November 2016 Wrap Up: Romance! Crime! Angst! Anna Kendrick!

Uncategorized, wrap up

I had a lot of plans for my November TBR and I got to only…1 of those. This is why I don’t do TBRs. There are two that I will have a mini review for in December so look out for those but the rest I’ll mention my thoughts here.

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‘Night Mother by Marsha Norman (2/5)

This month’s play selection was a little disappointing even though the premise sounded so interesting. It’s about a grown daughter who has decided to commit suicide so she goes over to her mother’s house to tell her this and to set things in order before she goes. At first, I thought the mother-daughter dynamics were really interesting especially with the mother knowing her daughter was going to commit suicide that night but as it progressed, it just became more generic and bland.There’s a backstory that is slowly revealed throughout but the characters were not engaging enough for me to really feel the need to know that backstory.


The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (4/5)

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“Fun” Storytime with Carolyn: To put a hold at my local library, I have to pay 25 cents. I put a hold for The Sympathizer and couldn’t read it until a few days before it was due and when it was due, I couldn’t renew it because someone else had put a hold on it..So I had to return it and put another hold on it because it’s so popular, it was the only way I could get it -_- so basically I put

a hold on it the first time for no reason. But enough of my first world-problems, the good part is that I really liked this book and I have a full review here.



The Stone Gods by Jeanette Winterson (3/5)

Jeannette Winterson is quite the name in literary fiction but I thought The Stone Gods was just ok. The best part of the book was her writing as it was probably some of the best writing I’ve read this year. It’s a literary scifi novel set far off into the future where Earth has been destroyed and we have moved to another planet. It follows a woman named Billie and she’s a reporter who meets a robot named Spike and it’s their love storyImage result for the stone gods essentially. But the book is more like 3 novellas packed into one because each section of the book follows a reincarnation of Billie and Spike and their subsequent love story. Her writing feels very modern but this book is also an ode to nature so the writing also feels ethereal and references old myths and legends. It’s a humorous satire on the damage, we as humans, do to our planet and the
same mistakes that we inevitably make over and over again. The scifi aspects with the plastic surgery and all were a little gimmicky to me and felt too obvious (if that makes sense) and sometimes it felt as if her writing was just jumping from one place to the next without any cohesiveness.


Smut by Karina Halle (3.75/5)

If you’ve been following my blog the past couple of months you’ll know that I’ve been looking for a light and fluffy romance read that I could actually finish from beginning to end. I was having no such luck because true to stereotype romance is so satImage result for smut karina halleurated with the same cliches and carbon copy characters just with different names. This month I finally found a cute NA romance read that wasn’t offensive and didn’t bore me to tears. It’s about a woman named Amanda who dreams of becoming a published author. She’s in the same writing class as Blake, the hot and (arrogant of course) guy who gets paired up with her for a project. And things go from there. I really appreciated the slow burn haters-to-lovers trope executed very well. I also appreciated the minimal description of the other person’s physical features. The story was adorable, the heroine actually has a professional goal and works for it (!), the side characters were all fun and quirky, there was no contrived drama for angst purposes, so many nerdy references, and of course, my favorite–witty banter between our two main characters. Love it.


So for these next few books, I’m going to have separate reviews for them in December but they were definitely my favorite reads of November.

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Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (audiobook) (4/5)

Signal to Noise by SIlvia Moreno-Garcia (4/5)


Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Doestoevsky (3/5)

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For some reason, I thought this classic was basically going to be a guy meditating in jail for the entire story. And I was totally off..so off..In terms of the story, I definitely liked the individual parts more than its sum. There are some really thought-provoking ideas in this like what makes a criminal or even if certain criminals have a right to commit crimes. The main character had such an interesting dichotomy. He wants to be a part of society but at the same time transcend society because he has such a disdain for it. Everyone else was pretty bland. The stream of consciousness is really well done.

 


Graphic Novels

Sensation Comics: Wonder Woman Vol. 2 by various authors and artists (3.5/5)

Image result for Sensation Comics: Wonder Woman Vol. 2So I’m completely obsessed with Wonder Woman now. I recently watched the 2009 animated movie which I have some mixed thoughts about it but that’s gonna be for my movie wrap up. This comic is different from other comics I’ve read because it is essentially a bunch of short stories about Wonder Woman (flash fiction if you will) each by a different author and artist. I really like that because if you don’t like the art or the story, it will only last for a few pages. As with any medium like this, you’re gonna get some you like and some you don’t but overall I thought this was a really good introduction to Wonder Woman and what she stands for. I particularly enjoyed Noelle Stevenson’s story.

 


Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Cook (3/5)

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This is my favorite graphic novel in terms of artstyle. It is drawn using watercolor and the colors are blended in a sort of mosaic fashion that just blends so well. But it has this “scritch-scratch” that stil has those crisp lines that I really like. I can’t describe it!! I’m not an art person! What is art!! Anyways, the story was only ok. It’s a light horror story about a girl who is believed to be a witch reincarnated. I felt like the story lacked a strong plot and moved too quickly for me to become invested in the characters.

 

 
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I have a lot of books I want to get to before the end of the year (ah!!) so hopefully December reading is just as good or better than November’s. December is also exciting because I’m reconstructing my blog!! So if you see a lot of changes in terms of look, you’ll know why. I’ll keep you updated! Otherwise, let me know what books you read in November and what your reading plans are for this last stretch of 2016!

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Discussion: Is Age Just a Number?

Book Discussion, Misc, Uncategorized

I finally convinced my sister to read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and she came home one day after reading it and she asked me “Did you know Kaz was 17?”

Subconsciously I probably did. Out loud, it just sounded weird. He is the head of a renowned gang and is suppose to commit a heist of one of the most secure prisons in the Grisha world which is a pretty heavy burden for a 17 year old if I do say so. I think in my head, he was around my age (22) although I inadvertently make a lot of YA protagonists my age in my head especially in YA fantasy and scifi because if I’m to be honest, I sometimes think YA protagonists are a little young in proportion to the things they have to do. This is more in regards to YA fantasy because in YA contemporary, the protagonist is usually dealing with real life problems while in high school. If any older, it would just be New Adult, more or less, although there are obviously exceptions.

Because I was curious as to the number of protagonists belonged to which age category, I made a little infographic sampling a number of YA books and the ages of the main protagonists, their age on the left and their pictures on the right.

 

wake-up

Some disclaimers:

*Books chosen pretty much randomly out of the YA books. This is a very small sample of YA SFF out there and is not an extensive representation of the genre as a whole. I know I’ve forgotten a lot, books like Shadow and Bone trilogy, Bitter Kingdom trilogy, Clockwork Princess, Twilight etc. etc.

*Included only YA fantasy and scifi

*All pictures from Google images. 

*All ages found on their respective Wikias. There may be some discrepancies.

First of all, I think it’s worth noting that these people–kids–essentially have pretty intense responsibilities and have already gone through a lot in life. Sharzhad already has her best friend killed and has already found her true love. June has a freaking government position basically while the other officials are adults if I’m not mistaken. Katniss is the face of a revolution. Caelaena is considered the best assassin in the land. And of course, Harry defeats Voldemort at the old, old age of 17. 17.

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That’s pretty crazy if you think about it. I understand in fantasy that usually kids grow up faster than usual because the world they live in is usually very harsh like in An Ember in the Ashes. But still it makes me wonder why these ages were even chosen. Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Caelaena to be a little older in order to really be the best assassin in the land. Sixteen is definitely the most popular age in YA which is understandable especially if you live in America. Even Veronica Roth once mentioned that she chose to make Tris 16 because it’s sort of a coming of age age, an age where everything changes and you are faced with a lot of decisions. But what does it say when the peak of your experiences in life happen in your teenage years?

I suppose in many ways I find it unbelievable because of my own experience. I mean I didn’t know what the heck I was doing when I was 16. I was young and very naive. I suppose the age debate in YA can go both ways. It’s true that I could have found some good role models who have a greater maturity level (for the most part) and are faced with life and death situations that I don’t have to think about but could still help me with my own decisions. Also, the sense of power and control that we have as teens isn’t very much so to see these protagonists take control of their lives and discover who they are is very gratifying. On the other hand, what is up with all these kids that apparently rule the world and all the adults are just really dumb entities that are just there.

It’s also worth noting, even though I don’t know what to make of it, that most of the female protagonists are on the younger end of the age spectrum, most being 16 and 17 with none that I can think of being 20 and older and still be considered to be YA. Most of the male protagonists are on the older end of the spectrum. Making this infographic also made me realize how odd some of the relationship age differences are. For example, Cress is 16 but she’s in a relationship with Thorne who is 20. And most weird is probably Rose who is 17 but becomes romantically involved with Dimitri who is um, 24 (lol).

wake-up

*copied again so you don’t have to keep scrolling up to peruse the graph

The teen years are very different from your 20’s and in my opinion should not be interchangeable but oftentimes, when there are YA adaptations turned into movies, Image result for four and tris divergentthe actors are usually a lot older than their supposed age in the books and sometimes the characters’ ages are even changed in order to correlate more with the actors’ ages. For example, Four is suppose to be 18 in the books but he’s 24 in the movies, a significant age gap. Percy Jackson, played by Logan Lerman, was suppose to be 12 in the books but changed to 16. I’m not sure how old Clary Fray is suppose to be but the actress playing her in Shadowhunters is 20 and the actor playing Jace is 26 which is at least 3 years older than they should be. Image result for miss peregrine's home for peculiar children asa butterfieldThe show looks like a bunch of 20 year olds hanging out instead of teens. And most recently, Jacob from Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is suppose to be 16 but he’s played by the lovely
Asa Butterfield who is 19 (although to be fair, Asa looks really young). I understand that there’s a bunch of schooling issues that go on with child actors but one wonders what it would be like if they had cast actors that were the correct age or would it have  been too jarring to see?

I suppose it all comes down to realism for me. Some characters could be 16 but are very mature. I think what is off-putting to me was the fact that a lot of the characters surrounding these very young protagonists are actually adults. It’s realistic to me when it comes to Harry Potter because he always has guidance from the more experienced people around him and you can feel what a burden he has at such a young age while dealing the usual “teenage stuff” like crushes, homework, and first kisses; although I do admit it’s a very first-world teenage experience. In many ways, I could interchange these protagonists’ age to something older because their experience is not specific to the teen years like Harry’s is. Scarlet could very well be a 25-year-old instead of an 18-year-old who goes off with Cinder and company to defeat Levana. But what do I know? I mean there are 16 year olds who have gone to the Olympics and have been to war so maybe I’m just too narrow-minded to get out of my own experience.

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I know that this post literally gave no answers to the questions I posed. But I want to know what you think about age in YA.

  • Are these YA protagonists too young to be saving their worlds?
  • How do you feel about the age gaps and the ratios of girls and boys on the age spectrum?
  • Are some of these ages realistic to the story?
  • I didn’t mention this in the post because it’s too broad a topic but what are your thoughts on the uneven amount of violence versus the relatively chaste sexuality of YA protagonists? Is it an age thing? Societal?

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August 2016 Favorites

favorites, Monthly Favorites, Uncategorized

August has never been my favorite month for many reasons; it just feels like the calm before the storm where everything is at a standstill and everything is coming to a close before fall, before school, before things really get down to business.

A lot of my August was devoted to job searching which really taught me the value of patience, a virtue that I’ve never had least of all with myself. There’s nothing quite like offering up a thousand resumes only to receive maybe two interviews. But I did it. I’m officially a Biology tutor. It’s one of those jobs that’s a need by basis so they don’t need me every week so still in the midst of job searching. But now I wish I had just been more patient with myself and told myself that I would eventually find a job and not rush into things. Anyways my whole job looking experience can be summed up with this video with a few tweaks. It’s so accurate especially near the beginning. And I actually did have to solve a problem when I was interviewing for the tutoring job.

Among the depressing search for jobs, I took a day trip to LA and Hollywood with my friends. We went to the infamous Eggslut which is worth most of the hype I suppose even though we waited an hour to get our food..

Right across from Eggslut is the Bradbury building which was elegant but a little anticlimactic because we could only tour the bottom of the building (ugh).

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One of the top floors was actually featured in 500 Days of Summer at the very end when Joseph Gordon Levitt meets Autumn. It’s also in a twix commercial that’s on TV right now. It’s featured in a lot of other movies but the most notable one is probably Blade Runner (which I haven’t seen).

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We waited in line for the Broad but couldn’t make it time so we just took pictures at Grand Central Park.

I’m kind of ashamed to say I live in SoCal but I haven’t been to Hollywood yet until this month. To be honest, now that I’ve been there, it’s slightly overrated because a lot of celebrities don’t even live or work in Hollywood and it’s about the most touristy of touristy places I’ve ever been to. I do wish I could have seen the Kodak theatre though where the Academy awards are held. Instead I just went to the Hall of Fame and the Chinese theater where a bunch of Asian people were trying to convert people to Christianity by waving huge signs and singing songs in the most monotone voices I’ve ever heard.

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One of my friends has gone off to pharmacy school in Utah and to celebrate, we spent the day in Pasadena and ate some awesome Korean garlic fried wings.

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I watched a ton of Olympics last month, my favorite sport to watch being women’s gymnastics. I’m so in love with Simone Biles and the rest of the final five especially when they’re on their best individual event.

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In terms of stuff on the internet, I’ve been loving Wongfu’s lunch break series. I don’t really care for Wongfu’s stuff in general. I find them a bit sappy but I started watching their lunch breaks because Joanna Sotomura (Emma Approved) was on one of them and it was so interesting so I watched a bunch of them. They’re just fun videos where they talk about a certain topic around lunch.

Music

I discovered a lot of Taeyeon’s songs last month. Her voice is so well-suited for high notes and I love her more melancholic ballads. My favorites in August were I, Starlight, and U R

Chewing Gum by NCT Dream came out this month and it’s verry teen pop-y but so catchy. It also reminds me of Kidz Bop which makes me slightly embarassed to like it. But I’m also embarrassed because most of the members are at least 5 years younger than me, the youngest being 14 I believe. Whatever, no shame.

I think Lotto by Exo came out a while ago but the music video just came out recently and I was saw it on the side bar of recommended videos so I clicked and I loved it! Such a pleasant surprise and the dance moves seem so accessible but also really sexy? Like I would not look sexy doing them but I could at least do them adequately. A perfect dark and badass counterpart to the cutesy stuff I’ve been listening to.

Let Me Love You by Justin Bieber, DJ Snake– All I can say is, Bieber slays again.

Two cities by Flume, Beck-I would love to hear this live.

You’ve probably already put August behind you already as it’s already a week into September but let me know the highlights of your August! =)

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August 2016 Wrap Up

book review, Uncategorized, wrap up

I don’t know what happened this month but I haven’t read this much in one month since last year. I usually read around 5-7 things per month in 2016 but this month? 12. And all of them were pretty good. So let me share them with y’all.

So first off, I actually read a couple of poetry collections. It’s shocking because I’m not a poetry person at all but I thought I’d give them another shot and it turned out pretty well.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

23513349If you’re looking to get into poetry, this is an amazing place to start. A lot of people, myself included, are discouraged from reading poetry because they don’t “get it”. But this poetry collection is easily understandable and covers a lot of accessible topics like breaking up a relationship, abusive relationships, and modern feminism. If you are a veteran of poetry or have read a couple of poetry collections, you can skip this one. Personally I found it a little lacking, the words lack precision and the themes weren’t even reiterated in a fresh or original way. It, however, would work really well as spoken poetry. I read a couple of them aloud (don’t judge me) and they just have a sense of power and anger in them that I don’t think you would get as much of with just reading them.


The Colossus and other poems by Sylvia Plath

Sylvia path is kind of like my angsty spirit animal and a very11627 interesting lady in
her own right. She went to Smith College and graduated with highest honors, married a fellow poet Ted Hughes but suffered from depression her entire life and tried several times to kill herself, first attempting to commit suicide in 1953 by overdosing on her mother’s pills and then in 1962, by trying to crash her car off the road and finally succeeded in 1963 by sticking her head in a gas oven and dying by carbon monoxide poisoning. I think it’s clear from her life why death pervades her poetry so much. She was utterly fascinated with it. Her words are so biting and anguished though not entirely understandable even if you tried. But I was less concerned with understanding her poetry than reveling in her mastery of language.


Poems by Emily Dickinson

Dickinson is one of my favorite poets of all time. She just uses these perfect analogies to describe emotion and it’s just perfect. She, too, was as equally fascinating as Sylvia Plath. She was a recluse in her own house for much of the time she wrote her poetry not even coming out of her room to attend her father’s funeral. But I think she’s a brilliant poet and it’s clear that she really liked nature..and also dashes.


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Onto the play I read and did not like, the infamous Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I did a full review and spoiler discussion here.


I finally, after two months, finished A History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, a contemporary masterpiece that won the Man Booker in 2015.

20893314Marlon James’s writing is amazing. It’s mesmerizing in a way that music is mesmerizing, it just has a power and beat rhythm to it. It’s really violent but despite the plethora of violence, each violent incident still feels like a fresh wound. It is epic in scope, covering the time periods from the 70’s to the 90’s centering around the killing of Bob Marley and covers a complex network of Jamaican politics, corruption, gang life, and drug operations. I’m so impressed with James’s ability to use dialect. Because he doesn’t just use it accurately, he uses it to its maximum potential, combining dialect in a sort of poetic frenzy as he seamlessly writes from one polarizing perspective to another from CIA agents to drug overlords to dead politicians. It’s not an easy read, both stylistically and content wise. In fact, I was confused for a lot of the book but I think if you’re really interested, I think it’s worth it.


And on the subject of Man Booker authors, I read and reviewed Hanya YanigihImage result for the people in the treesara’s debut novel about a renowned scientist that is convicted of rape, The People in the Trees and I really enjoyed it. My full thoughts here

I balanced a lot of these more heavier works with some YA and NA reads even though they were pretty dark too woops.

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I did mini book reviews of Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman, It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover, and And I Darken by Kiersten White here.


I then read a little graphic short story called It’s Going to Be Okay by The Oatmeal which actually won (was nominated?) an Esiner award. It’s really sweet and took me less than 2 minutes to read and appreciate the art. You can read it here.

And more graphic stuff! I read two lovely, lovely graphic novels this month.

Paper Girls Vol. 1 by Brian K Vaughn

Image result for paper girlsThis was one of the more weirder graphic novels I’ve read. It’s so weird. I suppose after watching Stranger Things that I needed something 80’s inspired to read. This one also follows a group of kids but all of them are girls (which is refreshing) and there’s a lot of supernatural stuff going on. There are time traveling machines, flying dinosaurs, and aliens. It’s action-packed right from the get-go and even when it gets convoluted, it seems to always have a purpose. The ending made me super excited to continue on to the next volume.

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Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

Skim is a slice of life graphic novel following a young girl as she goes through high schoolImage result for skim graphic novel. While this is happening, the novel follows her high school as they cope with a recent student’s suicide. Much like This One Summer by the Tamaki’s, this graphic novel is very quiet and subdued, nothing much happens and there’s barely any resolution but that’s precisely why I like it because it feels so true to real life. You don’t experience significant moments in life and think “wow that was such an important part of my life”. It just kind of passes by you shifting you ever so slightly. You get the sense after you read it that the main character still has a lot of adventure left ahead of her, that we only got a sneak peek in one part of her life but it still feels ever so poignant.

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Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Image result for far from the madding crowd book penguinAnd I even got to squeeze in a classic this month *drops mic*. This book really reminded me of why I love classics. The writing is gorgeous and I feel like a lot of things actually happen in this novel even if they were a little on the soap operay end. Hardy is not quite as witty as Jane Austen but the way he describes the Wessex countryside is nothing short of poetry. It is both oddly scientific at times (he describes body parts sometimes in their actual terms like larynx and coronary artery) but equally romantic and otherworldly. It’s also odd in the sense that it’s quite feminist but Hardy can’t fully escape the sexist notions of his time. I can see why this is boring to some, there are quite a few descriptions of sheep raising but for me, Batsheba’s adventures with her 3 lovers were just so fascinating that I didn’t really care.

How was your August reading? Have you read any of these, if so, what did you think of them?

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Mini Book Reviews: Recent YA & NA Reads

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I read some YA and NA this month and I gave them pretty similar ratings so I thought I’d share them with you =)

It Ends With Us

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3/5

what

Sassy, strong, stereotypical NA heroine, Lily Bloom meets arrogant and unoriginal NA hero, Ryle Kincaid who just so happens to not do relationships!! Who would have thought?? Oh woe is me.

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But they hit it off and start to date but things go awry and Lily finds that her past has become her present (I’m being vague on purpose).

There are also flashbacks from Lily’s past in the form of letters talking about her first love, Atlas Corrigan (a much better name than Ryle imo) and living with an abusive father.

thoughts

Colleen Hoover mentions that this book is a very personal book for her, that she wanted to tell the story of her mom and answer the question, why do victims of abuse stay with their abusers? And I feel bad for not loving a book that an author has such personal ties to. But that’s the thing: I felt like the characters were just devices to make a point about abuse but not to exist as characters for themselves. And while she does a somewhat decent job of portraying this horrible cycle of abuse, it doesn’t discount the fact that a lot of its power was taken away by its excessive melodrama (some of the predictable and over the top plot points made me roll my eyes), gag worthy monologues and dialogue

“You were standing there like an angel backlit by the light of heaven”

and the stereotypical NA characters. There are some decent scenes (even though one of the scenes was actually taken from Hoover’s mother’s personal life) but not enough for me to continue reading anymore of Hoover’s work. Sorry not sorry but kind of sorry.


Vengeance Road

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3.5

what

Kate Thompson wants to get revenge for the people that have killed her father. To catch them, she travels with a pair of brothers (don’t worry, no love triangle) and a Native ally (stereotypically portrayed as the stoic and spiritual Native American). Little does she know that her father has been hiding secrets from her her entire life and getting revenge is more important than ever.

thoughts

Vengeance Road is a fun Western adventure that explores revenge and letting go of one’s past. Our main characters are determined, flawed, and easily relatable. This is one of those YA books where the main characters are traveling for most of the book so if you’re not into that, this book’s not for you but it was never tedious because I think Bowman did a wonderful job describing the rough and tumble of the Wild West. Bowman really tries to keep to the Western dialect throughout the story so props to that as well. Add in a couple of flashbacks, a couple of cool action scenes, several plot twists, and a spot of romance and I was basically hooked.


And I Darken

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3/5

what

And I Darken is a alternative historical fiction centering around Vlad the Impaler except retold as if he were a girl named Lada Dragwlya. Lada is a violent, smart and merciless person. She has a complicated relationship with her brother Radu, her tenderhearted brother.

Radu and Lada are sent to the Ottoman capital where they meet Mehmed, future sultan of the empire but Lada is biding her time until she can return back to Wallachia to claim her birthright.

 

thoughts

Ok, I have no idea how to express my feelings on this one. To sum it up, I felt it was..ok..which is odd because if it had continued to be like it was for the first 20 percent of the book, it would have easily been a 5 star book. I love how consistent Kiersten White portrayed Lada, she was brutal and remorseless, and the reader can actually see it. It was something I wish Throne of Glass had done but didn’t. However, after that, I thought the middle 70 percent was kind of a disaster. The fascinating relationship between Lada and her brother Radu took a backseat and I was left with their constant thoughts about Mehmed and I’m wondering, what is so special about this guy? Kiersten did not spend nearly enough time developing Mehmed for me to understand why Lada and Radu felt so deeply about him. Also, I never felt a sense of urgency or conflict for these characters. Problems were solved without any real buildup, the choices the characters made were suppose to feel important but just didn’t, and the plot was basically nonexistent until the last third of the book. I don’t know why this book was marketed as a fantasy book, it’s not. It’s not an action-packed book and is heavy on the political intrigue. In fact, it reads a lot like a coming of age story. A lot of the book is focused on Lada from her young childhood to early teens and her journey to learning what it means to be a woman and Radu who feels a lot of resentment towards Lada for being so unforgiving towards him but eventually finds his place in the world. I also wished Kiersten White trusted her characters enough to let their actions speak for themselves instead of saying they’re doing this because they’re feeling this way or vice versa. The writing was so generic but I did enjoy the worldbuilding enough to learn more about the Ottoman Empire so I guess that’s something.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them. Maybe it’ll help me with some of my more conflicting thoughts. =)

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Book Review: The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanigihara

book review, Uncategorized

Title: The People in the Trees

Author: Hanya Yanagihara

Categories: Adult, Literary Fiction, Science Fiction

Synopsis: Goodreads

Rating: tealstartealstartealstartealstar (3.75)

 

 


Honestly, who wrote the synopsis on the flap of this book?? It literally spoils half the book. Half of the book. So please don’t read the flap of this book before reading. Ok? ok.

From the very first page, The People in the Trees establishes itself as a foreboding and ominous scientific parable cemented with a morally ambiguous narrator at its center,

TPITT is loosely based on Daniel Carleton who won the Nobel Prize for his work on the disease kuru, later convicted of child molestation.

echoing scifi classics like Frankenstein and The Island of Dr. Moreau. We first meet our unreliable narrator, Dr. Norton Perina, in jail. He was accused of several accounts of sexual assault and rape including statutory rape. We don’t know anything about him at this point in time except the fact that he is a renowned scientist who discovered Selene’s syndrome–a condition in which a person, upon eating a rare turtle, becomes immortal. Ronald Kubodera, Perina’s acolyte, convinces Perina to write his memoir to try and clear his name. So it’s a story within a story as we hear about Perina’s life and how he came to be where he is now.

This is Yanigihara’s debut novel and it’s a very ambitious one. Its strength lies in its portrayal of Perina. Perina is, though not a particularly original character, a deeply compelling one. Throughout the entirety of the novel, you don’t quite know what to make of him. The book follows him from his young childhood to his time at Harvard Medical School and then to the islands of U’ivu. You vacillate between disgust at him (“I rather enjoyed killing the mice”), confusion at his infatuation with Tallent, another renowned scientist, or sympathy at his loneliness and want to protect the island that he studied in or even understanding at his love for science.

He remains a mystery until the very last page sentence of this book and his mysteriousness is not really cleared up even with the footnotes from scientific journals and texts provided by Kubodera, an even more unreliable editor as he practically worships Perina. I’m not usually a fan of footnotes; I find them tedious but I think the addition of these footnotes provides a rich history of the people of island Ivu’ivu and a realistic and plausible aspect to Norton’s story so that even when you find something unbelievable the footnotes provide a level of authority that you can’t help but believe.

Island of Ivu’ivu based on Angra dos Reis in Brazil

Much of the book is spent on the island of Ivu’ivu and to the descriptions of the island and the island people where Norton and his colleagues Tallent and Esme study. It’s a little bogged down at times but it’s so believable and they feel like a real people with a culture. As Perina continues to conduct experiments, the scientific community wants to get in on this turtle so they tear down the island to get them. Yanigihara touches on the themes of colonialism and imperialism as well as the different moral standards that the Ivu’vians abide by compared to Western culture. I think these themes could have been explored more and in more surprising ways especially because it was one of the more fascinating aspects of the book but I felt those were kind of glossed over.

The prose is extremely readable though not as precise or controlled or even as fleshed out as it is in A Little Life. This book is also graphic (animal lovers beware) though it is definitely tame when compared to A Little Life. But as I’ve said before with A Little Life, I never thought the violence was contrived or added just to be there. The structure of the novel  It’s not a thriller; it’s most definitely a character study on Norton. We don’t even get to find out about his jail accusations until the last fourth of the book where things get really weird..and you’re left wondering is he a psychopath genius? Just another mad scientist? A well-intentioned psychopath? And it left me thinking about it long after I read the final pages.

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Carolyn Reacts to Negative Amazon Book Reviews

Book Discussion, Misc, Miscellaneous, Uncategorized

When I’m looking up book reviews on Amazon, I can’t tell whether reviewers are being serious or trolling me half the time. But reading the negative reviews are so fun because they’re sometimes just really funny because they’re just..plain..wrong. But anyways, I compiled a few of the funniest ones I’ve encountered recently..

Cress by Marissa Meyer

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Girl, if this book doesn’t promote health, positive relationships, I don’t know what does. Also, are you saying I should stop reading this book because it has cooties?? Also, I didn’t know “kissier” was a word.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

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Well…that’s unfortunate. I The spider probably crawled in between the pages while someone was packaging it and the person got scared so they just closed the book on it lol. Glad you enjoyed the book though..

The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman

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Well first of all, I’m insulted, I haven’t heard from your people yet. Second of all, EFAAAL sounds like a cult. And lastly, I really want to meet these “frieds”.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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The only thing I got from this was how he/she spelled hell.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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VICTORIAN KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS I CAN’T

but also, Jane Austen was satirizing the social norms of her time; it wasn’t necessarily meant to be a romantic book but come on, how can you not like Elizabeth and Darcy together.

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I’m pretty sure making Pride and Prejudice a 3D movie is not going to change your attitude about it. I mean maybe if they served you tea in the theater or if you could somehow feel Darcy’s coat? Oh wait, that’s 4D..kind of..

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Please calm down..

gatsby1

You’re welcome.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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  1. Please stick to picture books then
  2. Have you lived in this world before?
  3. I hope you took a time machine and saw a movie from 1924 because this book was written in 1925

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

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Yup this book was the whole reason why you felt like throwing away your virginity. And this book contains a lot of rape so I really hope rape does not make you think in a lustful way..

Have you read any funny reviews lately? What are some ridiculous reviews you’ve stumbled across in your years as a reader?

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July 2016 Favorites: I turned 22!!

favorites, Monthly Favorites, Uncategorized

Did July even happen? I mean I guess it did cause otherwise how could I have turned 22. 22 already feels a lot older than 21 which I don’t feel ready for but kind of have to. As Taylor Swift so accurately puts it,

We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time
It’s miserable and magical.

I did not ask to grow older!! This is unacceptable!! But existential crisis aside, I hope 22 is better than 21.

To make the most of my birthday (or should I say birthday week), I went to this really awesome seafood place called Sea Salt Grill in Santa Monica. I freaking loved the tilapia. You also get a free churro waffle if you have a yelp account 🙂 How can you beat that? Unless you also get mocha almond fudge at Churned Creamery that same week (even though ice cream does not, as I’ve discovered, taste very good with croissants).

But you know what beats ALL of that? Catching Pokemon at the pier. You can catch at least 100 pokemon in 2 hours if you go to a beach. It’s a Pokémon minefield.

 

There was so many people there and the app kept crashing half the time but I was so excited when I caught a Dratini hehe. Pokemon aside though, Santa Monica pier at night is so beautiful. I feel like I’m in one of those summer music videos where One Direction is telling us to carpe diem and seize the night and live for the moment.

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Ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier

The only bad thing was that it was sooo cold and I was wearing shorts because it is summer! And speaking of summer fashion essentials, I really loved my blue romper and flower kimono this month; they are so comfy! Also, I’m pretty happy I recently bought a handbag that matches it..sort of.. but I’m in love with it because it’s my favorite shade of pink and it has the envelope shape that I love so much and it’s actually really sturdy.

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I seriously brought it everywhere because it’s such a versatile bag, including the movies where I saw Star Trek Beyond in IMAX. My very first IMAX movie!

I love this reboot series a lot. It really is everything I like in a movie: situational humor, endearing characters and a lot of scifi adventure in outer space. And I’m not sure why it was at this movie that I developed a crazy mild obsession with Chris Pine. He’s such a gorgeous human being. And being the bookish nerd that I am, imagine how I reacted when I found out he was an English major at UC Berkeley and that he read and cried while reading A Little Life..

I watched a lot of his interviews this month. These three are some of my favorites; I have no idea why they just make me so happy.

Here’s one with him and Ellen. I think the shower part was hilarious..

Star Trek Beyond Interview

I like how Chris and Sofia are just saying Pikachu while Zachary Quinto is trying to explain how Pokemon Go will be the death of humanity LOL

He also looks hella good in this recent Jimmy Kimmel interview; it’s honestly too bad that Kimmel has to ruin everything by asking shitty sexist questions.

My summer jams have been my usual pop and hip hop. I’ve been obsessed with Jessica Jung’s album, With Love. My two favorite songs being Big Mini World and Fly feat. Fabulous. They’re very feel good summery songs that I was just in the right mood for (her album aesthetic is pretty summery in itself).

Broccoli by Lil Yachty & DRAM– I did not know broccoli meant weed..

In My Room by DJ Mustard, Yellow Claw, Tyga, Ty Dolla Sign– I don’t care for the chorus but the rest is catchy

Ok I lied, these last two aren’t hip hop but I love them all the same.

Cold Water by Major Lazer & Justin Bieber– Bieber’s just on a roll..I think he’s quite suited for EDM actually

Two Weeks by TKA Twigs– If it sounds familiar, it’s from an episode of Mr. Robot. It’s weird because the scene that accompanies this song is disturbing but throughout the entire thing, all I could think of was how good this song was LOL. Anyways it’s electronic R&B which is pretty different from what I usually listen to.

Misc

Crash course (Anatomy and physiology series)– my lifesaver for my tests this month. I’m actually surprised at how thorough these videos are because I’ve been reading my anatomy textbook and watching these videos for reinforcement and they basically cover the most important points (and then some) from the text.

Democratic National Convention

No matter what party you are, you cannot deny that President Obama’s and Michelle’s Obama’s speeches were good. It gets me even more pumped up to vote this November.

I know I literally say this on every favorites post but I swear I’m going to write that “What I’ve Been Watching” post this month. I don’t know why I keep putting it off because that post is going to be so long. But whatever. I know it’s late but how was your July? Any favorites? Also, if you have any recommendations that you think I would like based on the things I’ve mentioned, feel free to tell me. I love getting new recommendations 🙂

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July 2016 Wrap Up

Book Recommendations, book review, Uncategorized, wrap up

June, I mean July, wow…get it together Carolyn was a fail reading month in terms of number of books (5). Quantity wise..meh..it could be better but I did enjoy most of the books I read. I know July has also been a whack blogging month with me not posting as consistently as I usually do but I’ll explain more in my July Favorites. Onto the books!

The first book I read was actually a reread:

Legend by Marie Lu

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3/5

 

I loved it the first time around, hated it the second time. What happened? I explain all of my thoughts and feelings in my discussion post here.


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3.5/5

On the other side of the spectrum, I read Sunstone Vol. 1 by Stjepan Sejic (Graphic novel)

 

The red on the cover really, really makes it seem like some really, really intense erotica, with lots of really kinky sex scenes but it’s definitely a lot more lighthearted than it would seem. It is a romantic comedy following two women who are into BDSM (one’s a dominant, the other a submissive) who meet over the internet and they hit it off and start a relationship. Contrary to what popular books might have us believe *stares pointedly at 50 Shades of Grey* it is possible to portray a healthy BDSM relationship in a book. What a concept. And really, it made the desire to be in a BDSM relationship and all its quirks seem utterly understandable from a non BDSM perspective. The interaction between our main characters is sweet and almost cheesy. And I really like that the steamy scenes are very integral to our character’s development which makes it more sensual rather than just being there for the sake of being a hot scene. I adore the art too. It’s very muted in some areas but deep and vibrant in others but all with some kind of red in them.


And then on the other side of the spectrum once again, I read a literary theory book called

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4/5

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose.

 

This book is about exactly what the title says. Prose dissects famous sentences and pieces of dialogue and points of view, as well as explain to us why details and character gestures and paragraph structure is so important. When do I break a paragraph? How much detail is needed? Which POV do I use? It sounds like some grammar lover’s heaven but it actually was really informative and you can tell that Prose has a deep passion for reading and writing (how fitting considering her name). We love our stories but we often underestimate how much word choice actually matters to telling that story. Whether to use a comma or semicolon etc. matters. It just gave me such a deep appreciation for the little things that writers have to think about while writing a book or anything really. I do think that the examples she gives us sometimes feel too long; she’ll give us some text from a classic or modern classic and then analyzes that section but the analysis would be so much shorter than the actual text she gave and I feel like she does contradict herself sometimes. She also does have a habit of sounding subtly pretentious when she writes about what constitutes “good” writing which I didn’t find bothersome at all (maybe because I’m low key pretentious about writing) but it might bother others.


And the last full book I completed was Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray, my favorite book of the month. It is absolutely amazing. I highly recommend this series. I did write a full review here.

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4.25/5

 


DNF- Nuts by Alice Clayton

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In my neverending quest for a stellar romance novel, I decided to give Nuts by Alice Clayton after hearing so many good things about it. It’s an interesting concept for a romance novel, I’ll give you that because the love interest is a farmer. Nope, not the usual fantasy like firefighter or pliceman or doctor or mafia boss or motorcycle rider but a farmer? Sure why not. Our main character, Roxie, is a chef in LA and her mother has just got an offer to go on the TV show, The Amazing Race. She pleads with Roxie to return and manage the restaurant while she’s away even though Roxie does not want to go back to her hometown (this reminds me so much of Sweet Home Alabama). But she reluctantly agrees and there, she sparks a relationship with local farmer, Leo. I’m sad to say that this romance novel really did not cut it for me (I DNFed it at 25%ish). First of all, Roxie is your stereotypical “I-don’t-do-relationships” type of person which is getting to be one of THE MOST annoying romance tropes of all time. Oh you’re such a special snowflake, you don’t do relationships, where have I heard that before?? Oh yeah, in every other fucking romance novel. Girl, we know you do do relationships because we all know by the end of the book you’re gonna be that sexy hunk you met on page 10. Second of all, you don’t write believable sexual tension by saying “The tension was so thick..” Just because you write that will not make me believe it so the romance was pretty much subpar.

I’m basically not having any luck with romance this year so I’m bringing out the big guns in August and I’m going to read It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. I thought her last book and most people’s favorite CoHo book, Maybe Someday was just ok but I’ve heard people say this one is the best CoHo book and it’s unlike anything she’s ever written. We’ll see about that.


Anyways, as for what I’m currently reading, I’m reading A History of Seven Killings by Marlon James still. I’m really liking it. It’s just dense. I’m also more than halfway through Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and haha, oh man, do I have things to say about this script. Be prepared for much ranting in my next post. And finally, I’m just starting to read Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman which I’m liking it so far although I am only on page like 10 so take that with a grain of salt.

How was your July reading? Any new favorites? Disappointments? Have you read any of these books before? If so, let me know your thoughts. =)

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Book Review: Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

book review, Uncategorized

Title: Lair of Dreams

Author: Libba Bray

Pages: 613

Synopsis: Goodreads

Ratingtealstartealstartealstartealstar(4.25)

NO SPOILERS FOR LAIR OF DREAMS BUT THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR THE DIVINERS. SPOILERS WILL BE IN BLACK BOLD.


“Every city is a ghost.”

And so begins the second installment of the magical journey into 1920’s New York. A sleeping sickness has taken over. People are literally being sucked into their dreams and burned from the inside out. But while this is happening, we follow our Diviners and their struggle to fulfill their own dreams. Evie dreams of becoming more famous and adored as America’s “Sweetheart Seer”; Henry dreams of finding his lost lover; Jericho dreams of loving Evie and restoring the museum; Mabel dreams of Jericho; Sam dreams of his missing mother; Memphis and Theta dream of being together without secrets of their powers, and newcomer Ling Chan, dreams of a life without burdens and prejudices.

Reading this book was like being in a dream. Countless authors–historical, fantasy or otherwise–are exceptional worldbuilders. They make me feel like I’m a part of the world they have created. But Libba Bray takes worldbuilding to a whole other level. Because I don’t just feel like I’m a part of the world, I. am. truly. there. And when I read this book, I understand why this book took 3 years to write. Libba Bray leaves no stone unturned. It’s not just the accuracy of the locations of NY (Chinatown and Beach Transit Co.) or the precise depiction of 1920’s culture (racism, sexism, homophobia) but she also takes care to keep the figures of speech, tones of inflection and dialogue consistent not just for the time period but for every single character in this book. It makes the reading experience totally immersive and I was never once confused which perspective I was reading from and there were a lot of perspectives (with a focus on Henry and Ling, then Evie and Sam, Memphis and Theta, with Jericho and Mabel having the fewest chapters). And just to show the intricacies of her worldbuilding, I’ve taken an Asian-American studies class in college and I learned about the discrimination of Chinese immigrants including the Chinese Exclusion Act and paper sons and daughters  and every single thing that I learned about that topic was interwoven cohesively and accurately throughout this book. This is not something she could have done by just randomly looking up one Wikipedia article. And because of this, Bray manages to capture the surreal beauty of the 1920’s but also its prejudices and jarring hatred.

A gust of wind battered the colorful paper lanterns hanging from the eaves of the Tea House restaurant on Doyers Street. Only a few diners remained, lingering over plates scraped clean of food and cups of tea whose warmth they were reluctant to leave.

It sounds dense which is probably why I’ve heard so many reviewers downrate this book because it is slow. But I think what I realized is that this book was never meant to be fast-paced. Which is actually a bold writing move considering that YA novels thrive on their quick and snappy plots. But not this book and it doesn’t care. It has no problem being the tortoise. It is utterly reassured in its pacing and forced me to really savor Bray’s words and by consequence, her characters whose layers are slowly revealed one by one throughout this story. And even if the plot isn’t entirely satisfying, the characters and their depth definitely make up for it.

I adore each and every one of these characters. I really do. Henry and Ling totally made my heart melt with their friendship. I loved their Inception-like dream walks together and you get tons of backstory on them.

“Pos-i-tute-ly isn’t a real word,” she said.

“Why, it pos-i-tute-ly is! It’s in the dictionary, just before prob-a-lute-ly.”

“You’re doing that simply to annoy me.”

Jericho honestly is on my list of fictional boyfriends. Sam gets a lot of spotlight in this book and we can see him for more than just a sleazy pickpocket. Memphis and Theta get a lot of action and not as much backstory because those were explored in the last book. But I think I adore Evie most of all. I feel really protective of her because I know a lot of readers don’t really like her lol. I get it. She is annoying. She is selfish and petty, really ditzy sometimes, indecisive, hedonistic to a fault and is basically drunk all the time. In fact she is drunk at a part in the book when they are all basically running for their lives. But I love her because she is so realistic? Not sure if that’s the right word but her character is just so interesting because she hides her insecurities and fears through this facade of “happiness” and parties but even at the end of the book she still hasn’t quite finished running away from her problems and every other Diviner sees right through her except for herself.

And because in any other YA book, Evie would not have been the main character or at least not as focused on. It would have been Mabel (the quiet do-gooder) or Theta (the responsible take-action girl) or even Ling (the sarcastic, witty and determined girl) but it’s not. I love that Bray allows Evie to be flawed in ways that other YA heroines aren’t allowed to because it would make them too “unlikeable”.

Tangents aside, the book comes to a head in the last 100 pages where almost all the action happens. It answers a lot of questions about the Diviners and the sleeping sickness mystery but it also opens up another door of questions that I think sets up the next book for a lot more plot development specifically involving Sam’s mom and I’m super excited.

It’s not as good as the first book, but Lair of Dreams is a very worthy sequel. I’m afraid that the next book isn’t going to come out until probably 2018 but if this is the end product, I suppose I can wait. 

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