Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #98: beach reads for beach read haters


Today's Topic: 
Ten (Kind Of) "Beach Reads" 
For People Who Hate Beach Reads


Here's the thing: I don't even know what a "beach read" is. I don't read a lot of what people might consider beach reads, actually. Instead, for my fellow beach read haters, I've picked ten of my favorite books that are either light and fluffy enough to read in one sitting, or creepy, thrilling books about the ocean. 


        

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Beast by Peter Benchley
Damaged by H.M. Ward
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews


        

Island 731 by Jeremy Robinson
Plan B by SJD Peterson
The Raft by S.A. Bodeen
Withering Hope by Layla Hagen


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
Monday, May 30, 2016

Audiobook Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Publication Date: November 16, 2011
Publisher: Broadway Books
Add to Goodreads

It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them.

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved — that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday's icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

Ready Player One is a book I have heard about EVERYWHERE forever. Since "soon to be a motion picture" got plastered on the cover, I feel like I can't look anywhere without seeing it. Even friends who don't usually care about hyped books have hyped this book to me! When I picked it up, I didn't know much about it except the synopsis for the hardcover, which is considerably more vague than the one I chose to include in this review. The description I read pretty much said the world sucks, everyone spends all their time in the OASIS, and there's a huge prize that everyone is trying to win, but it's dangerous. I went into this one pretty blind, but I fully expected to love it!

This story follows Wade, a down-on-his-luck teenager living in the year 2044, when the world has run out of energy so everyone lives most of their lives inside of virtual reality. Unlike a lot of teenagers, Wade has dedicated his life to learning 80s pop culture inside and out. That's pretty much all I can say about Wade because that's literally his entire life. For the majority of Ready Player One, Wade is totally alone, holed up in an apartment and playing inside the OASIS, throwing around 80s pop culture references. He does go to school every now and then and has a crush on a girl he's never met, but I can't say much about his character other than he's a geek who knows a lot of things about the 80s.

The OASIS itself was interesting, if problematic. (I'm not even going to get into how this thing runs in a world with such a huge energy problem.) As someone who has dabbled in a MMORPG or two, I could appreciate the vastness of the world, although it did seem a little too massive at times, at least in my opinion (having tons of copies of the same planet, for example). Still, it was really cool to see this author's take on virtual reality. I thought the idea of schools being inside of the OASIS was a really unique one and actually think it's something that we should even consider for ourselves in the future.

But let's jump into some of my bigger issues with this book, shall we? This book had so much potential to be an incredible treasure hunt set in virtual reality during a bleak, dystopian future, which was kind of what I was expecting. I knew that there would be 80s references - plenty of people warned me about that. What I was not expecting was the first 25% of the book being one huge infodump, which it was. Infodumps about the world, the creator(s) of the OASIS, their enemies, the game, and random other people, some who were not even important to the story. The infodumps almost made me give up on this book entirely.

Then there were the gratuitous references to 80s pop culture. I expected that the 80s would be a big part of this book, but the endless references were just too much. At times it seemed like Ernest Cline decided to write a book with as many 80s references as possible instead of writing an awesome dystopian novel with 80s references integrated into it. Many of them made sense within the story, but many did not. And many were so, so over-explained that I wanted to throw the book across the room. But I couldn't. Because I was listening to the audio.

The actual story beneath all the infodumps and 80s references was actually a really good one! During the times when Cline stopped throwing constant explanations of 80s bands, movies, and games at me and actually focused on the hunt for the prize, I was totally invested! I love the idea of one low level player going up against a massive corporation. I thought that some of Wade's plans were brilliant and I wanted more of THAT and less of the meaningless pop culture lessons.

I expected to love this book so much. Most people that I know loved this book. It has gotten rave reviews from pretty much everyone. Even Wil Wheaton loved this book enough to narrate it! I don't know what I'm missing. Maybe we're witnessing some kind of psychological phenomenon? In any case, I didn't totally hate it. I thought that the OASIS was a really cool concept and I actually did LOVE the actual story underneath it all. Unfortunately, the bad kind of outweighed the good for me on this one.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Weekly Recap: 5/22 - 5/28



My Super Exciting Life 

THIS HAS BEEN THE WEEK OF INCREDIBLE BOOK MAIL! Seriously, a friend gave me a copy of Gemina, another friend let me borrow her copy of A Torch Against the Night, I got The Crown's Game via a super awesome promotion on Audible, and then the library delivered books to my door! Now I just have to find the time to actually read all of them!

I have also been working. A lot. Because it's Memorial Day weekend and pretty much everyone is away from home this weekend. This means that lots of adorable puppies need to be taken care of! Hurray! This weekend I've hung out with two tiny Yorkies, a tiny weenie dog, and a kitty that bit me because he liked me (apparently?), among others. Unfortunately, this meant I didn't have much time to read so next week I'll only have one review posted. (I'll try to make up for it with discussions!) The business will carry over through next Tuesday and then... AND THEN I will finally have time to read all the things!

PS: Don't miss my giveaway of This Dark Endeavor if you still haven't read it!



New Books

Purchased:



Borrowed & Gifted:

  


Library:

  



In Case You Missed It

Monday DNF book review of The Crown
The topic was books I'm not sure I'd love now for Top Ten Tuesday
I featured Kingdom of Ash and Briars for Waiting on Wednesday
Friday book review & giveaway of This Dark Endeavor



This Week I Read

  



Upcoming Review



I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
Friday, May 27, 2016

Book Review & Giveaway: This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel


Title: This Dark Endeavor (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #1)
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 298
Add to Goodreads

Bravery, danger, and intense passion. How does obsession begin?

Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real.

They stumble upon the Dark Library and discover secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies. Father forbids them from ever entering the room again, but when Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is drawn back to the Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. Victor, along with his beautiful cousin Elizabeth and friend Henry, immediately set out to find a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help them create the formula.

Determined to save Konrad, the three friends scale the highest trees in Strumwald, dive into the deepest lakes, and even make an unthinkable sacrifice in their quest for the elixir’s ingredients. And as if their task was not complicated enough, a new realm of danger—that of illicit love—threatens to end the ordeal in tragedy.

Confession: I have never read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I've also never been a huge fan of Frankenstein apart from maybe Young Frankenstein, which I watched way too many times growing up, thanks to my parents. Recently I watched Victor Frankenstein (there's probably a review of that coming soon) and really, really wanted to read more about Frankenstein's story. When I saw the gorgeous cover of This Dark Endeavor and saw that it was a prequel story, I knew I had to read it!

This is the story of Victor and Konrad Frankenstein, along with their cousin, Elizabeth, and good friend, Henry. Although each of these characters is important in their own way, Victor is undoubtedly the star of the show and he is incredible in the strangest way. I knew going in that Victor would be a... unique character. I wasn't disappointed.


Victor is passionate and odd and has just a little bit of darkness in him. He wants what he wants and does not let anything stand in his way. At times I wondered whether he was entirely stable or whether he lacked the ability to truly care about anyone other than himself and sometimes he even made me a little uncomfortable. But despite all of his shortcomings, he was a wonderful character to get to know. His love for his brother could not be doubted, even if he had a strange way of showing it at times.

Elizabeth is the love interest here, if there must be one. Yes, there is something of a love triangle, but I really didn't find that it detracted that much from the story. In fact, I thought it really added to my understanding of Victor as a character. Elizabeth was also a really interesting character to get to know. It seemed as if a bit of Victor's curiosity and passion had also rubbed off on her and she did not always know what to make of her own actions. I honestly cannot wait to get to know more about her in the second book in this duology.

I found the plot to be extremely intriguing. Perhaps some of Victor Frankenstein's backstory is given in the original book, but having never read that, I only have secondhand sources to go by. I knew that something had happened to Victor's brother, but to see Konrad's illness and Victor's determination to save him shed a lot of light on his later life. Admittedly, I don't know much about alchemy, but following along with Victor and Co. as they worked towards creating the Elixir of Life was both informative and exciting!

The setting that was painted by Kenneth Oppel was also really well done! I don't read much gothic fiction, but I definitely felt like he did a wonderful job of placing me into the Frankenstein house in Geneva. As a book worm, my favorite part was obviously the Dark Library!

The one bit I didn't really enjoy (which, unfortunately, was kind of a big part of the story) was the old alchemist who helped Victor create the elixir. I felt that he (along with his cat) was predictable and just a little too eccentric for the story. I feel like if his character could have been toned down just a bit, this would have been a much better read.

Overall I really enjoyed This Dark Endeavor! Although it wasn't a perfect read, I thought it was a fantastic prequel story to the Frankenstein I've grown up with through the movies. I can't wait to read the next one and, perhaps, even read the classic all of this was based on!




Giveaway (US Only)

The first copy of this book I received was not the cover I intended to purchase. Basically, I ended up with an extra copy
(with this cover), which means I get to share a copy with one of you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday #100: Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West


Happy Wednesday, fellow book lovers! This week's "can't wait to read" is:

Kingdom of Ash and Briars
by Hannah West
Publication Date: September 15, 2016
Bristal, an orphaned kitchen maid, lands in a gritty fairy tale gone wrong when she discovers she is an elicromancer with a knack for shape-shifting. An ancient breed of immortal magic beings, elicromancers have been winnowed down to merely two - now three - after centuries of bloody conflict in the realm. Their gifts are fraught with responsibility, and sixteen-year-old Bristal is torn between two paths. Should she vow to seek the good of the world, to protect and serve mortals? Or should she follow the strength of her power, even if it leads to unknown terrors? She draws on her ability to disguise herself as a man to infiltrate a prince's band of soldiers, and masquerades as a fairy godmother to shield a cursed princess, but time is running out. As an army of dark creatures grows closer, Bristal faces a supernatural war. To save the kingdoms, Bristal must find the courage to show her true form.

Building on homages to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Jane Austen’s Emma and the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, Hannah West makes a spectacular debut.
You guys know that I love, LOVE retellings! This one crams a ton of fairytales into one book and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday #97: Books I'm not sure I'd love now


Today's Topic: 
 Ten Books I'm Not Sure I'd 
Love After Time Has Passed


I read A LOT of not-so-popular books way back when before I was a blogger. Back then I loved almost everything I read! Now I've read so many incredible books that I'm not positive I'd feel the same way if I went back and re-read all of them! These are ten of the books I've enjoyed over the last several years that I'm not sure I'd enjoy as much now.


        

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Children in the Night by Harold Myra
Darkness Before Dawn by J.A. London
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
English Ivy by Catherine Palmer


        

New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
Warrior's Song by Catherine Coulter
Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.
Monday, May 23, 2016

DNF Review: The Crown by Kiera Cass


Title: The Crown (The Selection #5)
Author: Kiera Cass
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 279
Add to Goodreads
Reviews for book 1, book 2, book 3, and book 4

When Eadlyn became the first princess of IllĂ©a to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.

Before I begin this review I want to say I was totally in love with the original Selection trilogy. Sure, it was mostly romantic fluff, but it was really enjoyable fluff. I was excited when Cass released The Heir. I bought it as soon as it was released and took it on a Caribbean cruise as reading material, but was totally and completely let down by it. I hated Eadlyn and I didn't understand the need for her story in the first place. Maybe you're wondering why I even bothered to review this book if I hated book four so much. In the past I have even discussed why I hate when people review books they don't expect to enjoy. But here's the thing: I wanted this final book to redeem the previous one. I wanted Kiera Cass to change my mind about Eadlyn and blow me away with the last bit of her story, but that did not happen here. In fact, I finally gave up at 50% of the way through.

The Crown picks up immediately after The Heir left off, with America in the hospital and Eadlyn trying to hold everything else together (for some reason). She has let go of several of the boys, directly mirroring the original trilogy, and is insistent upon choosing one of the remaining boys to marry. I will go ahead and tell you there is nothing about this book that I found redeeming (which is obviously why I decided not to continue reading it) so I'm not going to try to sugar coat this review. I actually had a long list of quotes and notes, but I accidentally deleted it, so whoops. I'm just going to wing it!

As with The Heir, there is absolutely no world building to speak of in this book. None. All of the characters remained within the castle walls at all times and honestly I didn't even feel like I could picture any of the rooms in the castle, which is really saying something. I should be able to picture every single nook and cranny of that castle if it's the only location I've seen for two books. Even worse than the lack of a proper world, though, is that these two books are really completely uneccessary. They are literally just The Selection series but with some details tweaked - right down to Eadlyn choosing an Elite to speed things along.

But my absolute biggest issue with these two books remains Eadlyn herself. I couldn't stand her. After The Heir, a lot of people wanted to talk about how Eadlyn had changed, had grown up, become selfless. I don't know what book they were reading, but I must have gotten a defective copy. My Eadlyn was a selfish bitch, at least through the 50% of the book that I made it through. And the thing about it is, I'm not the only one that hates Eadlyn - her entire country hates her too. She cannot figure out why everyone hates her. Part of the problem is that every single person surrounding her is constantly telling her how perfect and amazing and gorgeous and powerful she is. Maybe if someone would knock her down off her high horse, she might actually get a clue.

Other random things that irritated me about The Crown:

  • Why is the cover model's dress so big? She's swimming in it. Could they not afford a tailor? In a series that is known for its gorgeous covers, I was really surprised by this. 
  • Am I to believe that the QUEEN cannot recover from a heart attack (which she had at age 30-something, by the way) in her own rooms? They couldn't roll all their equipment down the hall so she could be comfortable? So the KING could be comfortable instead of sleeping in a chair? 
  • Similarly, the princess/regent doesn't have a nighttime maid who could go get her some coffee? The regent of a country has to go down to the kitchen and make her own coffee?? And I mean, I get it if she wanted to get her own coffee, but she specifically says there's no one who can get it for her because it's nighttime. Give me a freaking break. 
  • Am I the only one who thought Kiera Cass made Henri seem like a total moron? I get it. The kid is from another country and doesn't speak English. (Honestly, it's a little unbelievable that someone who was entering this kind of competition wouldn't speak English to begin with, but whatever.) I pictured him as an idiot because that's how he was written. Not speaking a foreign language doesn't make a person dumb. :/ 
  • Since when can a king just decide to stop being king and hand things over to his kid because he's tired of the job? Isn't Queen Elizabeth like, 90 or something now? Why doesn't she just retire and hand things over to Prince Charles? 
  • The ending. Yes, I asked my friend to spoil it for me and just... what? This seems like a decision that was made solely for shock value. Did Kiera Cass decide this person would win while she was writing this book? Because nothing in The Heir pointed to this. 

In case there was still any doubt in your mind, I hated this book. I hoped for redemption from the final book in this never ending series, but I didn't get it. I don't know what happened to Kiera Cass after The One was written. A friend suggested that perhaps she had been kidnapped and someone was writing in her name. That's the only thing that makes sense, really. Do I still recommend The Selection series? Yes, but stop at book three. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Weekly Recap: 5/15 - 5/21



My Super Exciting Life 

I have not had a book hangover like this for probably a year. I read A Court of Mist and Fury last week and this week I was totally unable to finish reading anything. I've started three different books and put them all back down. On Friday I made a trip to the library and picked up some books I'm excited about, so hopefully things will change this coming week!

Thankfully, this week was much slower than last! We did make a trip to Universal Studios to do a few rides and get dinner one night, but other than that not much happened. In fact, my husband and I spent all day yesterday (and I do mean all day) watching An Idiot Abroad and eating homemade ice cream. I could use more lazy days like that!



New Books

Library:

    



In Case You Missed It

Monday book review of A Court of Mist and Fury
The topic was books on a whim for Top Ten Tuesday
Thursday audiobook review of Across the Universe
On Saturday I asked how accurate fiction should be



This Week I Read
  
Absolutely nothing.



Upcoming Review

  


I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
Saturday, May 21, 2016

How accurate do you like your fiction?

Recently Dan Brown announced that he would be re-releasing his 2003 bestseller, The Da Vinci Code, but this time it would be adapted for a young adult audience. This unleashed a maelstrom of nasty comments on Twitter and elsewhere, not only bashing Brown for insinuating that his book needed to be dumbed down for YA readers, but also for his writing in general.


This got me thinking... Why exactly do people hate Dan Brown so much anyway? I took to the Internet to find out. What I found was a mixture of things. Some people didn't like his formulaic writing style and found that it was too simplistic. Some felt that Brown was writing his ideal self into the story. But I was surprised to find that several people were simply upset that not everything in his books was factual. Here are a couple quotes I found:
His research is faulty and/or thrown out the window when it doesn't fit in to his plot. Don't ever take something you read in one of his books and talk about it as a fact without looking it up first yourself.
He presents fiction as if it was fact. Many are led to believe a lot of what is written in his books, even if he has really made it all up on the spot. 
As someone who actually really enjoyed Dan Brown's books back when I read them, I was honestly a little thrown off by finding out people don't like that Dan Brown's books aren't factual enough. Personally, I did not take everything in The Da Vinci Code as fact, although I will admit it sparked my curiosity and led me to do my own research afterward.

The only time I expect my fiction to contain any factual information at all is when it is retelling some historical event, and honestly I don't even take it all at face value then. Historical locations may be tweaked to fit a story or a prominent historical figure's character might be fictionalized (like Hitler in Prisoner of Night and Fog). I often read books where fact is interwoven with fiction and I've never found this to be too off-putting.


I tried to think of times when I was irritated by finding information that was not factual in a book. I realized what bothers me more than anything else is when scientific information is incorrect. For example, two days ago I posted a review of Across the Universe, where I found a few details to be too much to overlook. One was that a cryogenically frozen character was aware of her surroundings for 300 years. The other was that a ship slowed down in space because its engine was failing. These things bothered me more than a detail about the opening date of a church in Istanbul ever would.

I also realize that there may be other inaccuracies that would really bother me if I were to come across them though. For example, I once read a book about Disney World and the author had mentioned Sleeping Beauty Castle. I actually wrote to the author to let him know it was actually Cinderella Castle at Disney World (Sleeping Beauty is at Disneyland). Luckily, he let me know it had already been corrected in a later edition. So... maybe the construction date of a historic landmark being wrong would irritate someone who was well versed in that area?


Now I'm really wondering how my fellow readers feel about this topic! Knowing that what we're reading is fiction, how important is it to you that things be factual? Are there certain things that really bug you? Or is everything fair game in fiction? Let me know what you think in the comments!