Books: December Wrap-Up

Okay, I have dwindled my thumbs enough – time to sit down and be done with it. Here is what I read in December – not as much as in November by any account, but still enough. I was pretty busy in December and I couldn’t devote a lot of …

My Year in Books – 2015

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Here is my reading year at GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/year_in_books/2015/3155103

I started my reading challenge in July and set a goal of 20 books. But I went far and beyond and finished the year at 70 books and 18,158 pages! Wow! I do hope that 2016 will be as good! I set up the goal of 70 books since this is what I already attained once.

My bro and I have been challenging each other as to who would read more books every year. And every year during that past 7-8 years, he always won.

Well, in 2015 I finally won! For the very first time! 🙂 Even though I came very close once or twice 😉 Need to mention that he used to read way more than me (150-200 books a year) but now he has no time with his job, and I managed to beat him 🙂

I am excited about all the books I plan to read in 2016!

Book review: Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

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This review is long overdue. I admit, I have been putting off writing it as I had, and still have, very conflicted feelings about this book. Every booktuber I watched seemed to be madly in love with it. Its GoodReads ratio at the time of writing this post is 4.29 which a lot and much higher than some of my favourite books.

I will have to divide my review into part: what I liked and what I didn’t. Naturally, it is my opinion, and if you liked the book – good for you.

When I saw this book hauled by several booktubers after BAE, I got really excited as it seemed to be a very interestingly put together book. I was under impression that it is a stand alone novel, so imagine my surprise when I learned that it is book one in The Illiminae Files series. (It was not mentioned by any of the reviewers and I found it out from the summary on the inside of the jacket.)

I am not going to summarize the book for you but I am just going to say that this book turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for me.

No real spoilers ahead, unless you would prefer to know nothing about the book.

What I liked:

  • the format and the way the narrative is constructed which is the main and the best thing about this book – I have read books that incorporate lists, letters, emails, texts, etc in the narrative, but this is the first time this is a book constructed as a dossier/files and there is no traditional narration.
  • the cover (which is really part of the above point) and the dust jacket are the work of art.
  • an epic space ships battle which reminded me of Star Trek and Star Wars and I haven’t read any books like that in awhile.
  • the twist at the end made it worth pulling through the remaining 100 pages or so which were so boring.

What I disliked:

  • the plot is very simple; it can essentially be summarized in a paragraph and if it weren’t for the unique narrative that stretched the book to 599 pages (and that’s enormous for YA), the book would have been at least twice shorter.
  • there is little to no backstory to the relationship between Kady and Ezra, as the book starts with their break up, so it was really difficult for me to sympathize with their relationship. I basically felt nothing. Their “love you”s didn’t feel real.
  • once again due to the format of the book I felt that we were not given an opportunity to properly get to know the characters, and although it is not uncommon to learn things about characters through other characters’ perspective, I felt that we were not given enough to develop real attachment to them.
  • there is a lot of swearing in the book, that I have no problem with, but it is all blacked out or crossed out and it seriously was hurting my eyes and getting on my nerves. I do not enjoy excessive swearing, but I would have been okay with it, because all that crossing out was making my eyes cross.
  • deadly virus and bio weapons are cool plot devices, but I hate – and I mean that with a capital H – anything that has to do with zombies. I tend to avoid movies, tv shows, and books that have zombies in it, and finding out that in Illuminae this virus turns people into zombies became an unpleasant surprise for me. (I know, it is my personal preference, and I know a lot of people who love zombies, but I just can’t handle the topic! The thought of being overcome with a virus that turns you into a killing machine that is not possible to reason with disgusts me. I am interested in themes of people using their humanity in other ways.) I am quite glad that it was a book and I didn’t have to watch it on screen.
  • I felt that the narrative was a bit disjointed which made it hard for me to lose myself in the book. I tried. I honestly did. But I kept being distracted by the form.
  • I felt that the unique form of the book was taking my attention from the plot, and at times it felt as if I am reading a graphic novel.
  • The ending had a great twist, but what led to it, and some decisions and actions of the characters, as well as some plot turns felt a bit flat to me, a bit undeveloped (but once again it is hard to expect depth and development in the book that barely has any text in it).

As you can see, I have more things that I didn’t like about this book (which is basically most of the plot) than what I liked (which is the format of the book). If I could give a separate rating, I’d rate plot as 3 stars and the format as 5 stars. I still don’t know what to do with the overall rating as I enjoyed the book but it disappointed me in several ways (I am quite glad I got it from the library and didn’t buy it). I am conflicted as to what I should put for it on GoodReads, as 3 stars is not fair and 4 stars is way too high (I think GoodReads should have half stars – it is so hard to rate books there!).

This book would definitely appeal to reads who haven’t read good classic sci-fi novels and are new to the genre. It would also appeal to those who have never read a book that incorporates other media (photos, lists, emails, etc). It definitely deserves a read at least for the novelty’s sake.

But if you are like me, who both prefers fleshed out narrative and hates zombies, pick up something else.

Will I be reading more books in the series? Maybe, when they become available at my library. They won’t be high on my reading list though.

Overall rating: 3.5 stars

November Wrap-Up Video!

Yes, I created a new video!

Took me ages, because iMovie is experiencing a glitch with photos import. I did figure out new tricks in it though, that should make editing way quicker.

Not perfect, but I think I am getting a bit better 😉

Next video will be an unboxing video! And and actual video.

My full review/ November blog post is here.

Book review: More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

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Personal rating: 5 stars

Nothing could have prepared me for this book. In spite of a promising title, it turned out to be more real and less happy than I expected it would. There are a lot of coming of age (and coming out) stories out there right now in YA, but this one has a gritty and realistic feel to it that kept me nailed to the ground all the time. Poverty, drugs, violence, mental health, suicide, death – all of that is not sugar coated but that left out in the open as it is, forcing you to deal not only with the mounting affection that you feel towards the characters but also the gnawing worry that this story may not have a happy ending.

In the internet talk of nowadays, the books gave me THE FEELS.

And I am okay with that. I am okay with recurring “no homo” catch phrase (which usually makes my eyes bleed); with the violence and pain; with futuristic “magic pill” that will make you forget who you are and the reasons WHY you needed to forget in the first place; with the fact that my heart started to disintegrate piece by piece from the page one – to the point that by the end of the book I was ready to sign up for a Leteo procedure myself.

This book is not what it seems at first glance. It is deeper, more touching, more serious, more personal. Don’t let those smiley faces fool you. You will crying by the end of it, whether you want it or not.

Well done, Adam! I can’t wait to read more books by you.

p.s. I got this book from the library, because I wanted to read a hard copy, even though I got an ebook copy on Kindle when it was on sale some time ago.

Books: November Wrap-Up & Reviews

I had an amazing reading month in November. I didn’t have a set TBR list for November. I got a lot of books from the library and simply tried my best to read them all. And I read  A LOT of books. Mostly due to the fact that I was sick for the majority of the month, even taking a couple of days off work, that allowed me to read more. (Although reading while being sick really sucks, let me tell ya.)

I split my list of read books into sections. The reviews will be at the bottom. This is going to be one hell of a post.

Books:

  1. Alex Gino “George”
  2. Kelley York “Made of Stars”
  3. Melissa Landers “Invaded”
  4. Alex London “Proxy”
  5. Alex London “Guardian”
  6. I.W. Gregorio “None of the Above”
  7. Nicola Yoon “Everything, Everything”
  8. Rainbow Rowell “Fangirl”

E-books:

  1. R.G. Alexander “Curious”
  2. Bonnie Dee “The Tutor”
  3. Laura Harner “Continental Divide (Separate Ways, #1)”
  4. E.M. Lindsey “Time and Tide”

Graphic novels:

  1. East of West, Vol. 1: The Promise by Jonathan Hickman
  2. East of West, Vol. 2: We Are All One by Jonathan Hickman
  3. East of West, Vol. 3: There Is No Us by Jonathan Hickman
  4. Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
  5. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  6. Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy (Lumberjanes, #1-4) by Noelle Stevenson
  7. Blue is the Warmest Colour by Julie Maroh
  8. The less than epic adventures of TJ and Amal vol. 1 Poor boys and pilgrims by E.K. Weaver
  9. Emily Carroll “Through the Woods”

Books re-read:

  1. Marie Sexton “Promises”
  2. Marie Sexton “Strawberries for Dessert”
  3. Sue Brown “Nothing Ever Happens”

So, if my math skills do not deceive me, in the month of November I read 24 books. Holy moly! That’s definitely way more than I expected! Granted, a huge part of those were short ebooks and graphic novels, but still! I don’t think I will ever be able to beat that.

Okay, onto reviews then. All of these are posted on my GoodReads page, so I am only going to post reviews of books and graphic novels and will skip ebooks and books I’ve read before.

Reviews:

“George” by Alex Gino

Personal rating: 4 stars

I read this book in one go. It has less than 200 pages with huge font and it a middle grade novel.

I liked it. I think it is great that the author touches upon a topic of gender identity in a middle grade novel. Reading it, I couldn’t help by sympathize with George. I think that her voice was very prominent and well defined.

I am happy that such books exist nowadays.

“Made of Stars” by Kelley York

Personal rating: 5 stars

You know there are some books that you finish reading and then next day you still keep thinking about it? For me it was “Made of Stars”. (Where has this book been before?? Why haven’t I read it sooner??)

This is a contemporary/suspense YA novel, that tells the story of three friends (a boy and his half sister and their friend, whom they see once a year during summer). One summer they all meet again, and things change. And their feelings change too.

Hunter and Ashlin start noticing the lies Chance is telling them and things he is NOT telling them. They start questioning things he says and does.

And then a murder happens.

It is not exactly a murder mystery, but the book has a very strong suspense undercurrent. I don’t want to say anything or I might spoil the ending, but let’s just say that I spent the last 20% of the book dreading what was about to happen while knowing that it would probably happen. Basically, I was just sitting here and yelling “NO!” a lot.

I couldn’t put it down.

The ending was like a sucker punch. Have you read Allegiant by Veronica Roth? Remember THAT? Well, THAT thing in Allegiant gave me the same feeling as this book. Remember, how at some point in Allegiant (just by the way the POV is switched) you could totally tell that THIS was going to happen? Same thing here.

I spent some time trying to think of what might happen next, if there is hope, if there is any way that it could not have ended in so much heartbreak.

But no, there was no other way.

I both heartbroken and in awe with what the author did to my poor heart. It was painful and amazing.

I want more. I am definitely putting Kelley York on my list of favourite authors.

“Invaded” by Melissa Landers

Personal rating: 3.75 stars

(SOME MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!)

I read Alienated in September and was quite excited to get ahold of Invaded quite easily (I landed a copy from the library and it was a new copy which is a rarity at times).

I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed Alienated. For one thing, I really liked Cara’s blog, which was barely there in Invaded, as well as her sense of humour (overall the novel felt more serious in tone than Alienated). The romance between her and Aelyx still ran true but Melissa used pretty much the same trick as in Alienated: creating a rift between them, only to bring them back together followed by a dramatic event. It felt rather boring to read the same plot twist in the second novel.

I did like the intrigue that was happening in both worlds, as well as depiction of L’eihr and its traditions, but I felt as if the first part of the book dragged a bit.

There was one character whom I really liked and who died, which really annoyed me, because it could have been avoided (seeing as other major characters are always saved by deus ex machina). This death affected another character, who has already been through a lot. I feel as if this was done for the sake of drama and it felt a bit cheap to me.

I feel like there might be a third novel. Invaded does not end with an obvious cliffhanger than Alienated had, but still there are some things that were left unresolved. The problem is that I am not sure how Melissa can create the third novel without making it even more boring. Will I be reading it? Perhaps, but it won’t be high on my list.

“Proxy” and “Guardian” by Alex London

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Personal rating: 3.75

I couldn’t wait to pick up this book. I heard great things about it. I can’t say that I was disappointed but I wish my expectations hadn’t been set so high. It is a great dystopian YA novel, with a unique world, but at times it felt as if it lacked depth, and some of the characters’ actions didn’t make much sense. There was a lot of talk about feelings and decisions, but I think that the author described things instead of *showing* them.

I did like the characters and I love the fact that this book had a main gay character, who was essentially “the chosen one”.

Some events in this book didn’t make much sense, but the ending had a good twist. And it made me a bit sad too. You will know why. (I would have preferred a different punch line at the end, as it felt a bit weak, but over all it was ok.)

Guardian

Personal rating: 4 stars

I think that this book is stronger than “Proxy”. It is better written and it has more plot twists. I did enjoy both the relationships (a budding romance) between the characters and the main intrigue. I also liked how it was shown how “the chosen one”, ex-proxy, was dealing with his fame.

The resolution of the moral peril in which the characters found themselves felt a bit too “deus ex machina”, but I did like the ending. One might say, it is too open, or even a cliffhanger, but I enjoyed it.

Can’t say this book is going to be high on my “re-read list” but it was enjoyable. I would love to read more dystopian YA with main queer characters.

“None of the Above” by I.W. Gregorio

Personal rating: 3.75 stars

I enjoyed the book because it is rather different from all other YA which is readily available on the market. It is the first book with an intersex character that I have ever read. I liked the book. I didn’t love it though. I feel that it was more educational than anything else, as the plot was rather predictable (discovering herself, friends turning enemies, bullying at school, therapy) and some twists made me feel rather sad.

I liked Kristin. I liked that she is an athlete, she is a runner. I liked how her struggle to come to terms with her diagnosis was described. What I didn’t like was how predictable everything else was (her boyfriend, her friends’ reaction, etc).

I still recommend this book. It has to be read at least for the educational purposes. I feel that it was a bit overhyped for me in terms of the plot though.

“Everything, Everything” by Nicola Yoon

personal rating: 4.5 stars

This book deserves all the love and hype surrounding it! It is a very cute story about a girl who is allergic to everything. One day, a new family moves into a nearby house and she befriends their son.

I liked everything about this book. The way it is written. The fact that it is interrupted by illustrations and notes written by Madeline. The fact that this book has some similarities to “The Fault In Our Stars” but only it is way better and lighter and happier. (And also, HAWAII!)

The characters are unique and have very distinctive voices. I loved both Madeline and Olly. I loved the setting of the book. I loved all the descriptions.

I also loved the twist and the way the story resolved itself, even though I did suspect something like this would happen. (It also quite unexpectedly resonated with my own experience, which was a bit surprising.)

Can’t say more but this book gave me rather happy, warm and fuzzy feeling. Even though it mostly about illness. Nicola Yoon has achieved something that John Green failed to do for me.

Read it. You will love it.

“Fangirl” by Rainbow Rowell

Personal rating: 5 stars

I thought this book was overhyped on booktube. I thought I wouldn’t like it. I thought it was something like “shopaholic” novels.

I was so wrong!

This book is fantastic. It is well written, it has amazing characters and a very sweet romance. I loved Cath. She is very relatable. Levi is a sweetheart (I was rooting for him the whole book!). Wren is something. Reagan is something else altogether.

And Cath’s father, Art, is adorable. (I have a soft spot for him. Because I don’t know how you can NOT. It is probably the first time ever I feel so strongly about a secondary character.)

I don’t even know how to express how much I loved this book (which can be confirmed by the fact that I ordered my own copy online while being only 50 pages into the library copy). It is everything my life is and is not, but potentially can be. This book made me feel less embarrassed about being “a fangirl”. It also gave me a strong urge to write.

This book was so good, and so well written, that I want to read it again.

Also I need “Carry On” like RIGHT NOW.


All of other reviews you can read on my GoodReads page, as I don’t want to make this post longer than necessary. I do want to point out that Nimona, Lumberjanes, Adventures of TJ and Amal, and Through the Woods are my favourite graphic novels of the month, while Blue is the Warmest Colour is the least favourite.

Let me know what you think!

 

Books: August-October Book Haul

Okay, so I admit, I have a book buying problem. At least now, I am mostly buying from bargain book shops, like BookOutlet, which means that I am spending a tiny bit less.

I got Andrew Smith’s “Wringler” and “100 Sideways Miles” and David Levithan’s “Another Day” from BookOutlet. When I went to Word On The Street book festival, I saw “Stand Off” being sold and I just had to get it. It was 20% off but still rather expensive as it is a hardback.

I already owned a copy of Scott Lynch’s “Lies of Locke Lamora” (book 1) as a pocket paperback, but when I saw this edition, which is bigger and nicer for only $5 at Indigo, I couldn’t resist myself.

After watching “The Danish Girl” movie at TIFF, I got really excited when I found out that it is based not only on a true story, but there is a book by David Ebershoff. I went to Indigo hoping to find a movie tie-in edition, but there was none. So I got myself this Penguin books edition. (As I am typing this in December, the movie tie-in edition did come out, which annoys me as I would have preferred to own a copy with with Eddie Redmayne on it.)

I love Katherine Kurtz books. She is a high fantasy writer and most of her books came out in 80-90s. I read Deryni series when I was a teen and they still remain my favourite high fantasy series ever. I am rather sad that only the first trilogy was ever re-published. I own almost all of her books (since some of them are out of print and I basically have to hunt for missing copies in bargain/used books), all of them mass paperback/pocket editions. But when I saw this hardcover copy for less than $5 at the BMV, I just had to get it. It is in a very good condition too! (I plan to do a bargain books/high fantasy books haul some time later.)

Right before my trip, I decided, on a whim, to buy more books. So I got “Me, Earl, and the dying girl” (even though I promised myself that I am not reading any more books like “The Fault in Our Stars”) and “Will Grayson Will Grayson”, which I tried to read once before but never finished (it was an audiobook in fact, I believe).

When I came back, I got my pre-order from Amazon with Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette “The Apprentice to Elves” and Welcome To Night Vale, both of which I was really excited to get.

I haven’t started reading any of these books yet, except for WTNV novel, which I had to put on hold, as I got too many library books that I need to go through first.

Books: October wrap-up

I started writing down my November reading post and suddenly  realized that I forgot to post the list of books I read in October. Oops! My excuse is that I was away for 3 weeks in October and when I got back it was almost November.

While I put together a small number of books that I planned to bring with me on vacation, besides my Kindle, but for better or worse I forgot to pack them! (I think it was actually for the better as I had a huge suitcase as it was.)

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(This was supposed to be my October TBR, but alas!)

I didn’t read much in October and I am surprised I read as much as I did. I did catch up with some ARCs, so that was good. All of the reviews are available on my GoodReads page – https://www.goodreads.com/fox-rain.

Here is the list:

  1. Picture (Im)perfect by  Frankel, J.S. (novella, romance, 3/5 stars)
  2. Spanish Bay by  Hirschi, Hans M.  (m/m romance, 2/5 stars)
  3. Deadly Messengers by Susan May (mystery, 4/5 stars)
  4. Stranger in the Wizard’s Tower by McNish, Deric (fantasy, m/m, 3.75/5 stars)

I have a feeling that I might have read more, but I am not sure right now. Out of all ARCs “Deadly Messengers” is definitely the best one.

My first ever video!

Back in August I decided to try my hand at video editing. Obviously, I know nothing about it, and I used iMovie for the first time in my life, but I created something! And today I finally finished it and posted to YouTube (insert an image of me running around in panic).

This is my TBR/reading progress video for August. Naturally, I posted my August wrap-up back in September, but I thought I might still share this video. Do not judge me harshly – I am very new to this 😉

And yes it is a stop motion video! Because I wanted to create one in a long time.