashbacks explaining the character.
To Read or Not to Read?

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys anthology

Even though I absolutely hate horror movies, every September and October I start looking for creepy books to read. Last year I checked Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, an anthology with selections written by a whole slew of Young Adult authors (most of whom I’ve already read novels by and loved) but I never got around to reading it. So this year I made sure it was one of the first creepy reads on my autumn list.

Overall, I freaking loved it! There were a couple misses but most of them were well-written, super interesting, and definitely creepy either in a horror or just general suspenseful way. And there was so much feminism and girl power and revenge which is kind of awesome since it seems that this type of movie often places the girl in a victim/idiot role.

Now here’s the breakdown.

  • The Birds of Azalea Street by Nova Ren Suma
    • This was a tale of a creepy neighbor and the teenage girls who inadvertently get their revenge on him in the form of a bird/girl.
    • It was a little rough around the edges but was definitely a nice start. Creepy because of the whole realistic aspect of a neighbor who likes the teen girls who live around him far too much.
    • Loved the girl power aspect and how they were looking out for one another and supporting one another.
  • In the Forest Dark and Deep by Carrie Ryan
    • An Alice in Wonderland retelling where the White Rabbit is crazy, murderous monster with an odd fondness for the Alice character.
    • Super creepy and disturbing with multiple horror movie style murder scenes and an unreliable narrator who, after having read the story, I’m still not sure how much of a hand she had in the murders.
  • Emmeline by Cat Winters
    • A historical ghost story that is vaguely creepy but is almost more sad than horrifying.
  • Verse Chorus Verse by Leigh Bardugo
    • The tale of a starlet child and her overbearing mother with the added features of a mental institutions and possession.
    • It definitely had a creepy vibe but it was very vague, so much that I’m not sure I really understood what was going on.
  • Hide and Seek by Megan Shepherd
    • This one was a tale of playing a game with Death so as to try and cheat it for awhile.
    • It was more suspenseful than full on horror with a Final Destination feel.
    • Death’s Harbinger Crow Cullom was actually kind of nice and cool? It was weird.
    • I liked the kind of twist at the end.
  • The Dark, Scary Parts and All by Danielle Paige
    • The tale of a girl who understands literary monsters because she’s always been made fun of and then she meets one in real life.
    • Kind of an introspective feel on what makes one a real monster.
  • The Flicker, The Fingers, The Beat, The Sigh by April Genevieve Tucholke
    • Most of the short stories were influenced by movies and songs, etc. but most didn’t make it as obvious as this one which was a combination of Carrie and I Know What You Did Last Summer.
    • I did like that although really bad things happened to the people around him, the horror for the narrator was all psychological.
  • Fat Girl With a Knife by Jonathan Mayberry
    • Zombies!
    • I loved that the narrator Dahlia is a “fat girl” that doesn’t give a damn and she realizes that it helps give her strength to combat the zombies. She’s kind of a badass.
  • Sleepless by Jay Kristoff
    • Super creepy because this had more of a real life horror vibe than some of the others with supernatural tinges. Think online predator with mental issues.
    • The hints throughout made me question everyone’s real identities which made the reveals even creepier and gross.
    • Twist ending that I didn’t see coming right away!
  • M- by Stefan Bachmann
    • This one features Misha, a blind woman who lives in the attic of the house. I felt like the fact that she was blind added an additional level of suspense when the murders in the house started.
    • It was a little too long and too slow for me.
  • The Girl Without a Face by Marie Lu
    • Psychological haunting with mirrors and closets and all the standard hautning elements.
    • I like how it made you feel for the narrator at first but then you come to realize that he is not the victim he makes himself out to be.
  • A Girl Who Dreamed of Snow by McCormick Templeman
    • This was more of a historical other worldly story of curses and sacrifice.
    • Not especially scary or compelling.
  • Stitches by A.G. Howard
    • Very Frankenstein-esque with a man trading body parts to try and change himself.
    • Odd, with a very gory feel and some fun twists.
  • On the I-5 by Kendare Blake
    • The story of murdered girls along the highway who don’t stay dead. At least not until they’ve taken their revenge.
    • Kind of sad as well as creepy.

 

 

 

To Read or Not to Read?

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

As a Young Adult Librarian I often pick up books to read because I order them for the library collection, our library processes them, and then I usually get to look them over before they go out onto the shelves. So since they’re brand new and all ready to go I figure that is a good time to grab a whole bunch and then slowly read them over the course of the loan period. That’s what happened with Sea Witch. I looked it over again before it was to be put on the shelves and I thought “hmm, this looks interesting. I should read it.”

Sea Witch is a loose retelling of the story of Ursula, the antagonist of the Little Mermaid tale. It is set inĀ  19th century Denmark and starts out with three friends. A witch named Evie who of course has to hide her true nature in fear of persecution, a prince named Nik, and their friend Anna who drowns within just the first few pages.

After this opening we switch back and forth between the “current” time and the past. In the current Nik nearly drowns but is saved by a mysterious stranger who later shows up and introduces herself to Evie. And the weird thing is that the stranger looks very much like their lost friend Anna, just a little older. Evie quickly latches onto her friendship, as does Nik, but the stranger turns out to have so many secrets.

This book was far too slow moving for me, some chapters and sections just flying by while others slowed the pace far too much with most of the action in the last fifth of the book. The revenge plot line seemed kind of weak and the friendships and relationships were stilted and some of the reveals felt kind of out of nowhere.

 

To Read or Not to Read?

Stars Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall

Note: I received a free advanced copy of Stars Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (And, for the first time in quite some time, I actually finished the book before it’s release date of August 14th. Unfortunately I forgot to get the review out before that day. I’m getting better at my timeliness though so that’s good.)

For the past couple years I’ve been super into science fiction and so when I first read the description for Stars Uncharted I thought it sounded pretty interesting. It focuses on three characters: Nika Rik Terri, Josune Arriola, and Hammond Roystan though only the two girls have point of view chapters. At the beginning, the two girls are no where near other but, eventually, everyone ends up in the same place.

Stars Uncharted is a world, or worlds I suppose, where everyone that we meet is focused on one of two things; either body modification (they have the technology to manipulate genes and change pretty much anything for cosmetic reasons or to help repair injuries) or treasure hunting.

Nika is one of the best body modders in the galaxy and it’s literally all she can think about. Any time she meets a new person she thinks about what modifications they’ve likely had and how she would approve upon them. I suppose I can get that. I wouldn’t be surprised if an interior designer often thinks the same when they walk into a new room but it got so annoying after awhile. Her story line was interesting though given that she’s so good at her job that she’s fallen in with a rough crew, led in part by her ex-boyfriend, and all she wants is to escape but knows they’ll hunt her down for what she can do for them.

Josune starts out on Hammond’s spaceship but is soon revealed to be a plant from another ship called the Hassim. She’s not a bad character though, she was just supposed to kind of get Hammond together with her old captain but that proves difficult when the Hassim shows up with all of her crew dead.

Hammond is a very nice guy (and after finding out his secrets it seems kind of odd how incredibly nice he is) and truly cares for everyone in his crew. But, as I said, he has some pretty big secrets.

Now how it was all interwoven was an intriguing story over all. I mostly liked the main characters (even though Nika got a bit annoying after awhile) and I really wanted to know how it would all end for everybody. But it was a little too slow in parts and it was a bit too heavy on the science portion of the science fiction. I really don’t think I needed to learn so much about body modding as I did. (Case in point…it’s been two weeks and I can still remember the names of three body modification machines and in which order Nika would rank them in their usefulness. This is information I don’t need stuck in my head.)

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.