Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Girls by Emma Cline


I read Helter Skelter last year and it was a revelation. I didn't really know the Charles Manson story and this educated me on that. But it also was a revelation in terms of how much this real life case has influenced the entire crime and legal genres. Additionally, I found myself fascinated by the politics of the case especially in relation to Manson's girls and their autonomy and violence.

I started craving a fictional exploration, something that didn't have to be concerned with facts, but go deeper into the minds of the girls. There has been some recent Manson fiction on TV..Aquarius (couldn't get through the first episode; seems to be more about boys) a Lifetime movie that was generally awful, and now this, The Girls. The title is so promising, I was very much looking forward to this book.

And...it's a great book, don't get me wrong. It's interesting. It's beautifully written, there are some gorgeous lines I wished I could stop rewind (yes I did audio) and write down. And it's definitely about girls, about obsession, about growing up. But it was still not the book I WANTED. That doesn't mean it was a bad book.

It also falls quite shy about really being about Manson. The similarities are more along the lines of a small cult centered around a charismatic man that brutally kills a family. Bits and pieces are lifted....like the relationship between a famous musician and the cult leader and the way they get found out.

But really it doesn't matter, because the book is more about Evie who by chance meets Suzanne and falls more or less in love (obsession with her) Suzanne is dedicated the leader of the cult and so Evie starts hanging out with them, but it's always very clear that it's ALL for Suzanne. The book is a lot about the expectation for love that is placed on girls by society and the fact that most girls will never have enough of the kind of love they think they need. It's about sexual awakening and longing and defining moments.

Does The Girls help us understand why a bunch of girls killed and took pleasure in it? I don't think so. There is one brief mention of where it comes from...THE ANGER, but the book is really more about Evie's longing for Suzanne and longing for love. Even so, watching her become entangled with The Ranch is interesting to read about and I was never bored. I just personally wished for a more Gillian Flynn take on this story, I think, one that unflinchingly depicted the horrors while simultaenously communicating the appeal of life with Manson.

I listened to the audio, which was adequate, though the narrator (Cady McClain) sometimes seemed to pause in the wrong places and emphasize the wrong things.
Amy

Monday, June 27, 2016

Catching up on YA Series

So part of the fun of my reading in the past few months is having the chance to catch up on some series I wanted to read as released but didn't have the time to do. I'm still behind, always behind, but here's my thoughts on a few I had the chance to listen to.

Cynthia Hand's Unearthly Series


In the past, I shied away from books about angels because as a person of faith, I believe angels are real. A lot of times stories about angels enjoy exploring the idea of the "fallen angel" the angel that chooses humanity over service to God, etc. These sorts of stories are in general--not what I want to spend my time on. But lately I have realized that they can also be a ground to explore ideas of faith and destiny. While it might not look how I think angels look, it's still very interesting!

I enjoyed the first book in this series a lot. The narrator, Samantha Quan, was perfect with a very pleasing voice and pace of narration. The mythology was interesting, and I was excited to see how everything unfolded. The basic premise of the book is that angels can reproduce with humans and leave behind angel-bloods. And fallen angels are dark wings. Dark wings want angel bloods under their control and so there is a fight of power.

Every angel blood has a mission or purpose and that's where the series starts as Clara starts having visions about hers. There is a love triangle and I'm sorry to say I was very much on the losing side of it (but pretty aware throughout the story that I was) There are also some very interesting side characters, Clara's best friend in particular is a delight.

So I enjoyed the mythology and the ideas and the first book quite a lot. Actually, I liked ALL the books, but I definitely felt the story was too hastily wrapped up or something by the third. I disliked some of the direction the story took and was still confused over a few developments. But ultimately, great books to listen to while working, I was never bored, etc. :)

Dan Wells's Partials Series


These were fabulous! This is a..apocalyptic/dystopian because the robots we created took over the world series. And for the most part the partials and the humans decided to live and let live but the humans can't reproduce due to a virus killing every newborn. So a few teens take it into their hands to go into partials territory and try to capture a partial so they can study it. As you can probably imagine, this book is a bit of a war story with a controlling government, a rebellion, etc. There is a lot of death and torture. But the series is fast paced and interesting, the world really captures your imagination. There is a love triangle! Once again I was on the well known losing side. :) Julia Whelan is a great narrator, too.

It's hard to say too much about the books, but once again I felt like the third book was a bit rushed and really got a bit too close to utter destruction for me, but overall extremely enjoyable!

Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave books


Um. I remember this first book getting a ton of praise. And don't get me wrong, these books were very easy to listen to. But by the end of the series I was really confused about what had actually happened and disappointed in the outcome. Still the first book especially is quite interesting and the books tend to hang on a twist.

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater (the 4th book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series)

I enjoyed this book, but not nearly as much as I loved the original trilogy. It was a bit of a let-down in that regard. Still, it was nice to revist some of these characters and get some closure to Cole and Isabel's story.

Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle Series


This series, however, I cannot recommend enough. It is beautifully written, imaginative, and and thought provoking. The world created in these pages is so unique and vibrant and realized. The characters are easy to love. The socioeconomic commentary is spot-on and in some ways a relief to read. If I were to say anything that it would be that well...these books are about boys, mostly. Sure there is Blue (and I haven't read anything Maggie has said on the books really is this a shout-out to Smurfette syndrome?) and her female family, but the characters given the most emotional weight and insight and plot are boys. There is nothing wrong with this, but I just think it's a little bit sad. But perhaps it's a testament to how enjoyable they are that I still liked them!

Amy

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sea Spell by Jennifer Donnelly Giveaway!


I'm really excited to be working with Disney-Hyperion to bring you this fun giveaway. (they supplied me with a copy and will also be supplying the prize pack to one lucky winner!)

Here's the information about Sea Spell you need to know:

At the end of Dark Tide, Book 3 in the Waterfire Saga, Astrid leaves her mermaid friends to confront her ancestor, Orfeo, the evil force behind the rise of the monster Abbadon. Orfeo possesses one of the six talismans that the merls need in order to keep the monster locked up forever. But without the ability to songcast, how will Astrid be able to defeat the most powerful mage in history?

Meanwhile, Serafina and her Black Fins train goblin troops for battle against her uncle Vallerio’s death riders. Will Sera ever see her beloved home—and her beloved Mahdi—again, or will the Volneros take over the mer realms while Orfeo takes on the gods themselves? Nothing less than the fate of the underwater world is at stake in this breathtaking finale.



You can read more about the series at the official website here. And if you really can't wait, you can read the prologue now!


Now about the giveaway! The Giveaway is open to US residents only. You win:


Yep, that's A copy of Sea Spell and branded nail polish, PLUS Ray-Ban sunglasses!

How to enter?

Just fill out the form below by June 16, 2016. The winner will be notified by email.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How I Read Now

After years of being a very intense book blogger, I went through a period where I barely read anything. It wasn't entirely by choice, I was doing a kind of "on-call" work that rarely allowed me the ability to feel like I could relax enough to read as I might be missing something I should be doing. It was quite a change for me as I started to lose that intense connection to the book world, to other bloggers and to this blog.

The idea of simply letting this blog slip away for good has been very tempting.

But in the past year, I've transitioned to a kind of work that allows me to listen as I work, and so I've finally become that thing I never thought I would be--an audiobook listener! And apparently, June is audiobook month so what better time to talk about it then now?

I actually really love audiobooks now, though I recognize they present a new challenge to reading. The narrator matters intensely. I can't write down all the quotes I love as I listen. I can't really flip back in case I miss something. But for the most part, this has been very fun and very rewarding.

While this is a new approach to books to me, perhaps the greatest reward has been to return me to the kind of reader I was before blogging. I've had the chance to catch up on titles I've missed over the years because of needing to hit review deadlines. I can listen to an author's entire backlist in a row...and it's WONDERFUL. I love books and stories all over again.

There have been other benefits to this...I no longer feel like I know about every book coming out, I no longer walk in a bookstore and feel guilty as all I see are unreviewed books. I actually open up newsletters about "our hot new titles" from publishers and feel excited to discover what new books are coming out. I...just love reading again.

But, I still want to talk about what I read and so I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things. I've been reading SO MANY GREAT BOOKS!

In the meantime, I must ask for recommendations for thrillers/suspense and horror books..my favorite genre to listen to or any good books in general. Keeping my attention and keeping me wanting to listen is particularly important as I do this while working and it helps to pass the time. So...I'm here for any great recs! Stuff I've recently loved, Me Before You, Try Not to Breathe, You and Hidden Bodies, Night Films, The Evening Spider, and In a Dark, Dark Wood.

Amy

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hello

How are you all doing?



Amy

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Few Things I Love

Hi everyone!

One of my 2016 goals was to blog more regularly. I have failed so far, but no longer! Here I am to chat about a few of the things putting a smile on my face.

The new key art for The Walking Dead's 6B season.


If you know me, you know this makes me very very happy. That's my two favorite characters on top of the world, okay? (Richonne is finally happening, it IS!) I am really excited for the return of the show which happens to be...VALENTINE'S DAY!! ♥♥♥ (which is also, appropriately, Danai Gurira's birthday)

Speaking of Danai Gurira, she plays Michonne, she is also a playwright! Her play, Eclipsed, will be opening on Broadway this March (previews in February). Danai is the real deal and the play is aiming to bring 10,000 girls aged 16-24 to see the show who would otherwise not have the opportunity to do so. You can learn more here. Is this starvation? No. But art matters and is a powerful force and if you feel likewise, here's a chance to be a part of it. I really admire the way Danai consistently uses her platform to bring change.

Two of my favorite books, Silence by Shusaku Endo and A Monster Calls will be movies this year! These are not light or easy books--they are both pretty heavy, but they are both excellent. The trailer for A Monster Calls is available with the music from Cloud Atlas, a movie that made me cry a lot, lol.



And finally, the United States and Canadian national figure skating championships are taking place this week. While many of the lower/younger competitions have taken place, the ones you care about, the senior level, start tomorrow! I am not as excited this year as I have been in the past, mostly because my favorites are either injured or unlikely to improve on their standings from last year with a few small exceptions. Even so, this is a fun and beautiful sport! My favorite discipline is ice dance and I think you'd like it too! One day I will write the post about partnered performance and the immense appeal ice dance and pair skating hold for me, but until then I encourage you to watch these competitions if you are in one of the countries or on youtube! My friend wrote an excellent preview post for the dance event...it is very detailed with information on the various elements which you may not recognize, but it also has gorgeous gifs, and will you give an ideal of where the top teams stands. Hint: my favorite team is likely to place fourth, lol. But I seriously love all of the US teams and will enjoy the competition.

Amy

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella


Something I'm sort of being forced into right now is catching up on all the stuff I've meant to read along the way. It's actually very satisfying as most of these reads (listens) turn out to be quite good and so I'm reading delightful thing after delightful thing.

When I wrote about what I loved in 2015, I forgot a few things, namely this book.

I can remember very clearly the experience of reading my first Sophie Kinsella book, Can You Keep a Secret? I remember the absolute compulsion to keep reading it as it was both funny and emotional. The world actually disappeared around me as I consumed the book. There is really no experience that is better and for years I've included it on my favorites list. But somehow, with the shifting tides of my own taste, I guess I thought I would enjoy her books less and so I put off reading them. For whatever reason, I decided to listen to Twenties Girl this fall and I'm so glad I did as I don't think I had a more enjoyable reading experience in the year.

What I loved about this book is that yes it's funny in a somewhat absurd and over the top way and yes it's romantic in the way her books always are, but it has SO MUCH HEART. Just brimming with heart and goodwill.

Kinsella's humor has a light touch, by which I mean it seems to flow effortlessly in her books. This is so rare to me for me. I don't know if this would be true for everyone, but for me this seems to be the case. Like, there are scenes that in the set-up I thought, oh no, she's trying too hard, but in the execution ended up being genuinely funny and delightful. :)

The premise of this book is that when Lara attends her great-aunt's funeral, she also becomes acquainted with her ghost! Her grandmother's ghost, as her younger self, haunts her until she helps her find her peace. And it sounds odd, but it's actually...delightful? And hilarious. I think "haunt' seems like a strong word as Lara is never scared, only hassled and as time passes, the two get to know each other and form an understanding. Lara helps Sadie find a missing necklace and thus find

I think what I loved most about this book, though, was that it has a sort of redemption after death, Lara got to know Sadie in her ~afterlife, but got to know her life. And she regretted not having had the chance to know her better while she was alive and letting her die alone in a home. And they form this incredibly strong bond and I'm tearing up just writing about this, lol. There's something about the ties of family, the ones who came before and the precious reality of every life despite outward appearances. And they are so family even in Sadie's ghost state, they fight like sisters but obviously love each other very much.

So anyway, this book made me laugh a lot, and it made me cry but in that ~deeply touching in my heart sort of way. It was just such an incredibly satisfying experience--the kind where you enjoy absolutely every minute and then bask in the glow when it's over. :)

So...yeah. Still a huge fan of Sophie Kinsella. I also read Wedding Night and enjoyed it very much, though not nearly to the extent of this one, which might join Can You Keep a Secret? on the list of favorites.

Amy