Sunday, June 15, 2014

Review: The Thief (The Queen Thief #1) by Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief, book 1 by Megan Whalen Turner 
Release Date: December 27, 2005 
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Source: Library  
The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities.

What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses.
When I first began reading this book a few months ago, I put it aside after 15% in. At that time, I didn’t want to read it. Some time ago, I borrowed The False Prince from the library and when I looked at some of my most trusted friends for their thoughts, everyone said I should read The Thief instead. So I borrowed it from the library and as I continued to read it, I finished the book before I even knew it; I read it in about a day. The Thief takes time to truly capture the readers’ attention. It has an immensely slow beginning but as the book continues, it gets better and better.

The plot is really hard to put into words without revealing each and every aspect of the details that make up this book. The plot isn’t as fast paced or as adventure filled as other fantasy novels I’ve read. Megan Whalen Turner slowly reveals key aspects of the characters and the world but never does so in a way that feels as though it is shoved in your face. The plot is slow but brilliantly paced as where you receive just the right amount of information to assure that you are not confused but enough mystery to keep you guessing. Furthermore, the world has an essence of Greek mythology but isn’t quite so mixed in and is set in a world that is very reminiscent of ancient Greece.

In many of my favorite fantasy novels, I have found that while the writing isn’t hard to read, it has a sense of beauty to it. It’s very poetic and flows like a calm river in a serene landscape. If that makes no sense, I’m sorry. In other words, the writing in this book was beautiful. It gave me a sense of calm as I was reading it but it was a wonderful feeling. I absolutely love Turner’s writing and her ability to string words together is mesmerizing and mysterious. I was able to understand enough about the world without having all of the details bore me to death. Though this book was written in third person and not much was revealed about the characters, I ended up falling in love with all of these characters.

Overall, I loved this book so much that I requested the next three books from my library the very next day. I fell in love with the characters and the writing and the world. Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief is a wonderful book that deserved the Newberry Medal it received. The world is intriguing and familiar but not in a way that fells unoriginal. After all, Green myth has been used in many novels. In the end, I can’t recommend this book enough.  
Cover Comments: 
I love this cover in all honestly. It's simple and beautiful at the same time and the symbolism is fabulous. I absolutely love how all of the covers in this series go together. 

**I borrowed this book from the library. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for my review.**

Friday, June 13, 2014

DNF Review: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Looking for Alibrandi Melina Marchetta
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Press 
Source: Library 
Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try
This a mostly a ranting mini review even though I didn't intend on it to be a ranting review. If I offend you with this review because you loved this book so much, I'm sorry because not everyone can love every book.

When I initially got this book, I began reading it and within a few days, put it aside because I hated it so much. Then I decided that I was being unfair with it and I wanted to try it again. I did try it again but my opinion didn't change. I'm not going to try re-reading this book and I don't know if I want to read another Rainbow Rowell book. I found this book to be boring and Eleanor to be annoying and this book was so racist. While some people have argued that it made sense during the time it was set, it didn't make sense to me. For example, Park faces NO racism that I could recall and that just makes me...angry. How is it that in the '80s a half Korean kid doesn't face racism but I know of so many of my friends who face racism every single day in the 21st century? Heck, I still face a ton of racism and I hate when people brush over it as if it were nothing.

I'm not saying it bad for people to not have noticed the racism in this book. Reading is, after all, a very subjective matter BUT if people can call our sexism or misogyny, why not call our racism? Which, by the way, is vastly present in this book. Had this issue been handled better, I would have loved that aspect. Racism needs to be talked about and it needs to be addressed but I don't think this book was done well. Was racism rampant during that time? Yes, yes it was. For more historical context, read Laura's review which has a wealth of other historical inaccuracies during the time in which this book was set. And for the people who say that it's okay for Eleanor to always make a comment about Park's eyes or skin color as a way of affection, I have to ask: WHAT? Since when is it okay for a character to always talk about another character's eyes or skin color because it makes him so Asian? Honestly, when I (and I know this to be true for others as well) find someone interesting or attractive, I don't harbor on their skin color or eye shape. But maybe that's just me...

And another part that Laura brings up which also makes me mad: Park spends much of this book hating his Korean side. He's ashamed of his mother and wishes he doesn't look so Korean. I get that. I do. I've hated being Indian on many occasions. I wish my dad, a university professor, didn't have an accent but he does. But this is a big part of my struggle with balancing two different cultures and trying to fit in. Instead of showing how Park struggles with two different cultures, he simply hates one side of himself and put the other side on a high pedestal. I think that this could have been such a great aspect of this book had it been explored. Truth be told, even though I am not of mixed race, I have always had a difficult time dealing with both my Indian and American identity. I had hoped that this would be something I shared with Park. I wanted to see a character in a book struggle with this issue because I know so many of my friends, even if they're not of Asian decent, struggle with two cultures.

In the end, I didn't finish this book even though I got very, very close to finishing. I liked the writing but after hating the characters and fining it racist and inaccurate to the '80s (which, by the way, the author NEVER lets you forget. It was so annoying after a while because YES I get that it's set in the '80s. MOVE. ON). I know Rainbow Rowell has worked for many people but so far, not for me.  
Cover Comments: 
LOOK AT THAT BEAUTIFUL COVER. I AM IN LOVE. If only the book had been close to as beautiful as this cover. It's so simple yet it stands out and I love an illustrated cover! 

**I borrowed this book from the library. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for my review.**

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mini-Reviews: Someday, Someday, Maybe and Also Known As

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham 
Release Date: April 30, 2013 
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Source: Library  
A charming and laugh-out-loud novel by Lauren Graham, beloved star of Parenthood and Gilmore Girls, about an aspiring actress trying to make it in mid-nineties New York City.

Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, with just six months left of the three year deadline she gave herself to succeed. But so far, all she has to show for her efforts is a single line in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters and a degrading waitressing job. She lives in Brooklyn with two roommates-Jane, her best friend from college, and Dan, a sci-fi writer, who is very definitely not boyfriend material-and is struggling with her feelings for a suspiciously charming guy in her acting class, all while trying to find a hair-product cocktail that actually works.

Meanwhile, she dreams of doing "important" work, but only ever seems to get auditions for dishwashing liquid and peanut butter commercials. It's hard to tell if she'll run out of time or money first, but either way, failure would mean facing the fact that she has absolutely no skills to make it in the real world. Her father wants her to come home and teach, her agent won't call her back, and her classmate Penelope, who seems supportive, might just turn out to be her toughest competition yet.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is a funny and charming debut about finding yourself, finding love, and, most difficult of all, finding an acting job.
The second I heard that Lauren Graham had written a book, I was eager to get my hands on it. I was excited to get the book from the library and within a few days, I finished it. I wasn’t as pleased by this book as many other people were but I liked it well enough. In the end, I realized that I didn’t care too much for the characters or the romance. In the end, it was more of a “meh” kind of a read for me.

The writing hands down was my favorite aspect of this novel. Lauren Graham’s writing had a vintage feel to it. The writing felt like it was very old but classic at the same time; it didn’t have a boring effect but rather something that had a calming effect. For some reason, I didn’t understand why Fanny’s character didn’t work for me. There was something…boring about her. I just didn’t care if she got the job or had a romance and that made me sad.

In the end, I read Someday, Someday, Maybe in short periods during a few days. I wasn’t invested enough to read all the way though in one sitting but I was intrigued enough to keep coming back for more. This book was fun and light but I didn’t really get anything out of it.
Cover Comments: 
It's the Brooklyn Bridge you guys! Normally I would wistfully comment on how I love the setting (hello, New York City!) but the cool thing? I've been there and it's fabulous! So, yes, I love this cover. 

**I borrowed this book from the library. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for my review.**
Also Known As, #1 by Robin Benway
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Walker Books
Source: Library
Which is more dangerous: being an international spy... or surviving high school?

Maggie Silver has never minded her unusual life. Cracking safes for the world's premier spy organization and traveling the world with her insanely cool parents definitely beat high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. (If it's three digits, why bother locking it at all?)

But when Maggie and her parents are sent to New York City for her first solo assignment, her world is transformed. Suddenly, she's attending a private school with hundreds of "mean girl" wannabes, trying to avoid the temptation to hack the school's elementary security system, and working to befriend the aggravatingly cute son of a potential national security threat... all while trying not to blow her cover.

From the hilarious and poignant author of Audrey, Wait! comes a fast-paced caper that proves that even the world's greatest spies don't have a mission plan for love.
Sarcasm in my third language and I absolutely love characters who are sarcastic. I love a good book about spies but in the end, Also Known As wasn’t was…exciting as I had hoped it would be. Once I finished reading it, all I wanted was more: more character development, more excitement, and more danger. Also Known As was the perfect book to read during a boring day and that was exactly when I read it

Maggie is seventeen (I think…) in the beginning of the novel and she has never been a “normal” teenager. She doesn’t know how high school students act or how she should act around them and seeing Maggie out of her element was wonderful. I enjoyed her awkwardness and her struggle to complete her job well and the situations she landed herself in made me smile. Unlike many YA novels, I loved that Maggie’s parents were so involved in her life. Her friendship with Roux and her relationship with Jesse were both fun to read about. My biggest issue with this novel was the fact that Maggie sounded much younger then seventeen. Maybe I should not have been bothered by it as much but I can’t deny that I was.

The highlight of this novel would be the characters. I loved Maggie’s personality because it was snarky and smart and even made me wince on occasion. Angelo, the family friend and acted as a mentor to Maggie who understood that even though she was a spy, she was also a seventeen-year-old girl. Roux, the social outcast at school becomes Maggie’s friend and added a fresh and fun feel to this novel.
Cover Comments: 
I don't honestly care about this cover. I like that her outfit coincides with a private school uniform but other then that, it's generic and boring. 

**I borrowed this book from the library. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for my review.**

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

DNF Mini-Reviews: Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always and Art Girls Are Easy

Sometimes Never, Sometimes Always by Elissa Janine Hoole Release Date: November 8, 2013 
Publisher: Flux
Source: Publisher via NetGalley for review  
Cassandra fears rocking the family boat. Instead, she sinks it. Assigned by her English teacher to write a poem that reveals her true self, Cassandra Randall is stuck. Her family's religion is so overbearing, she can NEVER write about who she truly is. So Cass does what any self-respecting high school girl would do: she secretly begins writing a tarot-inspired advice blog. When Drew Godfrey, an awkward outcast with unwashed hair, writes to her, the situation spirals into what the school calls "a cyberbullying crisis" and what the church calls "sorcery." Cass wants to be the kind of person who sticks up for the persecuted, who protects the victims the way she tries to protect her brother from the homophobes in her church. But what if she's just another bully? What will it take for her to step up and tell the truth?
Stopped at: less than 40%, exact place unknown 

To start off, I stopped reading this book before Cassandra, the main character, even began her blog. I just couldn’t get into this book at all. There was too much into dumping and the story was incredibly slow.

I understand the idea behind this book: Cassandra feels so oppressed by her religious family that she isn’t able to discover who she really is. She wants to see what else the world has to offer outside of her town and her family’s expectations. They’re suffocating her and I understand her discomfort but her helplessness was too…helpless. It was for me at least. Honestly, if you want to change something about your life, get up and change it. Wallowing over how much you hate girls you pretend to be friends with or your family’s ideals is not going to change anything. I really just wanted to go in and shake her.

Furthermore, the story as far as I read was just…boring. I didn’t care about her family’s opinions on gays and same sex marriage; I live in a southern, mostly Christian, conservative state for crying out loud and while I felt like this novel tried to present these issues as something astonishing, it was really just…stereotypical. In the end, I was simply not interested in this book so I just put it aside. It might work for others.
Cover Comments: 
Personally I love this cover. There's something so...simplistic and wistful about this cover. The model's pose and the look on her face tie in well with the title of the book. Plus, they didn't white wash the cover by having an Asian model! 

**I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for my review.**
Art Girls Are Easy by Julie Klausner
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Poppy
Source:Publisher via NetGalley for review

Fifteen-year-old Indigo Hamlisch is an art prodigy looking forward to her last summer at the Silver Springs Academy for Fine and Performing Arts for Girls. But her BFF Lucy Serrano is a C.I.T. this year, and that means she doesn't have to hang out with Indigo and the other campers anymore: she can mingle with the counselors -- including Indigo's scandalous and unrequited crush, paint-splattered art instructor Nick Estep. But it's not like anything is going to happen between Lucy and Nick... right? As Indy becomes more and more paranoid about what's going on between her best friend and her favorite counselor, Indy's life -- and her work -- spin hilariously out of control. Funny and bold, Art Girls Are Easy is a comedy of errors filtered through the wry, satirical eyes of a girl who's been there, done that, and is just looking for a little inspiration
Stopped at: 7% 

I will read any and all books that deal with summer camps because I have never been to summer camp in my life. I never knew about it when I was younger and by the time I learned what they were, we couldn’t afford it. So when I first got the chance to read this book, I was incredibly excited. The cover was gorgeous and the summary was great and lets not forget the art bit. What I got, on the other hand, was a pretentious, annoying fifteen-year-old rich girl who was more interested in older men because she’d read Lolita (what?!).

When I think of summer camps, I think of cabins with bunk beds and lakes and swimming and bon fires. The camp Indigo does to? They stayed in air-conditioned chalets. And can I mention the name-dropping with all of the brands these kids have? Dolce and Gabbana and Chanel and I don’t really care. In the end, 7% of this book is all I could handle even though I told myself that I would read more of this book before giving up on it. If I’m to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. There are better books I would rather spend my time reading then this one.   
Cover Comments: 
Eh. Boring. Like, really, really boring. Had it not been for "Melina Marchetta," I wouldn't have picked up this book to read! 

**I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for my review.**

Saturday, June 07, 2014

To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1 by Jenny Han

Release Date: January 24, 2006 
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Source: Library  
LARA JEAN keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her, these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved.

When she writes, she can pour out her heart and soul and say all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only.

Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is quite simply a fun read. From all of the raving reviews of this book, I was hoping for something insightful but in reality, I didn’t love this book. I enjoyed reading about Lara Jean but after turing the last page of this book, I felt nothing. It’s not to say that To All The Boys (as it will not be called for the rest of this review) was a bad book (it wasn’t); it just wasn’t a memorable book.

Lara Jean, who I believe is a junior in high school (or maybe a senior? I can’t remember), reminded me of myself on occasion. She’s not always sure of herself and sometimes says things that she doesn’t mean to. And she’s a hopeless romantic like myself but there was some aspect of her characterization that I simply did not like. The only way for me to describe it would be to say that she sounded many years younger than her age and I often found myself shaking my head at her childishness. Other times I was simply indifferent to Lara Jean and her feelings. I couldn’t help but just not care. Either way, I just didn’t fully connect with her to the point where I would have enjoyed this book more.

As for the other characters in To All The Boys, I wasn’t too impartial to any of them except Lara Jean’s younger sister Kitty. She was adorable and funny and I loved every page she was one. Margot bothered me on many levels but the biggest reasoning was her lack of communication. It irked me that she got upset for not knowing everything about Lara Jean’s life when she didn’t share any information either. And I can’t forget the love interest (who I guessed early on in the book) who was incredibly underdeveloped and well, not really my favorite person.

The letters, writing to the boys she’s loved and having them mailed out would by far my favorite aspect of this novel. Surprisingly, and this is incredibly rare for me, I liked the premise and the plot for this novel better than the characters. As a writer and a hopeless (or die-hard) romantic, I loved and hated the idea of having my love letters mailed out. While I have never written a love letter, I have a journal and the idea that someone could read it mortified me so I understood Lara Jean’s dilemma.

Overall, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has a plethora of fans who loved it immensely. I, on the other hand, am not in this category. Although I liked certain aspects of this novel, the entirety just was not for me. I understand that this is part of a series but I feel as though this novel could have been so much more. More depth, more characterization, more everything.  
Cover Comments: 
Personally I love this cover. There's something so...simplistic and wistful about this cover. The model's pose and the look on her face tie in well with the title of the book. Plus, they didn't white wash the cover by having an Asian model! 

**I borrowed this book from the library. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for my review.**