Book Review: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic

This cover is horrible. Seriously, when I saw it, I thought the book was published in the 80s. WHAT WAS YOUR GRAPHIC ARTIST THINKING, YO.

This cover is horrible. Seriously, when I saw it, I thought the book was published in the 80s. WHAT WAS YOUR GRAPHIC ARTIST THINKING, YO.

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her “real life” against the dangerous power of love and magic.

This book was recommended to me by one of my oh-so-awesome penpals (no, WordPress, I do NOT mean pencils…as I’ve spent 5 minutes trying to give a cease and desist letter to your autocorrect)! I’ve been on a real fantasy kick lately and she provided some spot-on recs…like Sabriel.

I was instantly doubtful of The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic. However, I am happy to report that the actual reading improved the impression I had drawn based on the cover (gag) and title (odd). Overall I’m giving it 3.5 stars…I am leaning towards 4, but…the sheer length of it is taking a half star off for me. I don’t mind longer books, as I read faster than average…but honestly this one could have been edited a little better, starting with less scenes of boring medieval castle chores. The writing itself is of excellent quality, I have no complaints whatsoever! Emily Barker has created a colorful world peopled with interesting characters. I finished it in about 3 days, despite the staggering 570 pages!

 

I’m a sucker for any books that have to do with books or bookish people, and Nora’s grad school/literary critic/teacher occupation intrigued me. Her personal life woes in the beginning are oh-so-very first world, but thankfully we don’t spend much time with that before she goes wandering and plunges headlong into the other world. The first, oh, about 60 pages…I felt like I was drunk and wandering around trying to figure out what was going on. At first I was extremely annoyed and though I wouldn’t be able to finish the book, but then as I kept going I realized that the feeling was intentional, to make us feel how Nora feels when she first enters the alternate world. Well done indeed. Maybe keep it to 40 pages next time though. 😉

The world she enters has a deep history and so many interesting characters – most of which are MUCH more interesting than Nora herself. There are stories within stories – both in the form of sub-plots, and actual stories characters are telling. I loved that part. I absolutely despised Aruendiel until the last 100 pages or so, but his story was just so DAMN INTERESTING I had to keep reading. So much intrigue – and so much innuendo and crimes hinted at but not fully explained. Which, I suppose, is quite in keeping with the medieval type society depicted. Oh…don’t even get me STARTED on all the patriarchal nonsense that Nora has to put up with. I did really like that she was constantly resisting all that malarky, even when it was shoved on her day in and day out.

The overarching conflict was very long in coming to its conclusion (see comments on editing). I could have done with a few more fight scenes. If the tempo of the last 200 pages had been over the majority of the book, it would have definitely been 4 solid stars. Emily Barker has, thankfully, avoided the dreaded tropes of either a love triangle or a special snowflake. Nora is underwhelmingly average, as she is frequently reminded. I can really appreciate that after so many books lately just chock-full of ALL THE SPECIALNESS.

Just when I thought the ending was resolving itself…oh, haha, nope just kidding! We’re left hanging by a thread and while part of the conflict was resolved we never find out what happens to some of the main characters. *flail* This is so unfair! Especially since there is no hard and fast date for a sequel. *cries* I. Must. Know. I actually checked my book to make sure no one had torn out the last chapter (I had a library copy). Nope. Just a massive cliffhanger. I will definitely be looking at for the next one, even if from the sounds of the author comments on GoodReads, it might be a long time in coming.

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Halloween Read-A-Thon

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I’m so excited to have found a group of people to do this with! As I wrote in my beginning of the month post, I was already planning to spend most of the month with Halloween-type books. This just makes it so much more fun! Many thanks to Lauren at Wonderless Reviews for putting it all together and making the gorgeous graphics available. Pretty much the rest of my month is going to be filled with spookiness and indulging my sense of the paranormal. 😀 😀 😀 I can’t wait to see what everyone else is reading.

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My pick: Stalking Jack the Ripper. This cover gives me a slight chill every time I look at it (there’s not actually blood pictured…but I keep thinking I see blood on the knife…), though from what I hear it’s not all THAT creepy of a book! I intend to find out.

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My pick: Dracula. I’m listening to this version from Audible, with different narrators for each person. So, sort of dramatized, but not exactly. I’m thoroughly enjoying it so far, but I keep getting annoyed at the way the women just accept being second-class citizens.

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My pick: Something Wicked This Way Comes. I don’t know a whole lot about this book, to be honest, but it sounds creepy AF. Lory at Emerald City Book Review posted about it a little while back and I put it on my list!

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My pick: The Werewolf of Paris. I’m trying to read some of the original supernatural stories this year, stories that started or shaped our modern day ideas of vampires, werewolves, etc. Obviously the legends of these types of creatures have been around much longer than even these books, but I thought this and Dracula were both good starts.

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My pick: Treat – Throne of Glass. I still have so many other books to read I have to mix it up a little or I will NEVER get through my pile of library books!

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My pick: The Architect of Song. While not specifically relating to Halloween, it does have a good deal to do with ghosts and again, sounds creepy AF. I am SO EXCITED to read this one!!

Fingers crossed I will get to all of these! Are you reading anything special for Halloween or autumn in general?

Something Else Sunday #11 – The Beginning of a Love Affair

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Weekly cuteness overload, courtesy of Sir Tristan.

It’s Sunday again! I’m in the middle of a long weekend and am enjoying it immensely. I finished one gargantuan book and have spent a few hours listening to another while doing creative stuffs.

Pssst….reminder again, only a couple of days left on the giveaway for The Woman in Cabin 10…click through for the original post!

This week I’m doing something a little unusual, a departure from my typical Sunday posts. Why? I just felt like something different, and this idea had been knocking around in my head for awhile. It’s my story, one that’s still growing, but the beginning, at least, I can tell because it’s over and done with.


Once upon a time, there was a little girl. 

This little girl’s favorite thing in the world, was a good story. Before she could even speak, she was carrying books around, begging anyone who would take notice, to read stories to her. To tell her stories, if books weren’t handy, but books were her favorite. Her very favorites were ones with pictures of dogs and puppies. She learned to read quite early – possibly the result of her mother growing tired of the ceaseless “read to me, one more?” entreaty. Books…books before toys, books before friends, books before EATING. 

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This is STILL me at the end of a good book. 

She was 4 years old when she wrote her first story. It was only 3 or 4 lines, something about a girl named Mary that was cold because it was winter. It was written on the huge lined paper children use to first practice their letters.

A few years later (in about…1995?), she was using her dad’s fossil of a word processor to type stories when she wasn’t reading them. And she read A LOT. To the point of hiding books between towels in the bathroom so that she could read when nature called. She was frequently caught in school with books between the covers of her textbooks. Her mother always checked for flashlights after she went to bed. She was MOST PUT OUT by the age recommendations on books, because they always seemed ridiculously patronizing and on more than one occasion caused her mother to take possession of a book before she was finished reading it. THE HORROR OF AN UNFINISHED STORY. It started early, people. 

Most of the stories she wrote, at first, were fanfic – even though she didn’t know it! She just knew that she loved the characters in her favorite books and she was so sad to not be a part of their lives anymore, that she just HAD to continue their stories. The first of these was some version of The Boxcar Children. It has, mercifully, been lost to the ravages of time. 

Not too long after that, she discovered how much FUN it was to make up her own stories! She was forever starting books (though finishing them…that’s another thing), usually revolving around some girl or boy with a giant family (she was an only child until the age of 12) of multiple sets of twins that may or may not have had the same parents. When other kids were out biking around the neighborhood, she was typing away in her own little world. 

Eventually, people noticed that she didn’t only like to write, she was halfway decent at it. In school she was pushed into entering some fictional writing contests, and lo and behold – she was always shocked – she won. Not once, but 3 times. Her family – especially her paternal grandfather and grandmother – was thrilled. They were always asking to see her newest stories. Not that she surrendered these very often…she liked keeping her daydreams private, for the most part, but gradually, she realized…she liked the thrill of writing, liked this telling stories to others. She was good at it and it brought her joy.

She was also well on her way to becoming an obsessive book collector. For every Christmas and every birthday, her only request was…more books. Some poor misguided members of her extended family always thought that “books” translated to “clothes.” Sigh. At times she wondered if no one else spoke English, or if there was something wrong with her. Other kids definitely thought there was something wrong with her. But then, eventually she realized it was just easier to pretend she didn’t care what they thought. Pretend, because she did care, and the teasing hurt, but…there were always books.

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Then one day, her grandfather – the one who had always told her she could do whatever she put her mind to, the one that loved her writing and told her not to listen to the people who said it was a waste of time – died. He was 69. She was 15. It was a sudden, swift heart attack, with no precursors or warnings. The little girl, who had been painfully, slowly growing up, was devastated. One of the pillars of her world just suddenly vanished.

She thought she would never be able to write again, because every time she sat down at a keyboard, she could only cry. For the first time in her life, words brought her no joy. 

To be continued next week…

 

Looking Forwards and Back #3 – September/October

Um, no? September flew by WAY too fast. It is not possible for it to be October yet. Not that I really mind…I love October, I love the change of the seasons and the year. But…yeah. I feel like I lost a good bit of the month. Which, I sort of did. Some personal issues/stresses/sadness kept cropping up and basically my only coping strategy is to sleep, if books or knitting doesn’t fix it. Possibly not the BEST strategy, but…eh. I’m still here. So far. 😛

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I’m skipping my Something Else Sunday post in favor of this one, since I would like to NOT be an entire week behind on my recap post this month. As you can see, I only read six books this month. Last weekend I literally didn’t even touch a book. It was very sad indeed. But I got past it. 😉 And here are the reviews for this month! I did horribly, averaged one a week…but one is better than none!

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The Reader – by Traci Chee. Wonderful book. Amazing. I ordered a signed copy, and am agreeing awaiting the sequel. 😀
Equal Rites – by Terry Pratchett. Awesome as expected.
Royal Blood – by Rhys Bowen. Middle of the road for this series, but not horrible.
The Cruelty – by Scott Bergstrom. Pretty solidly meh on this one.

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Anywho, I love Halloween and all the legends and stuffs that surround it. I’m using it as an excuse to go crazy on the paranormal/atmospheric/creepy type reads this month. As a result, a couple of books were shoved off of my immediate t0-read list. Which kind of makes me feel sad or like a failure, but, you know what…read what you love and what makes you happy at that time. I’ll have a full post on the titles I collected for October reads later this week…I’ll be lucky to get to more than 3 of them! But I love having choices. Haha. I’m focusing purely on my (very long overdue) library books, and my October/Halloween reads this month. I’ve added a few ARCs at the end of my list but don’t really expect to get to any of them. They’re just there to remind me, haha.

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These are the books currently keeping me from checking out any others at the library. Because, erm, they might have been renewed the maximum number of times and are now 2 weeks past the last due date. Oops.

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Somehow I still haven’t made it to Throne of Glass! Gah.

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Aaaaand all the creepy books! Haha. Or the ones I expect to be creepy. I’ve already started the audiobook of Dracula – which, by the way, is freaking amazing…the numerous narrators just MAKES the book, to me. I sort of doubt that I will get to Frankenstein, since it’s the least interesting of this particular lot, to me…but I would love to! So many creepy classics I’ve missed through the years.

What’s your favorite Halloween or creepy book for this time of year?

Happy October!

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I am so in love with the shelf by @bookishsteph1 on Instagram. Go check out her feed, now. NOW. 

Ah, yes! It’s finally here! The month at least, even if the air here doesn’t QUITE have the autumnal nip to it I’m hoping for. It’s coming though…autumn is coming. *deadpan*

Anyway, it actually kind of snuck up on me…I’ve been randomly making a list of spooky-atmospheric-but-not-horror books for October, and I guess it’s finished now because it’s time to post it and get started! So I’ll put that up along with my progress for September and goals for October tomorrow.

BIG NEWS: I’ve finally reached the coveted 80% feedback ratio on NetGalley! So excited about that. Maybe at some point I will qualify for cool ARCs. Hehe.

Oh, and, teaser…I’m putting up a giveaway for this Book of the Month Club box later this week! Make sure you follow so you don’t miss it! The book is The Woman in Cabin 10.

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The Right to Read

Continuing the celebration of the right to read, honoring books that have changed the stream of human thought, and getting to feel like a rebel (for a little while, anyway…being the good kid sometimes gets boring)!

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^I had no idea. The rest of the infographic is a timeline of banned books through history. Pretty cool.

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Author C.H. Armstrong talks about Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and why it (and the attempted censorship of it) is close to her heart. Also about the Library Bill of Rights (something I’d never heard of).

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Book Riot has an awesome bundle of banned bookish stuffs, that I, er, might have succumbed to. Ahem. Because I’m a complete sucker for all things bookish, good deals, and like I said…I like feeling like a rebel once in awhile. I actually already have these socks but seem to have lost one. They provoke ALL THE QUESTIONS from visitors to our house. Somehow, lately all the guests we’ve had have been non-readers and I get some very wide-eyed looks. Hehe.

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Frostbeard Studio and Bookworm Boutique are having a joint giveaway! I love that brilliantly loud red mug, and it not only comes on mugs but t-shirts, bags…I’m having so much trouble not buying it on EVERYTHING.

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Bustle has a phenomenal list of quotes on censorship, and I want ALL OF THESE written on the walls of my house. ALL. Or maybe just inked onto my body.

 

 

Banned Books Week!

Sometimes, living in (or under, if not necessarily in) a country that has very little government regulation of printed material, it’s easy to forget about all the places in the world that keep strict hold of their publishing houses. As an adult no longer involved in the education system, it’s easy to forget that there are people actively working to keep certain books out of schools and universities. It’s easy to forget that in some places, people are jailed, abused, their entire lives stripped away, because they wrote something contrary to either their government or the religious majority.

More recently, at least in the United States, books are ostracized or banned because they “are often about people and issues which include LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities—people or issues that, perhaps, challengers would prefer not to consider,” according to a blog post by Maggie Jacoby. Words that make the majority uncomfortable. Words that might challenge the status quo.

The American Library Association started keeping track of books that were repeatedly being flagged in the 1990s. Since then (and throughout history) there has been a shift in what calls a book into question. It used to be more focused on race, sex, and language. Now it’s more about diversity in lifestyle and realism in children’s and YA books.

To me, the point of Banned Books Week is to celebrate the freedom for everyone to express themselves. If my beliefs or my lifestyle is so unstable that I can’t even let people READ a book that shows another path of thought, that might just mean I need to reevaluate. Books that challenge our preconceived ideas have been some of the most instrumental in history, helping to shift thought on racism, sexuality, religion, and a myriad of other topics. I’m linking below to several interesting lists of books that have been banned or censored…some of the titles totally surprised me, I had no idea some of these were controversial at one point in time! Of course, I totally remember when the religious right was convinced Harry Potter was the end of the world and my mom refused to let me go back to one family’s house after seeing the books on their shelves. Haha. I’m sure this didn’t at all affect my desire to go out and read every book on these lists. 😛 Rebellious child, much?

Banned Books That Shaped AmericaThe Red Badge of Courage, seriously? I must have missed something when I read this years ago. The Call of the Wild, too? And Moby-Dick? Who knew.

Banned or Challenged ClassicsLord of the Rings??? *wide eyes*

Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2015The Bible, haha…well, I guess THAT has come full circle. While I understand objecting to being forced to read a religious book as a standard for living, I personally don’t object to them as literature. It’s a frame of reference. It helps (maybe?) me understand where people are coming from. This goes for ANY religious text, in my opinion.

Frequently Challenged YA Books – this list really needs to be by title, not author…my eyes are crossing, but it’s extremely thorough, haha. Since when is The Handmaid’s Tale a YA, though? And The Witch of Blackbird Pond, really, how dare they. One of my favorite books from childhood…somehow I managed to get this one past my mom and I swear I read it 10 times at least.

Best Banned, Censored, and Challenged Books – as voted by GoodReads users. No real surprise here…best way to make a book popular is to attempt to ban it, I swear.

I’ll have at least one more Banned Books post this week. This is a topic really near and dear to my heart! What’s your favorite banned/censored/questioned book? Have you read very many from these lists?

 

Something Else Sunday #10

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Well, this is about the extent of my fall decorating. Hehe. Next year…next year!

This week…well. It’s sucked, mostly, to be honest. I didn’t get much reading done. Work was just blah. Issues is…issues. I have them. 😛 My writing mojo has officially up and left me, despite receiving some lovely snail mail. I only sent one letter…apologies to all my lovely penpals. 😦 I’ve just had no inspiration and my overall mood has been rather on the blue side and I hate writing letters that sound that way.

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I did finish this little guy. He’s not perfect but I think he’s cute – especially for my first finished crochet project in about 7 years! Edited to add credit where credit is due: the pattern is Foxy Fox Lovey, by Briana Olsen. 🙂 The granny squares from a couple of weeks ago never got finished into anything, sadly. Maybe one day I’ll find the motivation to weave in all those ends. Or not. 😛

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Also went to see this re-enactment of the Battle of Nakdong River, which was pretty cool and included paratroopers and the South Korean Air Force’s “Black Eagles.” I was actually really impressed by the fighters…I’ve seen quite a few air shows, but never a performance of 8 fighters flying in formation.

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Books! I received TWO book boxes in the mail this week, both of which made me squeal and dance up and down. I already reviewed the September Lit-Cube, and this week a review of the September OwlCrate will be coming. 😀 I’m also in the middle of The Dream Thieves. I’ve kind of been dragging my feet on it, purely because I’m enjoying it and I really like the vibe all the characters have right now and I’m kind of scared to see what happens.

September is almost over, can you believe it? I’m going to take a step back from my current TBR list in October, and read mostly atmospheric, creepy stuff that’s been somewhere in my list but put off for the right time. Like Dracula. I’ve never read the original Dracula, can you believe it? I’ve been dredging up recommendations for various sources and am putting together a list. They won’t all necessarily be HALLOWEEN themed, but atmospheric enough to invoke the spirit, if that makes sense.

Hope everyone has a great week!

Book Review: The Cruelty

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This book has already had a lot of buzz, mainly because of the author’s condescending and inflammatory comments about YA in general. I have a LOT of thoughts on his comments and general attitude, but I tried – I really, really tried – to not let my view of the author color the book. I agreed to the review before knowing anything about all the drama, so I felt like that was only fair. Usually when I try a new author, debut or not, I don’t research a lot about the author. I like to let the book speak for itself. In the end, I feel like The Cruelty (Scott Bergstrom’s debut, releasing in February 2017) mostly did that. I ended up giving it 3/5 stars, in spite of feeling like the author himself probably deserves 2/5. Or maybe 1/5. Because really, sir, you are not special, your book is not going to revolutionize YA, and it’s definitely not going to dazzle long-time readers of the genre. Also, sidenote: even though you’ve already made enough money to be able to quit your advertising executive career, you might want to work more on networking with your fellow writers instead of alienating and insulting them. But enough about Scott Bergstrom. After all, a lot of creative people lack social skills and if their work is dazzling enough we excuse them for it, right? Anyway, that was how and why I approached reading this book. Sadly, overall I felt like Mr. Bergstrom is not genius enough to be excused for his behavior.

So, the positive: the pacing is really spot on. I whizzed through this in a single afternoon/evening. There’s none of the stream-of-consciousness dwelling that bogs down some YA books. Even though there were aspects of the writing and characters that bothered me, I was interested enough in the plot line to ignore everything else I had planned for the day and read it all in one go. Also, the ending left me with enough questions (while not being a true cliffhanger) that, had the sequel been available, I would have picked it up right away. That in itself added the extra half star to me. The suspense and anticipation is definitely the most well-written thing about this book.

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The story takes place in several different countries. In my experience, you can almost always tell when an author is writing about a locale they’ve never personally seen or lived. It just rings false or like they’re ticking off a list, and having lived abroad myself I notice it more than I ever did before. Now, I haven’t been to all of the countries Gwen visits and don’t claim to be any kind of expert, but the descriptions feel very real. I think that Bergstrom has probably visited these countries or he researched very, very well.

Now for the negatives. I’m going to try not to rant on and on about these…but who am I kidding, I’m probably going to rant.

The book starts off REALLY rocky. I almost DNFed it at page 15. We start off with the special snowflake trope (OMG, she speaks French! even thinks in French and accidentally blurts it in class! oops!), followed by much angst. Sigh, page turn, and then –

I pull a book out of my backpack and lean against the door as the train shoots through the tunnel under the river toward Queens. It’s a novel with a teenage heroine set in a dystopian future. Which novel in particular doesn’t matter because they’re all the same. Poor teenage heroine, having to march off to war when all she really wants to do is run away with that beautiful boy and live off wild berries and love. 

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Let’s start off by throwing rocks at dystopian YA!! Yay!! Because we’re not writing almost the EXACT SAME type of book and calling it special, are we, Precious? *insert much eyerolling* I’m not even that much a fan of the dystopian type books! What I’m NOT a fan of, is generalization – and buddy, you just hit every student in the room with your spitwad. And this wasn’t even the point of the almost DNF.

Guys out on the sidewalk in front of the shops whistle and catcall after me. They love this – the school uniform, the flash of seventeen-year-old legs. 

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What the…? I mean…who even talks or thinks that way? It seems totally out of place in the current context and setting, and is just such a jolt of stupid and bad writing that I came *this close* to throwing the book across the room and doing something else with my afternoon. However, I continued. Mostly because I wanted to see if it could really be THAT bad. There were a few similar instances, like this one:

He uses as his tools reason and facts, a whole orchestra of them. But in the end, they bounce off the armor of my stubbornness.

Not quite on the same level as the seventeen-year-old legs quote, but close. Most of the female-specific points or themes in this book sound utterly redonkulous. Like a seventeen-year-old boy was trying to imagine how girls think. Big fat fail. The body image comments really grated on me…like somehow, when the book begins, we’re supposed to see Gwendolyn as overweight…I think? Only she’s an overweight gymnast, which totally makes sense. Also she doesn’t like being looked at but dyes her hair bright red…and then in the grand scheme of changing herself so she can go hunt for her father she has to dye her hair a more unnoticeable shade and become this lean, muscled, martial artist type. Well, I have news for you…that shit doesn’t happen overnight, and not even in the several weeks Gwendolyn has to work on it. If she’s indeed overweight/out of shape as it seems we’re supposed to believe. I don’t know. I’m confused as to what the perception there was supposed to be.

Then, the love interest is lame. A plot device. Gwendolyn needs an ally back home, one with smarts, money, and connections…and suddenly she’s all weak-kneed for this boy she’s barely even looked at before. There was no buildup, just suddenly she runs into him and starts shaking. Sorry, but I have no feels for this at all.

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Yeah, no.

Actually, I pretty much have no feels at all for the entire story, which is really sad. I mostly feel annoyance. I wanted more from the characters. Characters are easily the biggest and most important part of a book, to me. Gwendolyn, her father, even the people that help her, just aren’t generally likable and while yes, Gwendolyn definitely changes through the book, I found the changes a bit far-fetched. She morphs rather quickly from a slightly bitter, spoiled high school girl to a lean, mean, killing machine. Really? But, ok. I’m willing to suspend disbelief a bit – after all, that’s what we do for any book, right? But it’s the author’s job to sell us on it. Sadly, the writing style is such that I couldn’t STAY suspended in my disbelief. I was repeatedly jarred out of it. But I still wanted to know what happened. How’s that for a quandary?

“Justice isn’t some abstract thing, Gwendolyn. What your did tonight, that’s what it looks like. Ugly and mean.”

Best line in the entire book, I swear. And it does get ugly, the longer it goes on. It’s like a train wreck you can’t stop watching, as Gwendolyn delves deeper and deeper into the criminal underworld in her search for her father. She develops an amazing poker face and some steel nerves, even in the face of a rising body count and discovering a sex trafficking ring – somehow she manages to stay cool. But at what cost? That’s the real question, and in the end, the question of what was saved and what was lost is still somewhat up in the air.

Many thanks to Feiwel & Friends for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: The Reader

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Sefia knows what it means to survive. After her father is brutally murdered, she flees into the wilderness with her aunt Nin, who teaches her to hunt, track, and steal. But when Nin is kidnapped, leaving Sefia completely alone, none of her survival skills can help her discover where Nin’s been taken, or if she’s even alive. The only clue to both her aunt’s disappearance and her father’s murder is the odd rectangular object her father left behind, an object she comes to realize is a book—a marvelous item unheard of in her otherwise illiterate society. With the help of this book, and the aid of a mysterious stranger with dark secrets of his own, Sefia sets out to rescue her aunt and find out what really happened the day her father was killed—and punish the people responsible.

Find it on GoodReads | Pre-order your copy!

The Reader is Traci Chee’s debut novel, being released in just a few days on September 13, 2016! This is one of those books that grabs you and just doesn’t let go. I finished it four days ago and I still find myself thinking about the characters and wondering about them. It ended not so much on a cliffhanger exactly, as just leaving us with SO MANY QUESTIONS. Not only of the “what happens next” variety, but of the “why did they do that” and “how did THAT happen” sort.

The story is set in a world where reading is prohibited and books are unknown.

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Well, that was certainly MY reaction to that idea, but these people quite literally don’t know what they’re missing. It’s just the way their world is, and no one remembers (or perhaps never knew) anything different.

Two curves for her parents, a curve for Nin. The straight line for herself. The circle for what she had to do. 

There are several story threads throughout. Usually I find this annoying but somehow these all blended just enough to make sense and keep me from getting confused (which is quite an accomplishment). I liked how some of them eventually came together – now, the ones that didn’t…I still have ALL THE QUESTIONS about and the suspense is killing me.

The world is beautiful yet stark, amazing and yet creepy AF. It’s detailed, with several different territories/countries and vying lords. If this were an RPG game, I would go explore every. single. one. They all have slightly different cultures with common threads. Chee’s writing brings them all to life in vivid color.

In Kelanna, when you die, they don’t say prayers for you, for they have no heaven and no gods to pray to. There is no reincarnation; you will not return. Without a body, ou are nothing anymore, except for a story.

There are also pirates and ships and sailors and the navy. And in this world, women are treated as complete equals – no one ever doubts if they have a place in the crew, or the military, or anything. It’s awesome. There’s also this amazing song that I would LOVE to hear set to real world music. I was going to add it as a quote but decided you should really discover it for yourself in the actual book. 😀

 

I became attached to Archer before I was completely invested in Sefia. Archer, Archer. The silent, sweet, killer-boy. He’s a walking contradiction. I was scared of what he would do and wanted to protect him at the same time. Funny enough, that was sort of Sefia’s reaction too…and what ultimately convinced me Sefia was a character worth rooting for.

“I would never leave you behind.”

See, in the beginning Sefia seems just a teensy bit too cold, too good at shutting herself down, a little unsympathetic. But her growing relationship with Archer shows that she does indeed still have a heart and not just one hell-bent on revenge. The two of them grow and learn together. I really liked how at one point, their roles switch – instead of Sefia  taking care of and protecting Archer, when she has a difficult moment he (rather awkwardly, but it was still there) takes care of her. It was just so sweet. Don’t think that the romance is the focus of the story though – it’s more like a sidebar that just adds a touch of rosy-glow to the otherwise rather sad overtones.

Instead he pulled her into him…he was going to do it for her, no matter what it turned him into. 

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Excuse me while I indulge in the sappiest gif I can find. Moving on…

I reeeeeeeeally want to know more about the magic of this world. It’s definitely there, but it’s not fully explained. Usually this would make me rate a book considerably lower, BUT. In this one the lack of explanation was alright. It wasn’t completely key to the story though it definitely affected in in big ways – twice. One of these was at the end, so it was totally part of the near-cliffhanger ending and therefore to me doesn’t count. I’m enjoying how we are discovering the magic and the book right along with Sefia.

5/5 stars. While I’m dying to read the next one (Traci confirmed on Twitter that there IS a second one in process as we speak!), I was overall very contented and while the ending wasn’t exactly happy it was…appropriate, in character, and satisfying. I flailed, and cried a little, and Tweeted about 5 times in an hour about it. Also preordered the signed copy from Kepler’s Books. Ahem.