Fantasy, romance, steampunk

Book Review: Heartless by Gail Carriger

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Title: Heartless
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Orbit
Length: 448 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk, Romance
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Warning: Spoilers for books 1-3 possibly in blurb and review!

Click to see previous book reviews for the series – First book: Soulless Second book: Changeless Third book: Blameless

Blurb:

Lady Alexia Maccon, soulless, is at it again, only this time the trouble is not her fault. When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband’s past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux’s latest mechanical invention, and a plague of zombie porcupines, Alexia barely has time to remember she happens to be eight months pregnant.

Will Alexia manage to determine who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it is too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf’s clothing? And what, exactly, has taken up residence in Lord Akeldama’s second best closet?

Review:

More and more with this series I find myself both really enjoying and kind of not enjoying it. Heartless had me completely enthralled for the first 200 pages or so but then it got to the action bits and the climax and I sort of lost interest. I think I just don’t care for the way Carriger writes her action scenes but the build up is always a lot of fun.

As always, Alexia was delightful. I loved how it was obvious to everyone the pregnancy was effecting both her brain and her body but she refused to see it. It seems like something Alexia would do. She couldn’t believe she could change simply because she was pregnant even though she was definitely more forgetful and emotional. I really enjoyed seeing this side of Alexia.

Lord Akeldama and Floote were just as charming as before, too. Carriger has no problem building and maintaining interesting characters and I’m very glad to see this. However, Lord Maccon was absent just a bit too much in this novel for my liking, especially considering the previous novel had Alexia and Lord Maccon fighting and not being together.

I still really enjoyed this novel and once I have a small break from the steampunk I’m excited to read the final book in the Parasol Protectorate series.

science fiction, young adult

Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

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Title: The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Length: 240 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

Review:
It’s amazing how much of this book went way over my head the first time I read it. I think was about 15 at the time and I remember enjoying the book but not really getting why everyone praised it so much. This is my second time reading and wow this book packs a punch.

I think my favorite thing about The Giver is Lowry’s writing. It’s to the point but still descriptive enough to give you the whole picture. It’s the kind of writing I aspire to have. I never felt bogged down by meaningless details or unnecessary information that just muddies the story. I enjoy when things are straight to the point especially when it’s a story like The Giver. The message would not be the same if it was written in a more flowery way.

The character’s themselves are kind of 2D except for Jonas and maybe the Giver. Normally this would bother me but for the world it makes sense. They don’t have a reason or a need to be more than that.

I read this book in about 2 days. It was quick but it resonates with me as it does with the thousands of other people who have read it. My version of the book also has an introduction by Lowry that I found extremely interesting. I won’t give anything away but if you have a chance to read the introduction by her, you should.

I think it’s pretty obvious that I really enjoyed The Giver. It has all my favorite things about books aside from romance. It was funny sometimes and extremely sad others. It had interesting characters. It wasn’t trying to be poetic with the writing. Basically, I need more books like The Giver in my life.

nonfiction

Book Review: The Smartphone Photography Guide by Peter Cope

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Title: The Smartphone Photography Guide
Author: Peter Cope
Publisher: Carlton Books
Length: 256 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: 2 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Thanks to our smartphones, we’ve all become camera-carrying photographers, able to snap a photo whenever and wherever we want. But how can we realize the full potential of this powerful tool? Complete with “Pro Tips,” “Try This” panels, jargon-buster explanations of technical terms, and advice on video settings, this smart guide will help you take, create, manipulate, and share your phone images like an expert.

Review:
I saw this at a bookfair my work had to help benefit a charity. I bought it so long ago that I can’t really remember what charity it was but I wanted to support it and this seemed interesting. I’m going to be real (as per usual, honestly) and say that I think this book was written for people who didn’t grow up with technology.

At the ripe age of 22, this book was boring and didn’t really tell me much that I didn’t already know. The majority of this book is spent explaining how photography and editing apps on phones work and how a phone camera differs from a regular camera. I was so bored most of the time.

The section of the book focusing on getting good angles and understanding how to photograph were plagued with the same details about smartphones and apps that were stated in the first half of the book so it was also very redundant.

Some parts of the writing felt downright condescending in the way it was worded or what was said. My least favorite thing about nonfiction books is the tendency for the writing to feel like the author is talking down to me and this book did that a lot.

I didn’t enjoy this book and I didn’t learn anything from it. However, if you aren’t very familiar with phones or apps this book might be for you.

Fantasy, young adult

Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

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Title: Howl’s Moving Castle
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Length: 336 pages, Mass Market Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Rating: 4.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday things. The Witch of the Waste was another matter.

After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls.

The Hatter sisters–Sophie, Lettie, and Martha–and all the other girls were warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning.

In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl’s castle?

Review:
I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing me say this, but yet again this was a reread. I loved the Studio Ghibli film of the same title though it’s very obvious once you read the book that the movie is VERY loosely based on it. My friend made me read it when she saw how much I loved the movie and she wasn’t wrong. Although the two are very different both are amazing.

The basic characters are all the same, Sophie, Howl, Calcifer, Witch of the Waste, Michael and so on. But with the book the plot and conclusion is a little bit different. Also, you get so much more from all the characters. I feel like the movie didn’t have the proper time to flesh out the characters like the book does considering there are so many.

Sophie is so stubborn and annoying but in the most perfect way. You can really see the effect the witch’s spell has on her in the book. The movie, I don’t think, does that justice. Sophie’s emotions are so raw and real and her change in character brought on by the spell is amazing to read.

Howl, Calcifer, and Michael all have their own unique personalities as well that are so fleshed out and yummy. I might be just a tad biased though because this book holds a special place in my heart. I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve reread it in about 8 years.

The plot itself is a little confusing and a little frustrating but I think it was like that in the movie as well. Honestly, you get a lot more explanation in the book and it helps clear up the confusion I had with the movie before I read the book.

I do think the Jones waits a little too long to reveal everything. The ending is a whirlwind of action and resolutions and it can almost give you a headache there’s so much information dumped on you.

Still aside from that tiny flaw, I thoroughly enjoyed my reread and I look forward to the next time I reread because I’m sure I will many more times in the years to come.

Biography, graphic novel

Graphic Novel Review: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi

amazon haul

Title: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Translator: Anjali Singh
Publisher: Pantheon
Length: 192 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Autobiography, Graphic Novel
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
In Persepolis, heralded by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the freshest and most original memoirs of our day,” Marjane Satrapi dazzled us with her heartrending memoir-in-comic-strips about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Here is the continuation of her fascinating story. In 1984, Marjane flees fundamentalism and the war with Iraq to begin a new life in Vienna. Once there, she faces the trials of adolescence far from her friends and family, and while she soon carves out a place for herself among a group of fellow outsiders, she continues to struggle for a sense of belonging.

Finding that she misses her home more than she can stand, Marjane returns to Iran after graduation. Her difficult homecoming forces her to confront the changes both she and her country have undergone in her absence and her shame at what she perceives as her failure in Austria. Marjane allows her past to weigh heavily on her until she finds some like-minded friends, falls in love, and begins studying art at a university. However, the repression and state-sanctioned chauvinism eventually lead her to question whether she can have a future in Iran.

As funny and poignant as its predecessor, Persepolis 2 is another clear-eyed and searing condemnation of the human cost of fundamentalism. In its depiction of the struggles of growing up—here compounded by Marjane’s status as an outsider both abroad and at home—it is raw, honest, and incredibly illuminating.

Review:
Satrapi’s autobiographical graphic novels are amazing. There’s no other way to put it honestly. I did end up enjoying part 1 better. I found her childhood more interesting and informative than her teenage years into adulthood.

I can’t find much else to say about Persepolis 2. Even though I enjoyed part 1 more, this book was just as intriguing and eye opening as the first. I enjoy the way Satrapi uses narration, dialogue, and art to fully display her story and the range of emotions she was catapulting through as a lone teen in a foreign country.

I hope she makes a 3rd part. I want to see how her story continued. I want to see her success and how she came to write both parts of Persepolis.

Fantasy, middle grade, young adult

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Author: JK Rowling
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Length: 320 pages, Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Rating: 5 folded Pages

Blurb:
Harry Potter, along with his best friends, Ron and Hermione, is about to start his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry can’t wait to get back to school after the summer holidays (who wouldn’t if they lived with the horrible Dursleys?) But when Harry gets to Hogwarts, the atmosphere is tense. There’s an escaped mass murderer on the loose, and the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called in to guard the school . . .

Review:
I’m finally reaching the point in my Harry Potter reread where it doesn’t feel like Harry is a little too young for me to relate to. The first two books Harry is 11 and 12 and now he’s finally reaching his teen years and matured a bit more reading is going a lot faster. Which is evident in the fact that it took me two days to finish the book.

I’m also enjoying seeing the differences in the book versus the movie. The first two movies are extremely accurate to the book and it’s only in Prisoner of Azkaban that they began having to cut thing to make it more adaptable to the movie format. There were so many things I had forgotten! It’s kind of crazy.

I’m excited to continue my Harry Potter reread and I think it will only get better from here. In my editions of Harry Potter Goblet of Fire is almost exactly double the amount of pages of Prisoner of Azkaban so I think it might take me a little longer to get through but none the less my Harry Potter reread is finally moving along.

Biography, graphic novel, nonfiction

Graphic Novel Review: Persepolis: The Story of Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

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Title: Persepolis: The Story of Childhood
Author: Marjane Satrapi
Translator: Mattis Ripa
Publisher: Pantheon
Length: 160 pages, Paperback
Genre: Autobiography, Graphic Novel
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

Review:
I’ve been putting off this review mostly because of laziness but also because I’m not sure what to say. This book is so emotional and I wasn’t sure I could review it like I normally do graphic novels based on art and storyline and what not.

Personally, the art style isn’t for me but this isn’t the type of graphic novel you read because the artwork is pretty. The art style reflects that of the story and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It befits what Satrapi is trying to portray to the reader.

As for the storyline, there were times where I was confused and wished for the details I would have gotten had this not been a graphic novel but the details of the pictures were also very helpful.

Overall, I LOVED reading this. I’ve already ordered the second graphic novel and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Fantasy, middle grade, young adult

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

Title: Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets
Author: J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Length: 256 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Rating: 5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
The Dursleys were so mean that hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.

And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockheart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.

But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone–or something–starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects…Harry Potter himself?

Review:
I know, it took me FOREVER to reread this one. I think it was partly my slump and partly because it’s a little hard for me to read middle grade novels these days even if it’s a novel I love. Pre-reading slump, every word of every novel felt really difficult. Especially of novels that felt too young for me like Harry Potter sometimes does.

However, continuing the Chamber of Secrets after my reading slump was absolutely delightful. I had a hard time putting it down. I forgot how quickly Harry Potter novels progress once you get passed the beginning.

I’m not really sure what else to say. I had a great time rereading this (once I got over my slump) and I’ve already started The Prisoner of Azkaban. I can’t wait to continue rereading this series. I think as I get further into my reread of the series the books will be easier for me to digest because as Harry ages you can see the maturity and character development. I love that about these books.

 

contemporary, romance, young adult

Book Review: Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle

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Title: Let it Snow
Author(s): John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Speak
Length: 352 Pages, Paperback
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 3.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

Review:
This book is composed of three short stories each written by a different author. Maureen Johnson starts it off in her amazing way. I loved her short story from beginning to end and I feel like she kept throwing curveballs. It was super cute.

John Green’s story was kind of meh. It felt very like all of the other stories I’ve read from him. Even his characters felt very samey. I still really enjoyed the story though it was cute.

Lauren Myrcle’s story was less than ideal. I kept getting super annoyed with the writing and I feel like it could have been several pages shorter. The plot also didn’t make much sense. I liked that she ended it with all the characters from the previous stories meeting. That was cute but I skimmed the majority of this story.

To get further into detail, Johnson’s story had great characters. I truly felt for Jubilee and her situation. I wanted her to find a better boyfriend and make Christmas her own. I also really liked the guy she ended up with. He’s super sweet.

I found Tobin, Green’s MC, very the same as his other male characters along with the side characters he made. They were all snarky males, except the Duke, who were very wittier than thou. The Duke was a good character who found ways to point this fact out to the other characters but ultimately that was just a plot point for the love story. I would have liked this better if it veered from Green’s typical way of writing teenagers.

As for Myrcle, I found Addie to be the most annoying character I’ve read in awhile. I found myself skimming the paragraphs of dialogue and inner thoughts because I just couldn’t deal. I did appreciate that she had the biggest character development. But the way her character was written just annoyed me to no end. I think it may have been better for me if I were younger and still identified with the feelings she was going through but the me of right now just had a constant eye roll going.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book though. It was cute and fluffy, just what I want at this time of year.

PS I am back!!! I’m super excited to be back. Hopefully, this wasn’t a fluke and I’m finally out of my reading slump. We shall see. 🙂

contemporary, young adult

Book Review: Diva by Alex Flinn

diva by alex flinn

Title: Diva
Author: Alex Flinn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 304 pages, Paperback
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 2.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
In Diva, the companion to Alex Flinn’s YA novel Breathing Under Water, Caitlin is dealing with a lot. She’s living through the aftermath of an abusive relationship, she has a youth-obsessed mother who just doesn’t understand her, and she’s on a constant yo-yo diet to live up the standards of her nitpicking friends.

All Caitlin wants is to escape her not-so-glamorous life and pursue her dream of becoming a singer, but when she’s accepted into the Miami High School of the Arts, her life doesn’t magically become perfect. Yet despite some struggles to keep up with her competitive classmates and the distraction of cute new crush, Caitlin never loses her sense of humor and eventually gains the confidence to achieve her goals.

Review:
This was a disappointing reread for me. I remember loving this novel and connecting with Caitlin so much. I love to sing and I’m super shy especially when I was in high school. So I really related to her. But now, I don’t connect with her as much as I wish.

Now Caitlin annoys me. She’s childish. I feel like she acts like she’s 12 not 16. I think this might just be my age talking though. At 22, it’s a lot harder for me to connect with teenage characters. I almost wish I hadn’t reread it so it still held a good memory for me. This is a companion to Breathing Underwater (click to see my review of it), but Diva doesn’t hold the same depth or statement as that novel does and it’s saddening to see.

I can’t say much else. When the main character annoys me there’s almost nothing that can save the novel in my book. The writing was nice. I enjoy the way Alex Flinn writes and I love a lot of her books.

The side characters were interesting but because I saw them through Caitlin’s eyes I’m not sure I really understand or saw any of their real character. She has some moments of realization about them that are nice but a lot of the time the other characters are just flat because Caitlin can’t imagine more dimensions to them. Especially her mother and father.

This novel was a quick read at least which was nice. It has good memories from when I was in high school and for high schoolers I think I would recommend it but I’m not sure it’s a YA that translate well for older people.