Category: Book Reviews

Aug 06

Review of Night Swimming by Steph Bowe

Book Reviews 0 ★★★½

Review of Night Swimming by Steph BoweNight Swimming by Steph Bowe
Published by Text Publishing on April 3rd 2017
Genres: Modern, Young Adult
Pages: 311
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads three-half-stars
one-flame

Imagine being the only two seventeen-year-olds in a small town. That’s life for Kirby Arrow—named after the most dissenting judge in Australia’s history—and her best friend Clancy Lee, would-be musical star.

Clancy wants nothing more than to leave town and head for the big smoke, but Kirby is worried: her family has a history of leaving. She hasn’t heard from her father since he left when she was a baby. Shouldn’t she stay to help her mother with the goat’s-milk soap-making business, look after her grandfather who suffers from dementia, be an apprentice carpenter to old Mr Pool? And how could she leave her pet goat, Stanley, her dog Maude, and her cat Marianne?

But two things happen that change everything for Kirby. She finds an article in the newspaper about her father, and Iris arrives in town. Iris is beautiful, wears crazy clothes, plays the mandolin, and seems perfect, really, thinks Kirby. Clancy has his heart set on winning over Iris. Trouble is Kirby is also falling in love with Iris…

I bought this book after reading a review of it over on Paper Fury. Because Cait does amazing reviews, and I’d be wanting to read something from an Australian writer/publisher, and she’s Australian so obviously she would be a good judge of Australian YA books! Perfect. This was, actually, my very first Aussie read (I feel embarrassed admitting that but ehhhh I’m going to try not to feel awkward). So without further ado, my review of Night Swimming!

Feels: Just…awwwww. Lots and lots of awwww moments. Between the besties Kirby and Clancy to the awkward anxiety of a new crush, there was just so many times I got a case of the warm fuzzies. Also, Kirby’s grandfather. My heart hurt for him, and for Kirby and her family. I remember my great-grandmother as dementia set in for her, and it was absolutely heart breaking. It’s difficult sometimes as a teenager or young adult to see our loved ones growing older when we feel like we’re just starting out in life.

Characters: I love Kirby. She is unapologetically (though sometimes embarrassed) nerdy and unfashionable, and I wish I had her self confidence. Her quirky family, complete with unaffectionate mother and absentee father, is endearing even while they exasperate Kirby. Clancy is just hilarious and unpredictable (except to Kirby, who knows him better than he knows himself, it seems) and I loved how he repeatedly scandalized their small town with his antics.

There is a lot of minority representation in this book. That was probably my favorite part, besides the general Australian-ness (is that a word?) of it, which had me chuckling over slang I didn’t quite understand. Kirby is gay, while Clancy and Iris are both minorities. I was a little sad that the book glossed over Iris’s mental health issues, but I guess you can only do so much in a relatively short book.

Plot: So, this is where I felt the story was a bit weak. The plot line just sort of dragged while it skipped around somewhat and left me a little bit confused about what was going on in places (though maybe if I had paid a little more attention to the dates at the top of some of the chapters, that would have helped). There are a couple of side plots that were interesting but then turned out to not be so interesting or they were just finished off so quickly it felt a bit disjointed. Then at the end it felt like the author realized something exciting needed to happen and threw that little disaster in the works to shake everything up. Which it did, but it didn’t have enough time to resolve, in my opinion.

Oh! How could I forget.

You’re welcome.

STANLEY! You should definitely read the book just for Stanley. Because everyone, apparently, needs a pet goat.

Overal, 3.5 stars. 1 flame because there are a couple slightly sexy scenes but nothing over the top or that I felt would be inappropriate for a young teen reader.

three-half-stars

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Jul 16

Review of When Dimple Met Rishi

Book Reviews 2 ★★★★★

Review of When Dimple Met RishiWhen Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Published by Simon Pulse on May 30th 2017
Pages: 380
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads five-stars
two-flames

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Ok, prepare yourself. This review of When Dimple Met Rishi is not the most rational thing I’ve ever written, because I was left in an ooey-gooey pile of feels after finishing this book! I was not. prepared. Modern fiction isn’t generally my thing, but the blurb for WDMR was just too awesome and I had to pick it up. I’m SO GLAD I did!

Yep.

First off: Dimple. I love her so much! She’s quirky, she’s nerdy, she’s spunky, she’s smart and not embarrassed by it (something I really struggle with). She’s not perfect, and she’s not cookie-cutter. I adored her reaction to Rishi’s first words to her – THAT was perfect. Appropriate? “Nice?” No. But no one is perfect, and we all have different ways of dealing with situations. I’ve seen a little of the mumbo-jumbo i.e., people getting their underpants in a wad over some of the things she does, and my opinion is still that NO, she is NOT perfect, and most readers will love her more for it.

So then, obviously: Rishi! He’s cute. He’s also SUPER traditional. Somehow he manages to be cute at the same time, and I’m still a little confused by that. Hehe. I think Rishi grows as a character the most in the course of the book. He becomes more of his own person, rather than the “good boy” who wants to please his parents so badly he will give up parts of himself to do it.

The story introduced me to Indian culture more and better than anything else I’ve ever read. I don’t have any friends or even acquaintances from that background, so I was a little lost in the beginning by some of the terms and traditions that were more alluded to than explained. Eventually I figured everything out, but I did end up Googling a couple of things.

I also bawled. At one particular point. I was just so crushed and I couldn’t BELIEVE I felt so strongly about “it” because at first I was all for Dimple just saying EFF THIS to everything…but as I read I realized that completely bucking her family’s traditions is not, actually, what will make her happiest. However she IS a modern American woman and as such…she totally does things her way.

Dimple and Rishi’s relationship and them growing into themselves is obviously the main focus of the story, but there are a couple of side plots as well. The first involves some of the other students at the camp they are attending and how disrespectful (to say the least) the rich, white students are to anyone who is “other,” as Dimple puts it. The second involves Rishi’s brother and Dimple’s roommate and I was intrigued enough to hope for a sequel with them as the major characters.

WDMR was one of the most satisfying books I’ve read this year. While of COURSE I would love to read more of Dimple and Rishi’s story, it is beautiful and amazing just as it is and I closed the book entirely happy. 5 stars!

five-stars

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Jul 12

Review of The Hate U Give

Book Reviews 2 ★★★★★

Review of The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
on February 28th 2017
Genres: Modern, Young Adult
Pages: 453
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads five-stars

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

I’ve been trying to write a review of The Hate U Give for weeks and weeks now. It’s difficult to put my thoughts about it into a cohesive form, so I’m just kind of going to put a few things out there. Also, I’m aware that this book is HUGE because of it’s subject matter and representation. I read it BECAUSE of that, because I know that I am in the majority and I want to understand what the minority goes through and feels. I realize a book will never give me a complete understanding, but I do think reading #ownvoices books can help. The entire point of reading is to learn and to travel and experience things in our mind that we can’t or don’t have the opportunity to experience in our place in the world.

THUG is an important book because it so thoroughly places the reader into another person’s shoes. Because it was written by someone who has been there. She didn’t have to do research to see how Starr and her friends and family would talk – she knew, because her family is Starr’s family, her town is Starr’s town. This isn’t someone from the outside looking in and writing about it, this is someone writing what they have seen right in front of them.

Read The Hate U Give to see the world outside your comfort zone. Read it to understand why people have and do react the way they do to words, implications, and events. READ. IT.

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The truth casts a shadow over the kitchen—people like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right. Maybe.

The Great 

  • Angie Carter does a fabulous job of giving her characters unique voices. I could hear each character distinctly and it was amazing. I felt like I was following Starr around, eavesdropping.
  • I was completely immersed in the story. When the pivotal point of the story, the shooting, happened, I felt like I’d been sucker-punched. I felt sick. I had to put the book down and go compose myself. At first I tried reminding myself that it was just a book, but of course that didn’t work because OH YEAH STUFF LIKE THIS HAPPENS PRETTY OFTEN and IN OUR WORLD and…yeah.
  • This book helped me understand a lot of things. It helped me see a lot of things for the first time. Every town I’ve ever lived in (except in Korea, heh) had two sides and I never completely understood why it was that way, when segregation was a thing of the past decades ago…supposedly. Starr’s struggle to be more, her struggle with her feelings for Chris, and to bridge what seems to her (and to the reader) to be the two sides of her life, encapsulated everything I’ve ever been confused about or wondered why when it came to those two sides of town.
  • FAMILY. I freaking love Starr’s family. Her parents’ relationship isn’t perfect but it’s there. Her entire family – her blended family, there are step and half brothers and sisters in there too – is there for each other. They pull together. They may picker and fight but in the end they are there and it’s amazing.

The Other Thing:

  • I, personally, was really disturbed by the wrecking of the town and the looting/destroying of property that went on during some parts of the book (mirroring, obviously, a lot of actual events as well). HOWEVER. What really came home to me was that while no, I didn’t agree with the characters doing it, I finally understood to some extent why. I understood that it was a form of expressing how angry and scared Starr and her friends and neighbors were, of the injustice and prejudice that seem to meet them at every turn. Did that make it right? No. Starr even says so later. But I finally had some sense of why things like that happen.

Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.

5 stars.

five-stars

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Jun 18

Review of The Fallen Kingdom

Book Reviews, Books/Writing 6 ★★★★★

When I was approved for a NetGalley copy of this book, I could not have been more excited! This was totally me:

And then I put off reading it for months because I’m terrified of endings. Then when I did read it, all I could do was flail because it was still months from being released. So now…drumroll please! I can finally bring you my review of The Fallen Kingdom, the last book in Elizabeth May’s delightful The Falconer Trilogy (but hopefully far from the last book she publishes).

Review of The Fallen KingdomThe Fallen Kingdom (The Falconer, #3) by Elizabeth May
on June 13, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads five-stars
two-flames

The long-awaited final book in the Falconer trilogy is an imaginative tour-de-force that will thrill fans of the series. Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against each other in a struggle that will decide the fate of the human and fae worlds, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her. Packed with immersive detail, action, romance, and fae lore, and publishing simultaneously in the UK, The Fallen Kingdom brings the Falconer's story to an epic and unforgettable conclusion.

SPOILER ALERT for the first two books of the series! You can read my reviews of those here: The Falconer (Book 1), and The Vanishing Throne (Book 2).

The Fallen Kingdom picks back up exactly where The Vanishing Throne left off – at least in Aileana’s mind. In reality quite a bit has happened and I was super confused for a few chapters. This would be a negative EXCEPT Aileana is just as confused as the hapless reader and so it’s perfect. She slowly pieces together what happened to her and everyone else and while she’s just as much a badass as ever (and still feels the need to remind us of that now and again), she is not as in control as she seemed before, despite having all the unnatural powers of the fae. Aileana is human, and humans imbued with fae powers…well, it’s not working out so well for her.

Kiaran…um. Well. Kiaran is just as dark and broody as ever. His day/night personality was more in evidence here, and it was more disconcerting than ever before. However…he still wasn’t as dark as I was expecting. Good thing…I guess? He’s the Unseelie King, he’s supposed to be evil and dark and twisted…and he was, but we don’t really see that directly. Also when Kam actually gets to him it was a little anticlimactic because he really didn’t seem all that different. The end though…be. still. my. bleeding. heart.

Aithinne as queen of the Seelie fae is just as amazing, hysterical, and badass as ever. I still adore her. I still want her to be my best friend.

She still has the best lines in the book but I unfortunately can’t quote any of them because my ePub file expired and my copy of the book hasn’t arrived yet. Bad book blogger.

I LOVED the way the legend of the Morrigan and her sister was woven into the story. I definitely need to brush up on my Scottish mythology/folklore, because I’m fairly certain I was missing some subtle nuances but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

As you can see, I had a few issues with the story, as characters weren’t quite what I expected or weren’t as developed as I hoped…but Elizabeth May managed to write such an amazing story with characters I was SO committed to, and also to not make it a happily-ever-after fairy tale. It has aspects of it, but…it’s not entirely, and that was part of what made me rate it 5 stars.

I can’t wait to see what Ms. May writes next! She’s definitely on my auto-buy list. Personally, I would love to see a book (or two or three) with Aithinne as the main character. Hint, hint, Ms. May. 😉

Many thanks to Chronicle Books and NetGalley for the review copy in exchange for an honest review!

five-stars

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May 01

Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Healing for Men Review

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★

Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Healing for Men ReviewHerbs for Men's Health: How to Make and Use Herbal Remedies for Energy, Potency, and Strength by Rosemary Gladstar
on July 11th 2017
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 224
Goodreads four-stars

Increase your energy, vitality, potency, and strength with easy-to-make herbal remedies! Focusing on 24 herbs that powerfully support various aspects of men’s health, renowned herbalist Rosemary Gladstar shows you how to make teas, tinctures, baths, and foods to address the most common ailments affecting men, including heart disease, hypertension, infertility, stress, and prostate disorders.

This book is a slight departure from my usual reviews, but I was so excited to be able to read this book as an ARC! I have long admired Rosemary Gladstar’s other herbal remedy/medicine books, and as my husband was recently diagnosed with some health problems I was eager to see what things might be out in the herbal world more specifically for him. As Rosemary notes in her opening, most herbals focus on women MUCH more heavily than men, and in general you run across more women in alternative medicines and fields.

The book covers many topics of interest to men, including of course virility, prostate issues, memory functions, heart health, and many others. It is much more in depth than Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide (naturally), but it “matches” the cover very nicely! I’ve pre-ordered a copy. The photography is PHENOMENAL. Seriously, I would buy it just for the pictures. There are recipes and case studies, but while Rosemary alludes to scientific studies, I couldn’t find any actual citations for them in the book. If you’re researching this kind of thing, you’re probably already aware of the sad state of affairs when it comes to scientific studies of natural/herbal healing and medicine, so perhaps this is not surprising, BUT I would have greatly appreciated better end notes and citations. Things like that are very important, as many doctors and the general public are still convinced that the only positive influence anything other than a pill has on a person is due to the placebo effect. Rosemary Gladstar and (obviously) many other herbalists, whether professional or amateur, believe otherwise…but it is not enough to believe, and in the scientific world case studies alone are not enough evidence. Due to the lack of notes, I knocked off one star. However, if you have done your research elsewhere this is an awesome book to add to your shelf for the dozens of recipes and suggestions within, whether you’re male yourself or you have men in your life that you love and care for. Be well!

P.S. This was originally supposed to be released on May 31, 2017, but now GoodReads has the release date as July 31 so I’m confused.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC for review. My opinions were not influenced in any way.

 

 

four-stars

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Apr 22

You’re Welcome Universe Review

Book Reviews 3 ★★★★★

You’re Welcome Universe ReviewYou're Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner
Published by Knopf on March 7th 2017
Genres: Modern, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads five-stars

A vibrant, edgy, fresh new YA voice for fans of More Happy Than Not and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, packed with interior graffiti.
When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across the back of the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural.
Her supposed best friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her two mothers set Julia up with a one-way ticket to a “mainstream” school in the suburbs, where she’s treated like an outcast as the only deaf student. The last thing she has left is her art, and not even Banksy himself could convince her to give that up.
Out in the ’burbs, Julia paints anywhere she can, eager to claim some turf of her own. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off—and showing Julia up in the process. She expected her art might get painted over by cops. But she never imagined getting dragged into a full-blown graffiti war.
Told with wit and grit by debut author Whitney Gardner, who also provides gorgeous interior illustrations of Julia’s graffiti tags, You’re Welcome, Universe introduces audiences to a one-of-a-kind protagonist who is unabashedly herself no matter what life throws in her way.

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This book made me happy. Happy in the contented, yeeeeees this was good kind of way. I don’t read that many contemporaries (usually find them trite and boring), so I don’t think I’m easy to please – but this book. I pretty much clutched it to myself and gave it a hug when I finished. Also can I please have this quote on t-shirt:

“I’m not easy. Never have been.”

Julia is a tough cookie. A tough cookie with an artist’s heart and soul. I love her so much, even though I’m not sure she would like me, hehe. She has been hurt so many times in life that she just builds up walls against everyone, which is something I can definitely relate to – though not for the same reasons. I love her independence and how she embraces her Deafness, refusing to allow it to be a liability or anything negative in her life. Not to say she doesn’t struggle and hurt – she does. But she overcomes and she doesn’t wallow in her sadness.

I bury my face in the cushion of my beautiful armchair, my command center, and scream. Over and over, my throat vibrating and crackling with fire. Nobody comes to see what’s wrong. Nobody can hear me.

This was my first experience in the Deaf world. I have some older family members who are deaf, but they are far removed so I really don’t have any contact with anyone Deaf. While this is not an OwnVoices novel, the author appears to have THOROUGHLY done her research, as many people who either are deaf or have close deaf family members have reviewed this book and given it mad props for an accurate portrayal of the Deaf community. SO HAPPY about that! I was very intrigued by the fact that there are “Deaf” people and “deaf” people…I had no idea.

Julia does a lot of growing in this book. And in case anyone doesn’t remember from being a pre-teen or teenager…growing pains are real. Both the physical and mental kind. In this case Julia learns a lot about friendships, and letting people go. It HURTS, people…but she grows through it and it’s a beautiful thing.

Diversity is HUGE in this book, and (to me, a very NOT marginalized person) it seems to be presented as such a normal thing, no one bats an eye (except one teacher at some point in the narrative, but that’s only realistic I suppose).

  • Julia is Indian American, and while it only occurs once in the book itself, she is often the target of racial slurs – many of which don’t even apply to her, but are due to people making ASSUMPTIONS based on her skin color. #RAGE
  • Julia has two moms. I’m embarrassed to admit this is the first book I’ve met with that kind of representation, but I really enjoyed seeing/reading it. It’s so completely normal, and they both play such huge roles in Julia’s life. The narrative spent just enough time explaining the relationship between the 3 of them to help the reader avoid having a constant “but how…?” in the back of the mind while reading.
  • Julia is Deaf, and her moms are both Deaf as well. See above comments.
  • Julia is a graffiti artist – this may not technically qualify under the diversity label, but come on – graffiti artists are DEFINITELY in the minority. I loved that pictures of her art were included in the book – I have troubling picturing things without pictures and finding out that the illustrations were included was one of the main reasons I bought a hard copy instead of an ebook!

I might be burning bridges, but they’re my bridges to burn.

Burn, baby, burn.

I loved pretty much everything about this book. Please go read. I’m super excited to have found another debut author that I absolutely love!

 

five-stars

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Apr 08

The Iron King

Book Reviews 1 ★★★½

The Iron KingThe Iron King (The Iron Fey, #1) by Julie Kagawa
Published by Harlequin Teen on February 1st 2010
Pages: 363
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads three-half-stars

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.
But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil, no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

Time for a mini-review! I read The Iron King in a couple of hours and it was such a fast, fun book.

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The Iron King is a fun, fluffy read with a little danger, a little romance, and a lot of faeries. Also a little Alice in Wonderland – that part left me a bit flabbergasted…exactly how does the Cheshire cat fit into the faery world of redcaps and chimeras? But ok. It was definitely interesting. The hands down BEST part of this book is all the descriptions of the various fae, the Winter, Summer, and Iron Courts. I haven’t read many books based around the fae, so to me at least the Iron Court construct was entirely new and OMG IT MAKES SO MUCH SENSE. Holy shit balls batman. Consider me successfully creeped out and a little sad.

The characters…well, the MC is actually not that compelling. I was not a real Meghan fan, but I definitely didn’t hate her. Her motivations I could understand though, and her love for her little brother melted my heart. Her loyalty was also something I could relate to…Meghan is incapable of putting any goal or end result before the people she cares about, even when the result would be the greater good. Now Robbie, I loved. I hope we see a LOT more of him in the next books! Ash was…ooooh, look, tall-dark-handsome-brooding-powerful-hero = instalove. SIGH. He had some cool powers though. The romance was meh. Meghan is very young and naïve and…well, maybe that’s my almost-30-year-old self being jaded but I just wasn’t feeling it AT ALL.

3.5/5 stars overall. I’m looking forward to the next book and can’t wait to see how this Iron Court thing plays out! It wasn’t a true hangover ending but it’s SO wide open for more possibilities…

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I won an e-book of this from a blog giveaway ages ago, and finally got around to reading it! Sadly I don’t remember which blog, but in case THEY remember – thank you!! 😀 This counts for my 75 in 2017 challenge, and the Beat the Backlist 2017 challenge.

three-half-stars

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Mar 25

Walking the Nile Review

Book Reviews 0 ★★★★½

Walking the Nile ReviewWalking the Nile by Levison Wood
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 352
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads four-half-stars

The Nile, one of the world’s great rivers, has long been an object of fascination and obsession. From Alexander the Great and Nero, to Victorian adventurers David Livingstone, John Hanning Speke, and Henry Morton Stanley, the river has seduced men and led them into wild adventures. English writer, photographer, and explorer Levison Wood is just the latest. His Walking the Nile is a captivating account of a remarkable and unparalleled Nile journey.
Starting in November 2013 in a forest in Rwanda, where a modest spring spouts a trickle of clear, cold water, Wood set forth on foot, aiming to become the first person to walk the entire length of the fabled river. He followed the Nile for nine months, over 4,000 miles, through six nations—Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, the Republic of Sudan, and Egypt—to the Mediterranean coast.
Like his predecessors, Wood camped in the wild, foraged for food, and trudged through rainforest, swamp, savannah, and desert, enduring life-threatening conditions at every turn. He traversed sandstorms, flash floods, minefields, and more, becoming a local celebrity in Uganda, where a popular rap song was written about him, and a potential enemy of the state in South Sudan, where he found himself caught in a civil war and detained by the secret police. As well as recounting his triumphs, like escaping a charging hippo and staving off wild crocodiles, Wood’s gripping account recalls the loss of Matthew Power, a journalist who died suddenly from heat exhaustion during their trek. As Wood walks on, often joined by local guides who help him to navigate foreign languages and customs, Walking the Nile maps out African history and contemporary life.
An inimitable tale of survival, resilience, and sheer willpower, Walking the Nile is an inspiring chronicle of an epic journey down the lifeline of civilization in northern Africa.

Walking the Nile is one of the few nonfiction books I’ve read this year. Generally speaking, nonfiction doesn’t hold my interest very well, but adventure, travel, and some memoirs are the exception. This book is all three, and it was so very interesting. I borrowed it from my library on a whim, seeing it on their “new arrivals” shelf (even though it was published early 2016).

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For as long as I can remember, I had wanted to embark on an epic journey, one that harked back to the great expeditions of times past, a journey that would test me both physically and mentally in a way that no other could.

Levison Wood is an explorer. By his own admission, he has a perpetual case of wanderlust, traveling at every opportunity and never settling down. Quite the exciting life! This time his itchy feet take him to Africa, to an idea that has grown to an obsession: to walk the length of the Nile, from it’s (debated) source, to its end.

This book is much more than a backpacking story. It’s the story of one man seeing Africa through his first-world eyes, and coming to realize that when a person is still fighting just for daily survival, they cannot be concerned with his first-world piety. At one point, while trekking through Uganda, he writes:

In the Mabira we’d seen 500-year-old trees sawn down at a rate of ten a day by teenagers who’d been paid three dollars by the landlord. This was big money for a poor villager, and with the economics of the industry working like that, what hope was there for convincing local Ugandan people to leave the forests alone? It’s all well and good preaching the wonders of conservation, but not to men with families to feed and roofs to keep over their heads.

Wood is obviously pained to see this scenario played out again and again. He admits to not having the answers. He listens to the arguments of native Africans who decry his comments about the destruction of Africa’s great wilderness and lands.

“You whites cut down your forest hundreds of years ago,” he said. “You had your industrial revolution, and when you needed wood you took it. Well, now we need ours. We need to plant crops to feed our children, and plant sugar so you can feed yours whatever shit you feed them.”

OUCH.

The books doesn’t dwell on these issues for the entirety, however. Wood is moving along his 4,000+ mile journey, through such varied terrain and countries that at times even reading about them makes your head spin. While the adventures of explorers like David Livingston are obviously close to his heart, at first he doesn’t seem to entirely feel the dangers of his modern day exploration. That changes however, when he is joined by a couple of journalists partway through the journey and one of them shockingly and suddenly succumbs to heat stroke. Prepare your tissues.

Actual danger for Wood himself escalates in the last half of the book, as Wood is (understandably, perhaps), detained and accused of being a spy in South Sudan. This is not the Western world. This is Africa. Rules do not apply. Eventually, Wood ends up changing his plans slightly to avoid the civil war.

All in all, this was an amazing book that only intensified my own desire for travel. Africa seems even more terrifying after reading it, but Wood’s descriptions of the people of Africa make it more approachable and more real than anything else I’ve read. My only complaint is that about 1/3 of the way through, it did seem to slow down a lot and get a bit mired down (much like that actual part of Wood’s journey). I pushed through it though, and was immensely glad I did!

four-half-stars

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Mar 20

Crown of Midnight Review

Book Reviews 4 ★★★★

Crown of Midnight ReviewCrown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2) by Sarah J. Maas
on August 27th 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 418
Goodreads four-stars

"A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.
It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend."

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.
Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.
Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie... and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

Everyone has read this book already. Everyone, except me. Therefore, I’m departing from my usual format for my Crown of Midnight review. This is a play-by-play of my reactions as I read the book – yes, I kept very detailed notes, down to the page number! I probably could have finished it a lot faster without…but I just couldn’t stop. I also took a lot MORE of these notes in the last half of the book than the first, hehe. It probably goes without saying, but, um…

SPOILER ALERT!!! For ToG, Books 1 & 2

Okay, now I don’t feel guilty. Here we go!

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Beginning: Well, hopefully a few people will have become actual adults this time…(you can see my rather unimpressed review of Throne of Glass here)

6 – Ewwwww…glad to see Celaena hasn’t lost her love of the dramatic, I guess?

15 – “Plans” seem a little overrated.

25 – Why is Chaol still so worried about the king? The king is evil. Chaol is not. I don’t understand this loyalty.

29 – I don’t like this Roland person.

31 – WHY SO MANY CLOTHES AND SHOES?!? I don’t understand.

36 –

Unlike Celaena’s [bookshelf], which housed every title she got her hands on, whether she liked the book or not.

THERE’S my girl.

43 – I want a necklace that glows when danger is near, damn it.

74 – And now I miss MY best friend, damn it. Nehemia is the best.

89 – Chaol, you overprotective ASS…you better watch yourself.

91 – Ugh. I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of courtiers/courtesans, male or female (not in this context, anyway). I get that sometimes it’s a lifestyle choice, but in this case it’s pure slavery and…UGH.

92 – I’m a little disturbed that so far the only same sex relationships in this series are portrayed as a taboo thing, something to hide and keep behind closed doors. I get that maybe that’s how Adarlan’s society IS, buuuuut…it seems like it never occurs to anyone, even our heroine, to look at it differently.

111 – Aaaaahhh secret passageways and tunnels!! Or rather, more of them.

138 – Phew. There for a minute I thought we were headed for a love SQUARE. At least now we’re back to love triangle that IS NOT a triangle, according to Dorian. Just keep believing that there, little buddy.

192 – Ok. I love Chaol, as much as he’s flawed and torn by his idea of loyalty. And I feel like my heart is going to be broken by it somewhere along the line…

223 – Now there’s the assassin I’ve been waiting to see!

229 – WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING OMG NO NO NO NO.

230 – THIS IS ALL WRONG. SO WRONG. WHAT EVEN.

241 –

Death was her curse and her gift, and death had been her good friend these long, long years.

246 – I’m so sad I don’t even know if I can keep reading this.

(puts book down for about a day)

267 –

Then Celaena and the King of Adarlan smiled at each other, and it was the most terrifying thing Dorian had ever seen.

Yikes.

291 – I love how everyone gets upset and distraught and…runs to the library for their happy place.

294 – Are you kidding me, Chaol?? You’re STILL having twinges of conscience about this bloody tyrant of a king? Or is it Dorian you’re actually worried about? Because that’s slightly more acceptable even if it doesn’t make you any less stupid.

296 – Ooooh is the battle hungry rebel guard a woman?

297 – LOL JK

300 –

“Then you will always have a place here.”

Oh, god, Dorian. Come on now.

309 – Well, that doesn’t reek of LotR AT ALL.

313 – OH MY GOD CHAOL. Just because she’ll never trust you again doesn’t make her a threat to one of her best friends.

328 – Hold on – does it occur to anyone that she’s going to have to walk/climb/run back up ALL THOSE STAIRS? That’s a lot of freakin’ stairs…

339 – Haha. Ok well, glad someone addressed that problem.

357 –

The world didn’t need an assassin with a coward’s heart. It needed someone like Nehemia.

366 – Archer =

373 – Yes, yes beg ALL the gods that will listen.

374 – NOT FLEETFOOT!!! :'(

378 – Okay, any man that will risk his life to save her dog…

379 – Well I knew SOMETHING was coming I just didn’t expect THAT SOMETHING.

Am I the only one that was just…not expecting that AT ALL??

389 – That’s right, call her a good woman. Probably not the best thing you could have said right there.

393 – WAIT WHAT?!?!? SHE KNEW ALL ALONG?????? WTF?!?

398 – “Her” kind, clever prince? WHA?

405 –

“Knowing the truth, whatever it may be, will not change what you must do tomorrow – where you must go.”

Why have I not seen THIS quote on a t-shirt?

408 –

Never forgive, never forget.

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Yeah, ok. So. That was one big puddle of feelings and some confusion. I have many mixed…thoughts. I felt this one was much better written than the first (thank you, SJM, for sparing us the many repeated descriptions of just.how.beautiful. Celaena is), and it was overall much more interesting. We learned a  lot more about the world, about Celaena’s background (OBviously), as well as Chaol’s, and some new, very interesting characters were introduced (Baba Yellowlegs?? I was so disappointed that she had such a brief part).

I’m so bummed that Nehemia died. And in such a truly SENSELESS way. Actually, bummed doesn’t even begin to describe it. The book itself even states that it was a catalyst, an instigator, that she sacrificed herself in order to goad Celaena into action…WTF?!? That is so wrong and sad on so many levels. I’m extremely disappointed in that aspect. I’ve seen a few different bloggers talk about how in some very popular books, POC are used as plot devices…and I’m guessing that this is one of the chief offenders. No matter how much of an amazing character Nehemia was, the fact is that her death was used as a tool is just beyond sad.

The ending was awesome, though. I love that Celaena is strong enough to say goodbye, even when she knows it is probably goodbye forever, or at least goodbye to the happiness she had. I still love Chaol even if he’s a complete dunderhead, and I have hopes that he will come around. He doesn’t seem to be an ENTIRELY lost cause. And Dorian…I can’t even begin to figure out what’s going on with Dorian. He’s such an utterly nice person, and it kind of makes him boring but I want him to be happy. Oh, and whatever happened to Roland?? Like he was there, and vaguely creepy and unsettling and then he was just…nothing. So confused.

This is such a popular series I’m sure most people who read my blog have read it, so (WITHOUT spoiling the next books, please!), tell me what you think! I’d love to talk about it some more.

four-stars

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Mar 18

Forget Me Not Review

Book Reviews 4 ★★★★★

Forget Me Not ReviewForget Me Not by Ellie Terry
Published by Feiwel & Friends on March 14th 2017
Genres: Middle Grade, Modern
Pages: 336
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads five-stars

A girl with Tourette syndrome starts a new school and tries to hide her quirks in this debut middle-grade novel in verse.
Calliope June has Tourette syndrome. Sometimes she can't control the noises that come out of her mouth, or even her body language. When she and her mother move yet again, she tries to hide her TS. But soon the kids in her class realize she's different. Only her neighbor, who is also the class president, sees her as she truly is—a quirky kid, and a good friend. But is he brave enough to take their friendship public?
As Callie navigates school, she must also face her mother's new relationship and the fact that she might be moving again—just as she's starting to make friends and finally accept her differences. This story of being true to yourself will speak to a wide audience.

I ran across this book by reading Mishma’s author interview over on her blog, Chasing Faerytales. It’s amazing, PLEASE GO READ. I’ve been participating in the Diverse Reads 2017 challenge, hosted by Mishma and Shelley, and while I had already chosen my March book (still waiting on it to arrive), after I read the preview of this one on Amazon I simply HAD to read it. And oh, look at that! It’s also a 2017 debut novel, so I FINALLY get to add one to that challenge as well!

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Ancient Greeks called the planets

      planetoi

because it means “wanderers,”
and because planets don’t stay

in
one
fixed
place

they’re constantly moving,
wandering between the stars,

like me.

Calliope June has Tourette’s Syndrome. She also has either an extremely heartbroken or extremely immature mother, I can’t decide which. I waffled between feeling sorry for her mom, or being absolutely furious with her. Regardless, Cassie has lived in 10 different places in the past 9 years. Every time her mom breaks up with a guy, they move. With no warning. While Callie recognizes that her mom loves her, she also slowly comes to see that she is also wrong in some of the ways she “shows” her love. I was really happy when, towards the end, Cassie found the inner strength to confront her mother about some of those things.

Callie’s tics cause her a lot of embarrassment. She tries so hard to control them, but that only seems to make them worse. Her consciousness of them and yet the constant betrayal by her body were very eye-opening. I’ve never known anyone with TS and my only real media exposure is the bartender in The Boondocks Saints. It’s sad that there isn’t more education on this condition and that so much fun is made of it. The kids at Callie’s school never thought twice, and even her own mother is embarrassed by it. HER MOTHER! Callie is embarrassed enough, she certainly doesn’t need anyone telling her to try to stop, or hide her tics. Despite all that, she is such a huge-hearted person and continues to pick herself up and continue on. Sure, she has emotional moments – but we all do, and most of us don’t struggle with a health condition that has our own body backfiring on us every second of every day.

I loved the verse in this book – and I am so, SO far from being a poetry person. In fact, when I first saw that this book was written in verse I nearly didn’t look any further because of that. But I was intrigued by the concept, and I’ve never read anything that had a character with TS, so I read the excerpt on Amazon and I had to have the rest of the book RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW. Turns out that there are two points of view in the story: Callie’s, the verse, and Jinsong’s, the prose. It works beautifully. The verse feels like a stream-of-consciousness narration.

The characters took me back to middle school. Callie and Jinsong are so very real. Jinsong made me angry for awhile, because even though he likes Callie at first he feels too embarrassed by her to stand up for her. It was really sickening…but he grows. He finds his backbone, and his heart, and it’s just the most adorable thing ever.

My heart broke for Callie the entire way through the book. The amount of resilience and tenacity she shows is incredible. Even when the very person who should help her and care for her the most barely gives her the time of day. Also, kids are so, so MEAN. I loved that as embarrassed and hurt as she would sometimes be though, Callie still found it in her to fight back.

“They all have friendship lockets.
Every girl at Black Ridge has one,
except you.”

I glance at Beatriz’s neck.
“And you.”

BURN, baby, burn.

This was a phenomenal book. I really felt like the author put us right into Callie’s shoes. The writing was flawless – not once did I feel jolted out of the story by any sort of author intervention, and the ending…well. My heart broke into a thousand pieces. But it’s worth it! It fits. And there is hope, because Callie is not the sort of person to let her condition or her mother stop her.

There are a lot of quotes from the book that I would love to share. I bookmarked SO many. But I really think this is one you need to go read for yourself. So please, go buy a copy or request your library to buy one!

forget me not review
five-stars

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