Wednesday, February 14, 2018

DNF Explanations: YA and MG


Forever, Again by Victoria Laurie
Released: December 13, 2016
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Received: ARC from publisher
Read 62 of 360 pages
Goodreads

Well, I'm not sure if I'm disappointed I won't be reading more of this book or relieved that I found out now and not after more hours of reading.

I flew through the first 62 pages and I had every intention of finishing the book. I figured it would be a solid 3 or 3.5 star read: good, enjoyable, but nothing spectacular or something I'd reread. Still, I was enjoying the pacing and tension of uncovering the mystery.

And then I came across some low star Goodreads reviews with spoiler tags. And I clicked on them. And...I decided to DNF. The big reveal just seemed disappointing and not something I'd like, which makes the time spent with the book not really worthwhile. I can deal with a meh reveal if the characters and story leading up to that are still engaging and stand on their own, but after 62 pages, my impression of the characters was that they weren't going to become anything more than a vehicle for the mystery.

So, DNF.


The Adventurers Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos
Released: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Received: ARC from publisher
Read 6 of 320 pages
Goodreads 

Chalk this one up to wrong book, wrong reader. I had high hopes: cute cover, fun premise, middle-grade adventuring...recipe for success. I didn't expect a writing style that grated on my nerves enough to make me put the book down with only a microscopic smidgen of regret. The characters and story felt stock, the writing serviceable at best, and everything had a very phoned in, paint-by-numbers kind of feel. No heart. Oh well, c'est la vie. Onto the next book!


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Book Review: Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn


Pages: 419
Released: June 11, 2013
Publisher: Harper Teen
Received: Own, won
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

I've carted this book through three moves and before moving a fourth time I figured it'd be in my back's best interest to decide if this was worth schlepping again.

So is it? Eh, yes and no. I have access to e-copies through the library, and that's enough "ownership" for me. Now that I've read my paper copy, I think I'll trade it in at the local used bookstore for something else.

But that isn't to say I didn't enjoy the book. The premise is so different and engaging. I was hooked over the entire 400+ pages. The chapters are also tiny, which always helps. 

The mystery starts out with trying to figure out what happened to Annaliese, why she disappeared for a year and where she spent that year since her memories of that time are gone. Once that mystery starts unfolding, then another more paranormal mystery takes shape. Then as that mystery starts revealing itself, the mystery of what is Annaliese going to decide to do captured my interest. Each mystery was engaging and flowed seamlessly into one another, which kept the momentum of the overall story up and my interest never flagged.

While that is a lot of stuff and makes up for a good bit of the massive 400+ pages, there's also a lot of people drama mixed in filling up a lot of those pages. The parts with Annaliese's family had me hook, line, and sinker. Probably because I'm a sucker for heart-felt family stuff that feels secure and fluffy and loving. There a fierce love that felt palpable and gut-wrenching and good.

And then there was the romance, and that paled in comparison. It felt tacked on as the Required YA Romance, and while I fully admit I'm the kind of reader who generally wants a touch of romance in everything and whines when it's not there...I could have done without it here. Also, the teenage high school drama (friendship, mean girl, ex-boyfriend, new boyfriend, yada yada) was boring.

Part of me thinks this is because I'm old and not a teenager, and therefore also not the target audience. Part of me thinks it's because those sections were more filler and slowed down and interrupted the paranormal and mystery aspects of the storyline. Part of me thinks they were kinda necessary too though. So, maybe it would have been better if they had been kept in, but trimmed a little.

Bottom line

At one point I was tempted to just give this book away without reading it (cover judged it, still don't like the cover), but I'm glad I didn't do that. I'm glad I read this book. It was different, engaging, and touching. The paranormal bits weren't the typical thing, and I was overall satisfied with them. But, now that the mysteries are over, I'm ok with letting it go.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Book Reviews: Thrifty Time Travelers series by Jonathan Stokes



The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome 
Pages: 127
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Released: January 30, 2018
Received: ARC from the publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads 

Let's see...
  • Fast paced
  • Short chapters
  • Ancient Rome
  • Tons of facts
Yep, this is a perfect book for me. It was no surprise that I loved this book. It really is a nice guide, touching on everything from dress, to technology, inventions, roads, politics, major events, people, places, problems and entertainment. Some things were a little cleaned up (it's hard to do Caligula for middle grade readers without leaving stuff out), but I don't think that gave a skewed impression of anything.

There's some light humor and everything is themed around the "thrifty guide" idea. This book is supposed to be a time travel guide produced in the future where a pretty shady sounding overlord runs the world and sells time travel packages. It's zany, kind of cute, kind of annoying, and easy to ignore if you just want to focus on history.

The book is interspersed with various asides (like pictures showing what you should wear if you want to blend in) that were enjoyable and helped create that "I'll read just one more section" feeling that I love. This was a fun book to introduce kids to ancient Rome, but also fun for me as an adult already familiar with ancient Rome. Recommended. 

*I need to take a moment to rave again about Jonathan Stokes' Addison Cooke series. It's funny, fast, filled with adventure, and just plain fun.


PUBLISHER'S BOOK DESCRIPTION

THRIFTY GUIDE TO ANCIENT ROME
 
Like a middle-grade Magic School Bus, the Thrifty Guides take readers on funny and informative trips to the greatest moments in history!
The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome: A Handbook for Time Travelers is a snappy, informative travel guide that comes in the package with your time machine purchase in the year 2163. It contains information vital to the sensible time traveler:
  •     Where can I find a decent hotel room in ancient Rome for under five sesterces a day? Is horse parking included?
  •     What do I do if I'm attacked by barbarians?
  •     What are my legal options if I'm fed to the lions at the Colosseum?
Designed as a parody of Fodor's, complete with humorous maps, reviews of top attractions (Julius Caesar's assassination is a must-see!), and tips on who to have lunch with (Hannibal, assuming he doesn't kill you). If you had a time travel machine and could take a vacation anywhere in history, this is the only guidebook you would need.



The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution
Pages: 160
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Released: January 30, 2018
Received: ARC from the publisher
Rating: DNF
Goodreads 

Yikes! Well, there's only so many mistakes and inaccuracies I can take. So, DNF.

PUBLISHER'S BOOK DESCRIPTION

THRIFTY GUIDE TO THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION


Like a middle-grade Magic School Bus, the Thrifty Guides take readers on funny and informative trips to the greatest moments in history!

The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution: A Handbook for Time Travelers is a snappy, informative travel guide that comes in the package with your time machine purchase in the year 2163. It contains information vital to the sensible time traveler:
  •     Where can I find a decent hotel room in colonial New England? Are credit cards accepted?
  •     How can I join the Boston Tea Party without winding up in a British prison?
  •     What do I do if I'm being shot at by a cannon?
Designed as a parody of Fodor's, complete with humorous maps, reviews of places to stay and top attractions (Don't miss Paul Revere's midnight ride!), and tips on who to have lunch with (Alexander Hamilton, naturally). If you had a time travel machine and could take a vacation anywhere in history, this is the only guidebook you would need.



AUTHOR BIO

Jonathan Stokes (www.jonathanwstokes.com) is a former teacher who is now a rising star as a Hollywood screenwriter. He has written screenplays on assignment for Warner Brothers, Universal, Fox, Paramount, New Line, and Sony/Columbia. Inspired by a childhood love of The Goonies and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Jonathan wrote his first novel, Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas, published by Philomel in 2016. Born in Manhattan, he currently resides in Los Angeles, where he can be found showing off his incredible taste in dishware and impressive 96% accuracy with high fives.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Book Review: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden


#2 in the Winternight Trilogy
Pages: 363
Publisher: Del Rey
Released: December 5, 2017
Received: ARC from the publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads

I love it when a sequel lives up to the level of the first book in the series. I adored The Bear and the Nightingale, and while there were a few loose ends, it could have easily ended as a standalone. So, when I heard there was going to be a sequel, I sighed and kind of wished the publisher would leave well enough alone. I was expecting the sequel to be a pale imitation and leave me wishing I too had just left well enough alone and stopped reading after the first book.

Thankfully, my worries were for nothing. The Girl in the Tower has the same magic and storytelling charm and I am so, so glad I picked it up. The same blend of fantasy, folklore, and history that worked so well in the first book continues to work well here. The chapters continue to be on the longish side, but that is also still not a problem for me. I flew through this book and had to force myself to read slower and savor the story. The characters continue to be likable, and while they still aren't hugely deep (fairy tale!), Vasya's storyline allows for more depth of character as we watch her try to come to terms with who she is and what she wants, and does not want, from life. 

Bottom line

Readers who enjoyed the first book should enjoy the sequel just as much. Katherine Arden has a gift for storytelling and her words and tales are enchanting. I cannot wait for the third book.








Friday, January 5, 2018

2018 Library Challenge



Challenge Basics:  

Name: 2018 Snagged at the Library Challenge
Previous Hosts: Geeky Blogger's Book Blog (in 2016)
Starts: January 1, 2018
Ends: December 31, 2018
Eligible Books: Books from my libraries 


Why I'm Interested:  

I recognize that there's a use it or lose it factor to libraries, and while I want to focus some attention on these books, I don't mind if they don't make up the bulk of my reading. Still, I'd like to participate in this challenge to bring some awareness to the books I have available to me through my library.



Books Completed:

5.
4.
3.
2.
1.



Books DNF'ed:

2.
1.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018 Read My Own Books Challenge


7/12 books


Challenge Basics: 
Name: Read My Own Damn Books Challenge
Previous Hosts: Estella's Revenge
Starts: January 1, 2018
Ends: December 31, 2018
Eligible Books: Books you own prior to 2018.
Levels: I'm going to try to read and/or DNF and get rid of 12 books I own.

Why I'm Interested:  

I seriously have too many books and they keep sitting on my shelves unread. I did this challenge in 2015 and ended up getting rid of almost all the books I read for the challenge, which means I've carted around and found room for all those books that I didn't even end up liking. Before I move again, I need to reevaluate the books I'm bringing with me and make sure they're books I actually want.

Some books I'm considering: 

Anything on my Own-Unread shelf that I acquired prior to 2018.

At the start of 2018, here's where I stand as far as what books I own and what percentage of them I've read:

31% Acquired in 2016
17% Acquired in 2015
32% Acquired in 2014
50% Acquired in 2013
39% Acquired in 2012
75% Acquired in 2010-2011
83% Acquired in 2008-2009
85% Acquired in 2003-2007
96% Acquired in 2002 and earlier


Books Completed:

12.
11.
10.
9.
8.
7.
6.
5. Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn (2012)
4. Epitaph for Three Women by Jean Plaidy (2015)
3. The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith (2017)
2. The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome by Jonathan Stokes (2017)
1. My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley (2017)



Books DNF'ed:

2. Forever, Again by Victoria Laurie (2016)
1. The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution by Jonathan Stokes (2017)

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge


0/15 books

Challenge Basics:  

Name: 2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
Hosts: Passages to the Past
Starts: January 1, 2018
Ends: December 31, 2018
Eligible Books: YA and adult historical fiction books. Non-fiction included.
Levels: I am going to try for 15 books

Why I'm Interested:  

Historical Bio: These are the weightier, meatier books that I want to make top priority. They go into detail about actual people and events and I'll learn the most from them. I've thrown in the non-fiction books onto this shelf, too. I've been toe-dipping into non-fiction, and I'd like to continue that toe-dip.

Historical Fantasy: These vary as far as actual historical learning goes. Some have a ton of historical detail, but most just use a historical setting. Some of my favorite books come from this shelf and I don't want to neglect them just because they're not heavy historical fiction.

Historical Lite: These are a lot like the books on my Historical Fantasy shelf, just without the fantasy elements. Usually they're mysteries or romances set with a historical backdrop of varying degrees of detail. They're often easy breezy, fun books and I want to make sure I read them as well.


Books Completed:

Historical Non-Fiction

5.
4.
3.
2.
1. The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome by Jonathan Stokes

Historical Bio (fiction):

5.
4.
3.
2. Epitaph for Three Women by Jean Plaidy
1. My Name is Victoria by Lucy Worsley

Historical Fantasy:

2.
1.

Historical Lite:

3.
2.
1.


DNF:

1.The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution by Jonathan Stokes

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