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Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week's topic: Top Ten Books that were hard for me to read. For various reasons

1. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler - Excellent book, a brutal/honest portrayal of what life was like for a slave. No white savior nonsense here.
2. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce - I borrowed this from my English major sister the summer before I started HS. Did not know what I was getting into.
3. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf - I like Woolf, but this one's more opaque than say, Mrs. Dalloway. Wrote a college term paper digging out meaning.
4. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - I chose this for a read-a-thon because it's short and that was a mistake. James's sentences tend to be labyrinthine, though interesting.
5. American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis - I get it's a satire, but the sheer volume of misogyny-soaked violence turned my stomach.
6. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton - The only book I read for school I straight up hated.
7. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - The best dystopia, in my opinion, but terrifying in its plausibility.
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez - another book I borrowed from my sister many years ago, I feel a lot of this went over my head. I should re-read it, I'd get more out of it now that I'm more familiar with magical realism.

9. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - This book almost defeated me due to sheer length, though it's very readable. Also it's uneven: everything with Marian is awesome gothic goodness, Walter is a boring drip.
10. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - I loved this more than I thought I would, but I read it bit by bit over two months, setting it aside for other books whenever  descriptions of Levin's in-depth love of farming  got too boring but always picking it up again. 

Monday, September 29, 2014
Rooms
By Lauren Oliver

Published by Ecco
Publication Date: September 23, 2014
Copy received from: Publisher at BEA
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

The New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy makes her brilliant adult debut with this mesmerizing story in the tradition of The Lovely Bones, Her Fearful Symmetry, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane—a tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways

Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.

But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.

The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.


Elegantly constructed and brilliantly paced, Rooms is an enticing and imaginative ghost story and a searing family drama that is as haunting as it is resonant.

Review: This melancholy gothic tale features ghosts, and uncanny happenings, but the horrors are very much based in reality. The ghosts are not what the Walker family is primarily haunted by, it’s the horror and disappointments in their lives.. A sense of sadness permeates the novel as characters, both living and dead, are forced to reveal their secrets and deal with their grief, not only over death, but the loss of innocence, love, potential, and hope. Loneliness is also prevalent, whether the loneliness of death or the loneliness that comes from holding in a terrible secret.

        One of my favorite aspects of this story is the structure: the novel is divided into sections each featuring a room of the house. Over the course of this section, the characters, whether the remaining members of the Walker family or the two ghostly former residents, confront the memories of events that have taken place in that room, things they have kept hidden from their loved ones or refused to admit, even to themselves. Be warned: suicide, domestic abuse, and child molestation are all included in the house’s history.

       As far as the characters inhabiting this haunted house, I can’t say I found them likable but I did empathize with their grief and understood their various ways of coping. They have all been hurt by life and, when it comes to the Walker family, this damage has prevented them from connecting with each other. Even the ghost characters felt very real, flawed in a way that doesn’t leave much room for likability but is interesting and honest.

I do have one or two nitpicks: one being the teen girl character that appears out of nowhere so that Trenton has someone outside of the house to interact with, the second being the suddenness with which some later revelations are made: to the point where I was wondering if my ARC was missing pages. But these are minor, and on the whole I found this story engaging. There are no easy solutions to the Walker family’s problems, but they do unburden themselves of the weight of what’s haunting them and there is a sort of catharsis. A definite recommended read for those looking for a more contemplative haunted house story.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week's topic: Top Ten Books on My Fall Reading List

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - This buzzed about literary dystopia is on the long list for the National Book Award and is just what I like to read.
2. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters - I'm a fan of Waters's writing and want to give her new book a try.
3. Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson - a YA thriller starring POC, a must read.
4. The Young Elites by Marie Lu - the author described the main character as "Darth Vader or Magneto as a teenage girl". Sold.

5. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield - this author can be hit or miss for me, but the meta nature of the plot drew me in.
6. Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero - I'm in the mood for a good old fashioned haunted house story and the cover is gorgeous
7. Belzar by Meg Wolitzer - I'm interested in how Wolitzer writes YA as well as the book's relationship to The Bell Jar
8. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins - Saving this for Dewey's Readathon.

9. The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock  by Lucy Worsley - 'tis the season for nonfiction about MURDER
10. The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp - This looks like lots of fun. 

Of course, this is the top ten of at least forty books I want to read this fall. The TBR is never ending :)
Unmade (Lynburn Legacy #3)
by Sarah Rees Brennan

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Copy received from: Purchased
My Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.


This final book in the Lynburn Legacy is a wild, entertaining ride from beginning to shocking end.

Review:  After absolutely loving my time in Sorry-in-the-Vale in Unspoken and Untold, I had high expectations for this conclusion. Kami and co. are back and are charming and complex as ever, the story resolves its interpersonal drama in a satisfying way, and Kami gets many opportunities to prove she is a hero of a journalist. On the strength of its characters alone I quite like Unmade, but I do have some reservations regarding its plot.

As mentioned, Kami, always an active character, really steps up in this novel. Her refusal to go along with Rob Lynburn’s murderous plans for the town (unlike the vast majority of its citizens) makes her and her loved ones a target, but she never backs down from doing what she believes is right and always has a plan. She takes the initiative when it comes to her relationship with Jared too, making a decision and acting on it. That doesn’t mean things are resolved simply though. For two people who shared a mind link for most of their lives, they sure cause a lot of drama based on miscommunication. Ash is still a factor as well: moping around like a professional third wheel, sorcerer-style. Angela, Holly, and Rusty all have roles to play (besides simply being awesome) and my personal favorite character, Kami’s dad Jon Glass, nearly saves the town in one quick move (that he doesn’t, and that it could be as simple as that, is one of my issues with the plot).

This story tends to the darker side of fantasy, with torture, murder, and the endangerment of small children all a factor, but the jokes never stop flowing with Rees Brennan’s signature charming humor and world play. The atmosphere of the novel wants to suggest no one is safe, and there is tragedy that is, dare I say it, Whedonesque. The novel succeeded in getting me invested in these characters and giving me a need to know their fate.

Now for my issue: a large part of this novel hinges on the Big Bad, Rob Lynburn, simply not bothering much about the heroes. He’s overpowered., except when he’s not, and it’s all very arbitrary. He and his evil sorcerer gang knows exactly where everyone lives in the small town that no one tries to leave, and no one makes any real attempts to hide either. Kami, Jared, and the rest of the crew are in and out of the supposedly impenetrable evil fortress of the Lynburn house so often a revolving door should’ve been installed.  On the side of evil there’s a lot of waiting around for the equinox to perform a sacrifice.  One the side of good there’s waiting around, discussing what they can do, having a party, and continuing to stay in obvious places waiting to be attacked until they finally are and it comes as a shock. These waiting periods allow lots of time for relationship drama. The action of the finale is extremely mystical and vaguely described, and I found one of the hero’s sacrifices frustrating, as it seemed less heroic than unnecessary and extraneous.

Despite those critiques I did like this novel and definitely recommend the series as a whole. It’s rare that I find a story with such a large group of well-rounded characters and complex relationships, let alone one that can induce such a spectrum of emotions; from laughter to tears, from swooning to biting your nails from the tension.

This gothic novel qualifies for RIP IX
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week's topic: Top Authors I've only read one book from but NEED to read more:

1. Sarah Beth Durst

I enjoyed The Lost and can't wait for the sequels The Missing, and The Found. I also have Conjured on my TBR, in addition to her new release Chasing Power.


2. Helen Oyeyemi                                                                                                                                      

Boy, Snow, Bird is a fascinating re-imagining of Snow White and one of my favorite books of 2014. I'm hoping to read White is for Witching sometime before Halloween for the RIP IX Challenge.

3. Lauren Oliver

I was drawn in by the melancholy gothic novel Rooms and I'd like to try her dystopian series Delirium

4. Sherry Thomas

After the highly entertaining The Burning Sky, I can't wait to get my hands on The Perilous Sea.

5. Jandy Nelson 

A highly original prose stylist, I need to give The Sky is Everywhere a try after devouring I'll Give You the Sun

6. Richelle Mead 

I've only read the first book in the Vampire Academy series. For shame. 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Hard Books Edition

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week's topic: Top Ten Books that were hard for me to read. For various reasons

1. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler - Excellent book, a brutal/honest portrayal of what life was like for a slave. No white savior nonsense here.
2. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce - I borrowed this from my English major sister the summer before I started HS. Did not know what I was getting into.
3. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf - I like Woolf, but this one's more opaque than say, Mrs. Dalloway. Wrote a college term paper digging out meaning.
4. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - I chose this for a read-a-thon because it's short and that was a mistake. James's sentences tend to be labyrinthine, though interesting.
5. American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis - I get it's a satire, but the sheer volume of misogyny-soaked violence turned my stomach.
6. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton - The only book I read for school I straight up hated.
7. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - The best dystopia, in my opinion, but terrifying in its plausibility.
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez - another book I borrowed from my sister many years ago, I feel a lot of this went over my head. I should re-read it, I'd get more out of it now that I'm more familiar with magical realism.

9. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - This book almost defeated me due to sheer length, though it's very readable. Also it's uneven: everything with Marian is awesome gothic goodness, Walter is a boring drip.
10. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - I loved this more than I thought I would, but I read it bit by bit over two months, setting it aside for other books whenever  descriptions of Levin's in-depth love of farming  got too boring but always picking it up again. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Rooms
By Lauren Oliver

Published by Ecco
Publication Date: September 23, 2014
Copy received from: Publisher at BEA
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

The New York Times bestselling author of Before I Fall and the Delirium trilogy makes her brilliant adult debut with this mesmerizing story in the tradition of The Lovely Bones, Her Fearful Symmetry, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane—a tale of family, ghosts, secrets, and mystery, in which the lives of the living and the dead intersect in shocking, surprising, and moving ways

Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family—bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna—have arrived for their inheritance.

But the Walkers are not alone. Prim Alice and the cynical Sandra, long dead former residents bound to the house, linger within its claustrophobic walls. Jostling for space, memory, and supremacy, they observe the family, trading barbs and reminiscences about their past lives. Though their voices cannot be heard, Alice and Sandra speak through the house itself—in the hiss of the radiator, a creak in the stairs, the dimming of a light bulb.

The living and dead are each haunted by painful truths that will soon surface with explosive force. When a new ghost appears, and Trenton begins to communicate with her, the spirit and human worlds collide—with cataclysmic results.


Elegantly constructed and brilliantly paced, Rooms is an enticing and imaginative ghost story and a searing family drama that is as haunting as it is resonant.

Review: This melancholy gothic tale features ghosts, and uncanny happenings, but the horrors are very much based in reality. The ghosts are not what the Walker family is primarily haunted by, it’s the horror and disappointments in their lives.. A sense of sadness permeates the novel as characters, both living and dead, are forced to reveal their secrets and deal with their grief, not only over death, but the loss of innocence, love, potential, and hope. Loneliness is also prevalent, whether the loneliness of death or the loneliness that comes from holding in a terrible secret.

        One of my favorite aspects of this story is the structure: the novel is divided into sections each featuring a room of the house. Over the course of this section, the characters, whether the remaining members of the Walker family or the two ghostly former residents, confront the memories of events that have taken place in that room, things they have kept hidden from their loved ones or refused to admit, even to themselves. Be warned: suicide, domestic abuse, and child molestation are all included in the house’s history.

       As far as the characters inhabiting this haunted house, I can’t say I found them likable but I did empathize with their grief and understood their various ways of coping. They have all been hurt by life and, when it comes to the Walker family, this damage has prevented them from connecting with each other. Even the ghost characters felt very real, flawed in a way that doesn’t leave much room for likability but is interesting and honest.

I do have one or two nitpicks: one being the teen girl character that appears out of nowhere so that Trenton has someone outside of the house to interact with, the second being the suddenness with which some later revelations are made: to the point where I was wondering if my ARC was missing pages. But these are minor, and on the whole I found this story engaging. There are no easy solutions to the Walker family’s problems, but they do unburden themselves of the weight of what’s haunting them and there is a sort of catharsis. A definite recommended read for those looking for a more contemplative haunted house story.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall Reading List

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week's topic: Top Ten Books on My Fall Reading List

1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - This buzzed about literary dystopia is on the long list for the National Book Award and is just what I like to read.
2. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters - I'm a fan of Waters's writing and want to give her new book a try.
3. Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson - a YA thriller starring POC, a must read.
4. The Young Elites by Marie Lu - the author described the main character as "Darth Vader or Magneto as a teenage girl". Sold.

5. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield - this author can be hit or miss for me, but the meta nature of the plot drew me in.
6. Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero - I'm in the mood for a good old fashioned haunted house story and the cover is gorgeous
7. Belzar by Meg Wolitzer - I'm interested in how Wolitzer writes YA as well as the book's relationship to The Bell Jar
8. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins - Saving this for Dewey's Readathon.

9. The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock  by Lucy Worsley - 'tis the season for nonfiction about MURDER
10. The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp - This looks like lots of fun. 

Of course, this is the top ten of at least forty books I want to read this fall. The TBR is never ending :)

Review: Unmade (Lynburn Legacy #3) by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unmade (Lynburn Legacy #3)
by Sarah Rees Brennan

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Copy received from: Purchased
My Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.


This final book in the Lynburn Legacy is a wild, entertaining ride from beginning to shocking end.

Review:  After absolutely loving my time in Sorry-in-the-Vale in Unspoken and Untold, I had high expectations for this conclusion. Kami and co. are back and are charming and complex as ever, the story resolves its interpersonal drama in a satisfying way, and Kami gets many opportunities to prove she is a hero of a journalist. On the strength of its characters alone I quite like Unmade, but I do have some reservations regarding its plot.

As mentioned, Kami, always an active character, really steps up in this novel. Her refusal to go along with Rob Lynburn’s murderous plans for the town (unlike the vast majority of its citizens) makes her and her loved ones a target, but she never backs down from doing what she believes is right and always has a plan. She takes the initiative when it comes to her relationship with Jared too, making a decision and acting on it. That doesn’t mean things are resolved simply though. For two people who shared a mind link for most of their lives, they sure cause a lot of drama based on miscommunication. Ash is still a factor as well: moping around like a professional third wheel, sorcerer-style. Angela, Holly, and Rusty all have roles to play (besides simply being awesome) and my personal favorite character, Kami’s dad Jon Glass, nearly saves the town in one quick move (that he doesn’t, and that it could be as simple as that, is one of my issues with the plot).

This story tends to the darker side of fantasy, with torture, murder, and the endangerment of small children all a factor, but the jokes never stop flowing with Rees Brennan’s signature charming humor and world play. The atmosphere of the novel wants to suggest no one is safe, and there is tragedy that is, dare I say it, Whedonesque. The novel succeeded in getting me invested in these characters and giving me a need to know their fate.

Now for my issue: a large part of this novel hinges on the Big Bad, Rob Lynburn, simply not bothering much about the heroes. He’s overpowered., except when he’s not, and it’s all very arbitrary. He and his evil sorcerer gang knows exactly where everyone lives in the small town that no one tries to leave, and no one makes any real attempts to hide either. Kami, Jared, and the rest of the crew are in and out of the supposedly impenetrable evil fortress of the Lynburn house so often a revolving door should’ve been installed.  On the side of evil there’s a lot of waiting around for the equinox to perform a sacrifice.  One the side of good there’s waiting around, discussing what they can do, having a party, and continuing to stay in obvious places waiting to be attacked until they finally are and it comes as a shock. These waiting periods allow lots of time for relationship drama. The action of the finale is extremely mystical and vaguely described, and I found one of the hero’s sacrifices frustrating, as it seemed less heroic than unnecessary and extraneous.

Despite those critiques I did like this novel and definitely recommend the series as a whole. It’s rare that I find a story with such a large group of well-rounded characters and complex relationships, let alone one that can induce such a spectrum of emotions; from laughter to tears, from swooning to biting your nails from the tension.

This gothic novel qualifies for RIP IX

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Authors I"ve Only Read One Book From

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week's topic: Top Authors I've only read one book from but NEED to read more:

1. Sarah Beth Durst

I enjoyed The Lost and can't wait for the sequels The Missing, and The Found. I also have Conjured on my TBR, in addition to her new release Chasing Power.


2. Helen Oyeyemi                                                                                                                                      

Boy, Snow, Bird is a fascinating re-imagining of Snow White and one of my favorite books of 2014. I'm hoping to read White is for Witching sometime before Halloween for the RIP IX Challenge.

3. Lauren Oliver

I was drawn in by the melancholy gothic novel Rooms and I'd like to try her dystopian series Delirium

4. Sherry Thomas

After the highly entertaining The Burning Sky, I can't wait to get my hands on The Perilous Sea.

5. Jandy Nelson 

A highly original prose stylist, I need to give The Sky is Everywhere a try after devouring I'll Give You the Sun

6. Richelle Mead 

I've only read the first book in the Vampire Academy series. For shame.