nonfiction

Book Review: A Really Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

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Title: A Really Short History of Nearly Everything
Author: Bill Bryson
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Length:176, Hardback
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: 3 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Bill Bryson’s own fascination with science began with a battered old school book he had when he was about ten or eleven years old. It had an illustration that captivated him–a diagram showing Earth’s interior as it would look if you cut into it with a large knife and removed about a quarter of its bulk. The idea of lots of startled cars and people falling off the edge of that sudden cliff (and 4,000 miles is a pretty long way to fall) was what grabbed him in the beginning, but gradually his attention turned to what the picture was trying to teach him: namely that Earth’s interior is made up of several different layers of materials, and at the very centre is a glowing sphere of iron and nickel,
as hot as the Sun’s surface, according to the caption. And he very clearly remembers thinking: “How do they know that?”

Bill’s storytelling skill makes the “How?” and, just as importantly, the “Who?” of scientific discovery entertaining and accessible for all ages. He covers the wonder and mystery of time and space, the frequently bizarre and often obsessive scientists and the methods they used, and the mind-boggling fact that, somehow, the universe exists and against all odds, life came to be on this wondrous planet we call home.

Review:
This book took me SO long to finish. Honestly, I started it the last week or so of July and finished it the last week of September. Nonfiction has always been hard for me and is generally a genre I stay away from. This book was nice but definitely not my favorite.

I loved the way it was written. Bryson’s writing is witty and entertaining but he still packs tons of information into relatively small paragraphs. The book was also not what I expected. I thought it would be more about historical events and less about science. But the majority of the book was a history of science and how it’s advanced.

The illustrations in the book were gorgeous though and I found most of the time when I was getting annoyed with the info dump I was receiving the images on the page could help to make up for it.

Still I’m glad I read the book and it gave me some interesting facts to dish out in conversations so I can’t say it was time wasted. I just wish it didn’t take me so long to push through.

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contemporary, romance, young adult

Book Review: Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

Title: Girl Online
Author: Zoe Sugg (Zoellaaaaaa)
Publisher: Atria/Keyword Press
Length: 352, Hardback
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 3 Folded Pages

Blurb:
I have this dream that, secretly, all teenage girls feel exactly like me. And maybe one day, when we realize that we all feel the same, we can all stop pretending we’re something we’re not. That would be awesome. But until that day, I’m going to keep it real on this blog and keep it unreal in “real” life.

Penny has a secret.

Under the alias GirlOnline, Penny blogs her hidden feelings about friendship, boys, high school drama, her quirky family, and the panic attacks that have begun to take over her life. When things go from bad to worse at school, her parents accept an opportunity to whisk the family away for Christmas at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. There, she meets Noah, a gorgeous, guitar-strumming American. Suddenly Penny is falling in love—and capturing every moment she spends with “Brooklyn Boy” on her blog.

But Noah has a secret, too, one that threatens to ruin Penny’s cover—and her closest friendship—forever.

Review:
This book was cute. When I saw Zoella from Youtube had written a book I knew I had to have it. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I was slightly disappointed. I think I’ve reached an age where YA contemporaries are going to be a bit difficult for me.

My biggest issue with this book was how immature Penny seemed to be. She read like she was 12 instead of 16. Maybe it’s just my perspective at the ripe age of 22, but I feel like she should have been a little more mature than she was in the book.

My other issue is that her love interest is 18. I’m not sure if this isn’t a big deal in England but here it’s not really allowed and it made me kind of uncomfortable. The saving grace is that Noah didn’t really read like an 18 year old but a 15 year old.

The overall story was cute and for the most part the pacing was good. There were a few slow points that were a little hard to slog through but for the most part I enjoyed reading the novel.

For me this novel was cute but a bit problematic. I bought it because I love Zoella’s videos and it’s a way I can support her aside from watching said videos. The other thing is that the novel was actually ghost written by Siobhan Curham. Which is fine. I understand the need of ghostwriting and whatnot, but it makes the novel read disjointedly. I’m not sure I’ll be picking up the second in the series anytime soon.

memoir

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Title: Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me? (And Other Concerns)
Author: Mindy Kaling
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Length: 222 pages, Hardcover
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

Review:
I love Mindy Kaling. I’ve wanted to be her best friend since I watched the first episode of Mindy. This book only supports my need to be her best friend.

Kaling is witty and hilarious but also vulnerable in this short book of her rise to writing for The Office. Some parts had me actually laughing out loud. I also really wished I had someone next to me to share some of the funnier bits with.

One aspect I absolutely loved about the book, is that Kaling knows mostly young girls will be reading it. She didn’t try imparting advice though and actually advised against any advice she might give. She also talking about being a normal sized to chubby sized woman in the entertainment industry and how happy she is to just be herself.

I don’t usually read memoirs and I’m glad I chose Mindy Kaling’s for my PopSugar 2015 Reading Challenge. Not only was it funny, but inspiring. She has a similar dream to mine as well. I hope to write novels and she wanted to write for TV. She achieved her dream and it gives me hope to achieve mine!

Fantasy, mystery, paranormal, young adult

Book Review: The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

Title: The Shadow Cabinet (Shades Book 3)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Length: 385, Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, fantasy, mystery
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Warning: Spoilers in the blurb.

Book 1: The Name of the Star Review | Book 2: The Madness Underneath Review

Blurb:
Rory and her friends are reeling from a series of sudden and tragic events. While racked with grief, Rory tries to determine if she acted in time to save a member of the squad. If she did, how do you find a ghost? Also, Rory’s classmate Charlotte has been kidnapped by Jane and her nefarious organization. Evidence is uncovered of a forty-year-old cult, ten missing teenagers, and a likely mass murder. Everything indicates that Charlotte’s in danger, and it seems that something much bigger and much more terrible is coming.

Time is running out as Rory fights to find her friends and the ghost squad struggles to stop Jane from unleashing her spectral nightmare on the entire city. In the process, they’ll discover the existence of an organization that underpins London itself—and Rory will learn that someone she trusts has been keeping a tremendous secret.

Review:
As much as I loved The Name of the Star I can’t say that the second book or this lived up to how much I loved the first one. I think both of them had sequel syndrome.

I enjoyed the overall plot but I found Rory’s personality to be kind of annoying instead of fun. Don’t get me wrong, I still really enjoyed this book. It just was a bit slower and not as good as I had hoped.

I can’t say much else without spoiling the plot of this book and the first two. I will say that so far I enjoy the series as a whole and can’t wait to get my hands on the prequel.

Fantasy, mystery, paranormal, young adult

Book Review: The Madness Underneath by Marueen Johnson

Title: The Madness Underneath
Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Length: 384, Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, fantasy, mystery
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Warning!!: Spoiler for the first book in the blurb. Read at your own risk.

To see my review of the first book in the Shade Series click here.

Blurb:
After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Devereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory’s brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she’s become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades—the city’s secret ghost-fighting police—are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it’s too late.

In this follow-up to the Edgar Award-nominated THE NAME OF THE STAR, Maureen Johnson adds another layer of spectacularly gruesome details to the streets of London that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Review:
The Name of the Star (the first book in this series) has recently gotten the coveted 5 folded pages from me and I think The Madness Underneath is a pretty solid follow up. I definitely wasn’t expecting most of what happened in the novel.

Once again, Rory completely charms me with her wit and ability to handle what comes at her. I love that we see her struggle with what happened to her and Maureen Johnson does an amazing job at representing and showing mental illness in this novel without all the stigma usually attached.

I can’t talk too much on other points without giving away important details of the first book or this book. But I didn’t really know what to expect from this novel and I definitely didn’t expect what happened in both good and bad ways (bad only because it ripped my heart out).

I do think the novel felt a little disjointed at times and I wasn’t quite sure of the point here and there but I couldn’t put it down and ended up finishing it in two days. It kind of felt like a novella that would tie the third book to the first book but I enjoyed that.

I’ve already started the third book in the series and honestly I’m still loving the world (not unlike our own but it has differences) that Johnson has built.

contemporary, young adult

Book Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

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Title: Saint Anything
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Length: 432, Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 4.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Sydney has always felt invisible. She’s grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family’s attention and, lately, concern. Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction. Now, after a drunk-driving accident that crippled a boy, Peyton’s serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world.

Then she meets the Chatham family. Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time. There’s effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who’s had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family. But it’s with older brother Mac—quiet, watchful, and protective—that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.

Saint Anything is Sarah Dessen’s deepest and most psychologically probing novel yet, telling an engrossing story of a girl discovering friendship, love, and herself.

Review:
I honestly can’t say enough how much I love Sarah Dessen. Her books deal with topics that everyone struggles with and gives girls someone to relate to and look up to no matter how they handle their problems. Dessen achieves this and more in Saint Anything.

I truly loved Sydney. She was flawed but cohesive as a character. She made consistent choices and while I sometimes found her hard to read, it was more than I couldn’t deal with what was happening in the book because of her choices than her character. I physically cringed and had to stop reading at certain parts because it was hard to handle but Dessen covers a sensitive issue.

The pacing was good for the most part. I think there were a few points where it slowed it a little too much for my liking and parts that also went a little too fast. Which is why I can’t give this book five folded pages.

However, I truly enjoyed it and it just adds to my Sarah Dessen love. If you haven’t noticed I’ve been rereading her books lately and I can’t wait to dive back into more of them!

Fantasy, graphic novel, paranormal

Graphic Novel Review: Cemetery Girl: The Pretenders by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden

cemetery girl

Title: Cemetery Girl: The Pretenders
Author: Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden
Publisher: InkLit
Length:128 Pages, Hardcover
Genre: Graphic Novel, Paranormal, Fantasy
Rating: 3 folded pages

Blurb:
She calls herself Calexa Rose Dunhill—names taken from the grim surroundings where she awoke, bruised and bloody, with no memory of who she is, how she got there, or who left her for dead.

She has made the cemetery her home, living in a crypt and avoiding human contact. But Calexa can’t hide from the dead—and because she can see spirits, they can’t hide from her.

Then one night, Calexa spies a group of teenagers vandalizing a grave—and watches in horror as they commit murder. As the victim’s spirit rises from her body, it flows into Calexa, overwhelming her mind with visions and memories not her own.

Now Calexa must make a decision: continue to hide to protect herself—or come forward to bring justice to the sad spirit who has reached out to her for help…

Review:
This was a good, quick read with some very heavy themes. I enjoyed this book and I might grab the sequel from the library when it comes out though I wouldn’t buy this series.

I really enjoyed the art style. It held a lot of color while still maintaining the dark themes in the story. I also enjoyed Calexa as a character. However, I would have liked more backstory. It took me a while to get invested into the characters and that’s not good with a graphic novel.

I want to see what comes next for Calexa but it doesn’t really have me on the edge of my seat like Saga did so I can wait a while. I think this might be a story that drops off into oblivion for me. It was good but not great. Not sure what else to say about it honestly. It’s one of those books that’s just kind of there.

contemporary, young adult

Book Review: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

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Title: The Moon and More
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Length: 448, Hardcover
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun.

He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline’s mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?

Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?

Review:
I think The Moon and More was the first Sarah Dessen novel I read right after it’s release. And then, just like now, I feel like it doesn’t really compare well to her other novels. Don’t get me wrong, I still absolutely loved it! But there just feels like there’s an emotional disconnect. It didn’t really make me laugh out loud or tear up like her other novels have and I expect that from her work, which is why it’s such a disappointment that it doesn’t happen with this one.

Emaline is a very believable well-rounded character, but I don’t get that feeling from Luke, Theo, her family or her friends. It’s like Emaline is a 3D character walking in a 2D world and it doesn’t do Dessen’s writing justice. This is probably part of the reason I couldn’t connect emotionally.

The plot was really good. I love the lesson Dessen wove into the storyline (like she always does) and how it was resolved I just wish I could have connected with the emotions more.

Fantasy, young adult

Book Review: Half Wild by Sally Green

Half Wild by Sally Green

Title: Half Wild
Author: Sally Green
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Length: 432, hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: 4 folded pages

Click here to read my review of Half Bad, the first novel in the trilogy.

Warning: The blurb contains spoilers!

Blurb:
“You will have a powerful Gift, but it’s how you use it that will show you to be good or bad.”

In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, seventeen-year-old Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most powerful and violent witch. Nathan is hunted from all sides: nowhere is safe and no one can be trusted. Now, Nathan has come into his own unique magical Gift, and he’s on the run–but the Hunters are close behind, and they will stop at nothing until they have captured Nathan and destroyed his father.

Review:
I’m going to try and keep this spoiler free. So you will get ample warning if I spill one (though I’m not likely to). Sally Green’s writing is unique. I enjoy the way she writes but it always takes me at least 50 pages to start enjoying her books. That being said the themes and the way she immerses you in the world are absolutely amazing.

I enjoyed that unlike the first book, there was no weird second person chapters told in snippets. There is just something about second person in a novel that annoys me endlessly unless the book is told so that the narrator is trying to make a point to the reader. Still despite the fact that the first few chapters weren’t in second person it still took me a while to get into and I think it’s because Nathan is a difficult character to understand and relate to when you first start reading his narration.

Nathan is quick-tempered and impulsive and although these are flaws they also make him very loveable. Nathan has become one of my favorite characters because he’s so misunderstood by those around him and he has a hard time communicating.

I also like how Sally Green plays with love interests without making the story about love. It’s just side notes that add more depth to both Nathan and the other characters in the novel.

I enjoy the way Green builds her witch world as well. It’s completely believable and I don’t find myself randomly breaking my suspension of belief like I do in other fantasy novels. I think it’s because her witch world parallels the “real” or fain world. There’s no unnecessary belief that fain technology shouldn’t be used or understood by them.

I have to say my favorite part about Half Wild (and the trilogy thus far) are the themes Green effortlessly weaves into the story. She touches on racism through Nathan being a half black, half white witch and how others treat him as well as how the Black witches and White witches treat each other. It’s incredibly obvious how it relates to current race issues. But I also like how she handles Nathan’s reaction to being labeled and others hating him purely for his label.

The only downfall I found with Half Wild is that the last 100 pages or so felt like it should have been the start of the next book. The climax and resolution happened pretty early in the book I think and the way she finished out the last 100 pages tended to err slightly on the side of boring and repetitive. It was still captivating but I found myself skipping a lot of paragraphs as I progressed through the last 100 pages and I never want to do that with a novel.

dystopian, science fiction, scifi, young adult

Book Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Title: Unwind
Author: Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 352, Hardback
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction
Rating: 4.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
In America after the Second Civil War, the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life armies came to an agreement: The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, a parent may choose to retroactively get rid of a child through a process called “unwinding.” Unwinding ensures that the child’s life doesn’t “technically” end by transplanting all the organs in the child’s body to various recipients. Now a common and accepted practice in society, troublesome or unwanted teens are able to easily be unwound.

With breathtaking suspense, this book follows three teens who all become runaway Unwinds: Connor, a rebel whose parents have ordered his unwinding; Risa, a ward of the state who is to be unwound due to cost-cutting; and Lev, his parents’ tenth child whose unwinding has been planned since birth as a religious tithing. As their paths intersect and lives hang in the balance, Shusterman examines complex moral issues that will keep readers turning the pages until the very end.

Review:
I decided to reread Unwind because I just recently found out that Neal Shusterman had continued the stories by turning it into a dystology. I remember absolutely loving the series but the only thing I could remember distinctly about it was miniscule detail about the ending. I absolutely loved my reread.

The characters, Connor, Risa, Roland, Lev, and all the side characters were absolutely amazing. For a book with so many points of view, all the characters have phenomenal character growth. Connor learns how to handle himself and becomes more than his label and Risa overcomes her own fears.

The plot itself was just as amazing as I remember as well. It’s such a unique thought but so relevant to today. There are so many themes that could be applied to today. I would name some but I don’t want to spoil anything.

The only complaint I have, and the reason I can’t give this novel 5 folded pages, is that the story did get a little slow here and there. Nothing too bad, but I think for a novel like this it shouldn’t be fast paced and intense the entire time and it just wasn’t.

Overall, I’m super happy I reread this novel and I hope that the rest of the series is just as good.