A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab — A Review(ish)

gatheringofshadowsA Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OMG how dare you end on a cliff hanger when I don’t have the next book yet!!!! Must. Know. What. Happens. To. Kell. And. Rhy. And. Lila.

Blargh!!!!!!

If you haven’t started reading this series (Shades of Magic) from Schwab yet, you seriously need to check your priorities. I swore up and down that I would not start this, the second volume, until the third volume had been published, but the pretty pretty cover…it called to me.

So I cracked the spine, devoured the words, and here I am, left utterly unfulfilled. Please don’t take that to mean I didn’t like the book. To be clear, I LOVED this book. But she ends the darn thing on this horrible cliff hanger that made me turn the book upside down to see if more pages might fall out. They didn’t. So I thrashed around on my bed like a three-year-old screaming NOOOOOO!!! How can you do this to me!?!?!?! (I’m not exaggerating. I literally screamed those exact words.)

Best fantasy series I’ve read in a while. And that’s saying something.

Neeeed the next book now. Kthnxbai.

View all my reviews

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling — A Review

sorcerers-stoneHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

My rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

What can I possibly say that hasn’t been said before?

I just love these books. J. K. Rowling did something truly extraordinary with this series, and re-reading this first book was so satisfying. It brought back all of those fuzzy, warm childhood memories/feelings I had when I first read this many, many, many moons ago 😉 Yep, I was almost eleven when they first came out. You could say Harry and I grew up together. (I still blame Errol for losing my letter.)

My heart is full and my soul is satisfied. The only problem? Now I want to re-read the whole series!

Part of the Read Harder Challenge this year is to: “Read a book you’ve read before.” (#9) and “Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.” (#16) Harry Potter fit both of those requirements for me.

2017 Read Harder Challenge Stats: 6/24

Happy reading!

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman — A Review

what-i-was-doing-travel-memoirWhat I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

“I wanted love, but I also wanted freedom and adventure, and those two desires fought like angry obese sumo wrestlers in the dojo of my soul.”

I think the above quote pretty well sums up this book. Newman longed for freedom and adventure and probably a little bit of escape from her single-girl life in L.A., and she found those things by vacationing anytime she had free time.

My initial reaction was that this was clearly written by a witty, hilarious, fun-loving person that it might be fun to attend a boring dinner party with. The further I read though, the more irritated I became with Kristin-Adjacent, Newman’s name for herself when she was on her travels. Now, I’m all for carpe dieming the shiz out of life, but for me the behavior described on these trips was just so foreign to me. I’m shy, an introvert, and I would much rather read or write on a beach or in a quaint coffee shop while on vacation than go out and meet new people or party/drink a lot. That’s just not my idea of a good time. So, what I had here was a real disconnect with the author of this book.

To be sure, Newman describes a lot of zany, fun adventures that most people would probably be envious of. I’m just not one of them. For this reason, I was bored while reading most of this memoir, left wondering what was the point of it all? I loved hearing about the various locales she visited — Argentina, Columbia, Russia, Israel, New Zealand, etc., and the various lessons learned. I just got a little non-plussed about the constant descriptions of drunken hook-ups. Again, just not my idea of a good time. ZERO judgement about it. I know some people really love to go out and meet people. I’m an awkward home-body 🙂 .

Toward the end of the memoir Newman really shifted gears (because she was growing up, duh!), and the focus became much more about personal development and creating real and honest relationships with other people. That’s when I started to care a bit more. The last bit of the book is really tender and sweet, and I’m so happy that it ended the way it did.

I think people who are very into adventure and meeting new people/living vicariously through a clearly vivacious and fun-loving character will love this. It’s probably not a great book to read while on vacation lest it make your vacay pale in comparison.

I read this as part of the 2017 Read Harder Challenge. This memoir fulfills #8, “Read a travel memoir”.

2017 Read Harder Challenge Stats: 4/24

Happy reading!

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson — A Review

devilinwhitecityThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

Harrumph!

Okay, my initial reaction was, “OOoooo, I think I really like this!” But then a few days passed, and now I’m leaning more toward, “Umm, this really isn’t non-fiction.” :/

Now, I don’t typically read non-fiction. I spent the better part of a decade immersed in academia only to come out of it as an academic librarian. My whole day is consumed by research, problem solving, and technical jargon. So, when I read I lean toward YA fantasy, so as not to overtax my already overtaxed brain.

That said, the academician lurking in my breast just can’t be satisfied with this. It’s too speculative. It’s too fabricated to truly call itself non-fiction. Larson did an AMAZING amount of research, and I believe he strung together two different narratives — the creation of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, Chicago and the horrifying story of Dr. H. H. Holmes and his “Murder Castle” — fairly well. BUT. He inserts himself too much into the facts of these events, giving people gestures and thoughts and motivations that can’t possibly be verified. Frequently I found myself withdrawing from the book because he would state that so-and-so felt a certain way or must have thought a certain thing.

I’ve been trained to eschew this type of speculation from my academic (non-fiction) writing, but Larson’s book runs rampant with it. Unfortunately for me, the more I think about it the less happy I am with the book.

I will say this in Larson’s favor, this is the only “non-fiction” book I have read quickly and thoroughly that was not required reading for my studies or my profession. So, kudos for that! Also, I will likely try one more of his books. I find his writing style compelling just not convincing or academically rigorous.

This book was the January read with the group Diversity in All Forms on Goodreads.

Stay tuned for a review of our February read, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Fail to the Chief by W. T. Fallon — A Review

failtochiefFail to the Chief by W.T. Fallon

My rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

Seriously Laugh Out Loud funny! OMG, I don’t know if Fallon is psychic or just more in tune with the ridiculous nature of humanity than the rest of us. This is a must read. After the recent election events, I’m sure readers will get an eery spine tickling feeling while reading this.

My favorite character, hands down, is Bryan Seafoam…poor guy. Give it a go guys!

For readers who like political satire and who are so terrified at current events that they need a good laugh to get them going again.

*laugh-cry emoji*

I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer — A Review

treeofcodesTree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3cup-of-coffee3

“Reality is as thin as paper. Only the small section immediately before us is able to endure.”

It feels wrong somehow to give this book a rating. It is highly conceptual — a narrative derived from removing parts of another work. Safran Foer achieved this surreal and architectural feat by erasing chunks from his favorite book, The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. Literally whole chunks are missing from the work so that when you look at the first page you can see bits and pieces of the rest of the work through the holes.

Many passages gave me the same untethered and slightly mad feeling I had when I read Charlotte Perkins Gillman‘s The Yellow Wallpaper. Though I don’t believe madness, at least not of that sort, has anything to do with this story. Essentially, this is a narrative about a man’s death, but I don’t think anyone who has read it would say that is all that this is. It hints at worlds beyond sight and touch. It alludes to life after death. And amidst it all, there is such a sense of pain and suffering and some great something left unspoken.

I’m afraid I don’t possess the necessary language to express how profound this book feels. I’m also afraid it may be slightly outside of my intellectual grasp.

Safran Foer has achieved something remarkable here, and everyone should at least give it a peek.

****

I read this work as part of the Read Harder Challenge 2017. It serves as my challenge #21, “Read a book published by a micropress.” Okay, so my copy wasn’t published by a micropress but I read somewhere that it originally was, so, ummm, shhh!

Dudes I’m Sorry

I’m failing at life right now, and it’s #NaNoWriMo so it’s unlikely I’ll be posting any reviews this month.

I’ll try I swear! But, ya know, don’t hold me to it.

❤ ya!

liz-lemon-wtf-life

The Mine by John A. Heldt — A Review

the mineThe Mine by John A. Heldt

RaeleighReads rating: cup-of-coffee3

DNF at 47%

I don’t typically review books I DNF. I even have a statement to that effect in my review policy. That said, I’ve been hung up on this one book since the end of August, and it’s been keeping me from writing reviews of other books, so I felt compelled to write a little PSA.

The reason I kept putting this novel down:  sexism. The reason I kept picking it back up: I hate not finishing things.

Now, I realize that the majority of the book is set in the 1940’s, so, different time, different place, different culture. Whatever. The main character, however, is from THIS century, and he’s a grade-A douche.

From page one I thought I had fallen into a mini frat party with 2-D bros. Not only were these 2-D characters employed as the main duo, but they themselves reduced all female characters to a summary of their features. THEN, one bro mysteriously ends up in the 1940s and barely bats an eye. I’m supposed to understand that he just floats through life anyhow, so it’s perfectly acceptable for him to time travel and not be affected. Errrm, k?

I can’t figure out if this author really dislikes women, or if he’s just so out of touch with them that he can’t write convincing female characters (dear gods, the dialogue) OR convincing male/female interactions. Passages like this one (after Joel has chased down a foul baseball for Grace (the blonde) — she didn’t ask him to btw– and he has been caught scaling the fence back into the baseball stadium by a security guard. Grace decides not to acknowledge that Joel is her companion or that he has a ticket so the guard is hauling him off):

Joel glanced over his shoulder at the blonde. He couldn’t believe she had abandoned him like a feral dog. He had risked his neck getting that ball. Talk about ingratitude. He remembered something Adam had told him their freshman year. Trust no woman.

She’s ungrateful? Because you were a show-off and she didn’t respond how you wanted her to? Ugh *rolls eyes*. Oh, and Adam and that freshman year he’s referring to, that was around 1996 — not in the 1940s. These gendered blanket statements seriously need to just stop.

The above passage is fairly benign in and of itself, but in combination with all 44% of the book in front of it, it was the last straw. In the end, I found it too exhausting to keep banging my head up against the wall of sexism, and had to say no thanks. I can’t really even say that the writing was compelling or interesting or that the premise was well executed because those were problems as well. 11/22/63 by Steven King was published in 2011 (The Mine was first published in 2012), and I couldn’t help but draw some comparisons. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ King’s book? Much better execution.

Unless you are over the age of 50 and a white male (or completely out of touch with modern movements of inclusion and feminism), you’re probably going to want to skip this one.

If you’re interested in some moment-to-moment thoughts I had on this book, I posted some status updates (complete with GIFS!) on Goodreads. You can check those out here.

I received a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday Quotables

Technically it’s Monday; I know. The long weekend has me a bit thrown off, but here’s a Sunday Quotable for you, on this lovely Monday morning. It’s a little snippet from Edna St. Vincent Millay that holds a lot of meaning for me — it’s been a crazy few months.

Here’s to those of us who are always burning our candles at both ends. Cheers!

my candle burns at both ends