Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Review: the Wangs vs. The World

The Wangs vs. The World

By Jade Wang

Summary: Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the financial crisis. Now all Charles wants is to get his kids safely stowed away so that he can go to China and attempt to reclaim his family’s ancestral lands—and his pride.

Charles pulls Andrew, his aspiring comedian son, and Grace, his style-obsessed daughter, out of schools he can no longer afford. Together with their stepmother, Barbra, they embark on a cross-country road trip from their foreclosed Bel-Air home to the upstate New York hideout of the eldest daughter, disgraced art world it-girl Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set of 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new, between keeping his family intact and finally fulfilling his dream of starting anew in China.

Outrageously funny and full of charm, The Wangs vs. the World is an entirely fresh look at what it means to belong in America—and how going from glorious riches to (still name-brand) rags brings one family together in a way money never could.

Genres: Adult Realistic Fiction

Publication Date: October 4, 2016

My Rating: 1 star

I've been in a reading slump lately. The only books I've been reading are the ones that have been assigned in my English classes. It's been like this for the past six months. And it kind of sucks, but at the same time I had accepted it. 

However, I got this book in a giveaway that I entered mostly for the promise of makeup. It sat on my bookshelf for the longest time, taunting me with its pretty cover. So, during finals, when I should have been studying but didn't, I picked up The Wangs vs. The World, hoping that maybe I could get out of my book slump. 

You know what? That was a horrendous idea. Because this book...well. I'll tell you about this book just a bit later. Still, it got me to actually write a review, which may be a greater feat in itself. 

The crux of the issue with The Wangs vs. the World is that all the characters...ALL the characters...are completely horrible people. And yes, there are some plots where this manages to work. I root for Frank Underwood even when he's murdering innocent people to further his political agenda. Daenerys is going on a bit of a power trip in GoT, but I will cheer for her the whole time. However, the Wangs being poor little rich folks who have to learn to be NORMAL while complaining the whole time is not a group of characters I can appreciate. 

Enough with the whining already! Grace complaining about every little thing is enough to drive me mad. Barbra too. And of course, Charles can't stop going over his failures time and time again. We get it. You made poor choices. Live with them. It seems at every point the characters have to bring up something that they hate about being Poor. They have to eat hotdogs now. The travesty. They sleep with sheets that aren't fully cotton. Dios mio. 

Enough with the casual racism! (Yes! It's pretty freaking bad, and it comes from the main character Charles Wang himself, so that's just great.) This is something I just didn't have a tolerance for. When a book has a whole paragraph dedicated to the ugliness of 'mixed' babies, then it's usually not a book worth reading. And the way that this racism from the characters is played off in the books definitely rubbed me the wrong way. Any remark of the sort is seen as a way to get the know the characters better. See their innermost thoughts. Show their flaws. Instead of doing that, it just made me uncomfortable while reading. 

Enough with the cheating and lying to your significant other! Looking at you, Saina, who cheats on her loving boyfriend with some jackass who previously cheated on her and then got the girl pregnant, causing him to leave Saina. I mean. Why. WHy. WHY. After the jackass leaves her, she gets back with loving boyfriend by lying to him. Of all the questionable decisions these characters made, this is the one that I really hated the most, because YOU SEE THE STUPIDITY PLAY OUT RIGHT ON THE PAGE. Not only that, there's never any resolution to this soap-worthy plotline. Loving Boyfriend never finds out that Saina lied to him; maybe the author didn't see it as a significant part of their relationship. However, I was cringing. 

Honorable mentions of wtf? moments in characterization: Andrew well...how do I put this nicely...feeling himself...using ketchup (is this actually a thing? Please don't let this be a thing), Saina believing it was a good idea to photoshop pics of war refugees so that they look like magazine models, (and then not understanding why people were getting upset?), Grace just being a grade-A brat for most of the book, Andrew throwing a hissy fit in college and yelling at his professor, and Charles being glad his wife died in a plane crash because that meant he didn't have to go through the trouble of divorcing her. 

Another problem was writing. It was meant to be very eloquent, a bit flowery at times. Once, I would have praised it because at a glance it seems like very intellectual and adult writing, and as a young teenager it would have intimidated me. It doesn't any more, though, and so I can admit I hated the writing style. The book's writing just seemed to take itself too seriously. Made it seem like a Very Deep Book when the book. Just. Isn't. I don't need the characters to wax philosophical while they pack their suitcases, or put on moisturizer. The high brow language was simply unnecessary at most times, and a bit boring as well. 

I read another review of this book saying the humor wasn't funny, and at first I disagreed. Not because this book was at any point funny, but because I honestly didn't recognize that some things that happened in this book were supposed to be jokes. It wasn't until I pondered over some of the weirder plot points in the book that I realized, yeah, some things were played for humor and just fell completely flat. For God's sake, there's at least three standup routines in this book, and even they aren't funny. There's a lot of crude humor. Aforementioned ketchup scene was, I think, supposed to give me a chuckle, but it just made me grossed out. Charles Wang talking about making his makeup empire with urea (urine) just made me side-eye my makeup cabinet a bit. There was nothing humorous in this book, try as it might. 

Finally, I got to the last page, and the book just...ended. It stopped without wrapping up certain plot points that very certainly could have and should have been resolved. Obviously, this should have annoyed me; but honestly, I didn't care anymore. I had spent too much time being bored to care that the ending was so lackluster. And maybe that's all I need to say to show you that this book just isn't worth your time.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I'm Back: New Blogging Era, New Me

Well. It’s been well over a year since I sat down at my computer and looked at my tiny little book blog. I thought I had put it behind me; I never really announced I was leaving, but it was a gradual process that felt inherently right at the time. Not to say that I didn’t have little flare-ups of missing writing about books, of course. But with my busy schedule, I couldn’t blog constantly like I used to. Not only that, but for a while I had been realizing that rather than blogging because I liked to read, I was reading because I liked to blog. Books had become a sort of necessary bother for me in order to get comments, followers…you get the drift. 

So I stopped. At the time, I thought I stopped for good. And when I say I stopped, I mean that I didn’t even read for fun anymore. I found new pasttimes and I ran with them, but I let the pile of previously-beloved novels gather dust on my unused bookshelves. 

The book bug bit me again during college when I was procrastinating studying for finals. I started to dive back in, except it was more of a toe dip. A very tentative toe dip, and the deep-end of the pool—this blog—was forbidden. I was going to read for fun, and if I didn’t like the book, I would set it down and not try to read the whole thing just so I could write a scathing but honest review. I was going to read for me and me only. 

The thing is though, this blog has a hold on me, and it changed the way that I read. I couldn’t go back to the good old days. Every book I read, I constantly would think of how I would review that book. What were the things I liked? Why did I like them? Why did I dislike this book? I couldn’t even abandon books anymore; this blog had trained me to plow through novels I hated. I was a changed girl when it came to reading, and it killed me. Ultimately, though, I decided to embrace it and come back to blogging. This time, though, with some caveats.

The thing is, even though I do want to go back to blogging, I don’t want to go back to blogging the way I did before. I hated it as much as I loved it, because it royally screwed up my love of reading. I can’t go back to that place; I am not a happy bookworm there. For this reason, I am putting some rules in place that should help me read in a happier and more organic way, without constantly worrying about stats. They are

  1. More discussions and thoughts on reading in general. That’s right; these  are going to be a significantly larger part of the blog than they were before. It’s as if I used to be scared of these posts, or simply had too much of a Netgalley queue to focus on them. Not anymore. I really enjoy doing these now, and I think that honestly, people like reading them more than a review of some book they haven’t even read yet. And speaking of Netgalley…
  2. No Netgalley. Okay, I know this one will be impossible in the long run, because I am straight addicted to that site. Free books for reviews is my crack cocaine. I’m a broke college student, so the reasons for that should be obvious. However, Netgalley makes me into a requesting monster to the point where I am backlogged on reading, and panic-read my books to have a nice review ratio. I don’t like doing that. So for now, I will ease that pressure and stay off, and when I finally can’t stay off the site anymore, I will be only requesting books I really, reaaaaallllly, want. 
  3.  Abandoning books. I said it previously in this post; I used to never do DNF reviews because I believed I needed to read the whole story before judging it. I don’t give a crap anymore though. If I hate the book by page 100, or even by page 50, I’m going to STOP. And maybe I’ll even write a review about it! But I am not going to torture myself like I used to; I really feel like this is a major part of why I was ultimately turned off to reading. 
  4. Not posting every day. I don’t even know why this previously a goal of mine; it was exhausting. I am currently thinking that twice a week is more than enough, but even then, maybe I’ll post even less as I’m getting used to blogging again. I want to be comfortable reading, and not make it a chore to meet a quota. 


Those are my resolutions for this blog (besides give it a major makeover, which is a post for a different time). I think they’re somewhat doable, and will make me happier in the long run. Do you have any suggestions for me now that I’m back in the blogosphere? Let me know down below. I look forward to getting to know everyone all over again. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review: Sword by Realm Lovejoy

Sword

By Realm Lovejoy

Summary: 
Evil lurks. Camelot sits, vulnerable. The fate of a future king hangs in the balance.

After surviving a string of brutal trials, sixteen-year-old Morgan le Fay is an official member of Camelot. But beneath its shining fa├žade, Camelot is a crumbling government where loyalties are divided.

Nobody believes Morgan’s suspicions that enemies are closing in. Prince Arthur, a boy more interested in playing video games than ruling, will not listen to her, and neither will Lancelot, Camelot’s head of security. Even Morgan's friend Merlin refuses to take action.

When Morgan discovers that someone is plotting to assassinate the future king, she must take her destiny—and his—into her own hands. With the sword Excalibur beckoning in the distance, Morgan embarks on a seemingly impossible mission. And before her journey ends, everyone will know what she is truly capable of . . .

In this second book in the LE FAY series, author Realm Lovejoy takes readers deep into the heart of a splintering Camelot. 


Genres: Young Adult, Retellings, Fantasy

Publication Date: November 10, 2015

Series: Le Fay (book 2)

My Rating: 5 stars

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

I loved the first book in the Le Fay series. Dearly. It's still one of my favorite indie books of all time--BUT I think Sword was even better. Yes, you read that right, better. No second book slump whatsoever, which is pretty rare. The characters, plot, the various emotions...everything was just beautiful.

I enjoyed reading about Morgan in the first book mostly because she was such an intriguing character. That intrigue continues in Storm, but more so. The book really delves into her mental state; there's a lot of focus on her emotions, which I loved but at times I could not stand because I just wanted her to be okay is that too much to ask. (That goes to show how emotionally invested in this series I am, so not necessarily a bad thing.) There are some shocking reveals about her past in this book, which I did not see coming at all. These reveals really added to her relationship with Prince Arthur.

Prince Arthur was a character I had no real feelings for in Henge, mostly because he was not shown very often. That changes in Storm, and I ended up really loving him. He's a very complicated character; not spoiled like he originally seems to be, but instead a very damaged kid. He and Morgan have a complicated, yet endearing, relationship. The way this plays into his personality is very interesting to see, and it adds a bit of ambiguity to how his character will turn out in the next book.

Merlin...I cannot describe how I feel about Merlin. He summons up a well of mixed emotions in me. I can't really say I want Morgan and him to end up together--I think their relationship has become a bit too complicated and borderline-toxic for that to happen, so sorry to anyone who ships them but I am rooting against that. However, despite my reservations on that end, I really do like reading about him, because he's not a black-or-white character. Sometimes I will hate him and sometimes I will feel extremely sorry for him. My feelings for him have not really changed since the last book.

BUT...LANCELOT. LANCELOT IS NOW ONE OF MY FAVORITE CHARACTERS AND I SHIP HIM AND MORGAN I SHIP IT SO HARD. I thought he was a bit boring in Henge, but seeing him care for Morgan and be so tender to her really awakened my feelings for him. He is a precious person, and I want him and Morgan to be happy forever together.

The plot was fantastically executed. There were some very tense moments; up until the very end, I was not sure how the book would end. (Spoiler, highlight to see) Even though I knew there was another book after this one, I was 90% convinced at one point that Morgan was going to die. That seems stupid to write in hindsight, but the author was very good at keeping me guessing. (end spoiler) In most second-books-in-a-series, the plot kind of drags--it's more of a bridge from the first book to the second book than its own entity. In Sword, the book wastes no time; there is action right from the start, and even when the book slows down a bit, there are revelations and emotionally-packed scenes that kept me interested.

I cannot wait to finish the rest of the Le Fay series. If the next book is as good as this one, I know I will love it. Even if you have never read the Arthurian legends--or, like me, you read them when you were eight, thought they were dumb, and subsequently forgot most of the story--I guarantee you will still be able to love these wonderful, wonderful books.
 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Review: Sunbolt by Intisar Khanani

Sunbolt

By Intisar Khanani

Blurb: The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she must conceal her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to undermine the powerful and corrupt Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame.

When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she can summon to escape with her life.


Genres: Young Adult Fantasy

Publication Date: June 17, 2013

Pages: 142

Series: The Sunbolt Chronicles

My Rating: 2 stars

 
I have read and loved other books by this author, so I was really surprised when I finished Sunbolt and was not fangirling over it. The problems I had with it were numerous;

First off, it's shorter than I would have expected. The longer the fantasy book is, the better, in my opinion, because there's a lot of ground that needs to be covered in a fantasy novel. It needs to create a new world within its pages, and to do that sometimes you need length. There was not length here, and the world suffered because of that. It wasn't a cheaply created setting--on the contrary, there are some new things in here that I've never read about before. It just needs some more depth in it to make it seem real to me.

The second thing is the fact that the plot flowed choppily. In my opinion, the story had evolved drastically from what it was at the beginning to what it was at the end. It was like there were two different plots, in a way. I didn't necessarily like it.

The characters were alright. I didn't have any significant qualms with Hitomi; however, she failed to really stand out to me. I'm having trouble remembering any traits I really loved in her. She did her job as a main character, but she didn't do an outstanding job.

I have no plans to continue the Sunbolt Chronicles at this time. It was kind of forgettable, with all its flaws. Sunbolt didn't meet the expectations that I had for it.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review: The Ark by Laura Liddell Nolan

The Ark

By Laura Liddell Nolen

Blurb: There’s a meteor headed for Earth, and there is only one way to survive.
It’s the final days of earth, and sixteen-year-old Char is right where she belongs: in prison. With her criminal record, she doesn’t qualify for a place on an Ark, one of the five massive bioships designed to protect earth’s survivors during the meteor strike that looks set to destroy the planet. Only a select few will be saved – like her mom, dad, and brother – all of whom have long since turned their backs on Char.
If she ever wants to redeem herself, Char must use all the tricks of the trade to swindle her way into outer space, where she hopes to reunite with her family, regardless of whether they actually ever want to see her again, or not . . .
Genres: Young Adult Dystopian
Publication Date: March 26, 2015
Series: N/A at this point
Pages: 239
My Rating: 2 stars
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Ark was one of those books that I definitely would have enjoyed if I had read it earlier. By that, I mean, if I hadn't read so many dystopian novels that they all begin, at this point, to blend together, unless the premise is something that I haven't read before.

The Ark is something I have read before, however. The 100 has a premise somewhat like it. So do a few lesser known Dystopians, mostly indies, that I read very early after starting YA. So, I can't say it really stood out to me, and that definitely hurt it. Plus, it just has some of the formula that is getting re-used and re-used in YA, so that didn't hurt the cause.

I thought that I might like Char. She doesn't seem, at first glance, to be the typical YA heroine. She isn't, really. She's the typical dystopian heroine. 

What I mean by that is; her life sucks majorly. It keeps on sucking. And her attitude about the suckishness that is her life is the same as most Dystopian heroines; she's rather pessimistic, at the beginning, there's not *much* emotion in her at all, she's independent...I know, I know. These don't seem like bad traits, necessarily. But when every single heroine in Dystopian seems to have them...I get peeved. 

The plot was predictable at times, for the most part. I mean, there were one or two things that I didn't see coming, but come on. You know that Char is going to have to make it on the Ark, so there goes that suspense. You know which characters are going to be love interests and you know that the story probably won't end happily BECAUSE THIS IS DYSTOPIAN ONLY THE LAST TEN PAGES OF THE LAST BOOK IN THE SERIES ARE EVER HAPPY. 

I think, also, that part of the reason I didn't *love* this was because of me, and solely me. It is just really dark at times AND I COULDN'T TAKE IT. The book mentions babies on Earth that don't get on the Arks, and then pages later, Char sees the whole planet die. Dead children tend to be the trigger for when books start to enter the truly dark territory for me, and usually, in Dystopian, I am able to block it out, but when it gets mentioned in such a blatant, not-skirted-around way, I have trouble. And that was one of these times. 

Of course, there were moments I liked. Isaiah and Char's relationship is definitely interesting to read about, albeit a bit...unhealthy. Isaiah was a very fleshed out character; just when I loved him I hated him and just when I hated him...I loved him then hated him again. The other boy in this book, Eren, is nowhere half as interesting as Isaiah. In fact he's kind of basic. I don't have much to say about Eren other than that. Basic just about sums him up.

I'm going to take a break from Dystopian for a little bit because I think I've kind of gotten swamped by this genre. The Ark definitely suffered from this. A lot of the complaints I had with it were "I've read this before" rather than it flat-out sucking. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review: The Heartbreakers by Ali Novak

The Heartbreakers

By Ali Novak

Blurb: "When I met Oliver Perry, I had no clue he was the lead singer for The Heartbreakers. Unbeknownst to him, I was the only girl in the world who hated his music."

Stella will do anything for her sister—even stand in line for an autographed Heartbreakers CD... for three hours. At least she met a cute boy at the Starbucks beforehand. A blue-eyed boy who looks an awful lot like...

Oliver Perry. Of course Starbucks guy is the lead singer for her least favorite band. Thanks, universe. But there may be more to Oliver than his world-famous charm, because even after she insults his music—to his face—he still gives her his number. Seriously, what is her life?

But how can Stella even think about being with Oliver—dating and laughing and pulling pranks with the band—when her sister could be dying of cancer?


Genres: Young Adult Romance

Publication Date: August 4, 2015

Series: N/A

Pages: 336

My Rating: 1 star

This is one of the most unrealistic books I have ever in my life read. It is so improbable. There were some cute moments, but they were drowned out by the fact that these cute moments have about a 0.001% (I am going to be optimistic here) percent chance of happening.

First off, how Stella meets Oliver Perry twice within such a short span of time without actually trying is beyond me. I couldn't even find a celebrity if I tried. Let alone twice...and we won't even mention the fact that both times she was actually able to have a normal conversation with them. Well...I'm bending the definition of normal when it comes to their second conversation. On that note, let's get on to the second point.

WHO YELLS AT POPSTARS IN AN ELEVATOR JUST BECAUSE YOU DON'T LIKE THEIR MUSIC?? Psychos. And snobs. Notice that I haven't listed 'girlfriend material' on this list. Because if this happens, GET AWAY FROM THE CRAZY PERSON. Don't date them.

OR LET THEM IN YOUR HOTEL ROOM MINUTES LATER!!! I swear, where is their sensibility? Actually, forget sensibility, where is their security? If the girl who had just gotten done yelling at you in an elevator came up to your hotel room and wanted to talk to you...would you let them in? Especially when you're famous and there is a possibility they are psycho?

And then they have a nice fun session in the pool and such. At this point I was beyond skeptical. It was at this time that I realized that the Heartbreakers are, in this literary world, the most laid back and stupid boy band to ever grace the music industry.

Stella...she is definitely a wattpad heroine. She's plain. She's boring, as a character, but there's like one redeeming feature about her that's supposed to make her 'different' from those other girls. (In this case, she likes photography. She doesn't sound all that great at it, so how she impresses everyone is beyond me.) Everyone always has to tell her how great she is because she, herself, has absolutely no clue. Stella was pretty awful to read about.

I actually liked Oliver in a way, though I still think he is a piss-poor example of what any normal pop star would do when presented with the series of events that happen in this book. He's nice, and troubled, but not in a creepy way, but in a 'I want to help you poor baby' way, and welllll....he's kind of hot.

The Heartbreakers should have ended with Stella being carried out by security. It should not have been a romance. I rest my case. 
(less)


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Review: The Last Good Day of the Year by Jessica Warman

The Last Good Day of the Year

By Jessica Warman

Blurb: A new powerful thriller from the globally-embraced author of Between.

Ten years ago, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, seven-year-old Samantha and her next door neighbor, Remy, watched as a man broke into Sam’s home and took her younger sister, Turtle, from her sleeping bag. Remy and Sam, too afraid to intervene at the time, later identified the man as Sam’s sister Gretchen’s much older ex-boyfriend, Steven, who was sent to prison for Turtle’s murder.

Now, Sam’s shattered family is returning to her childhood home in an effort to heal. As long-buried memories begin to surface, Sam wonders if she and Remy accurately registered everything they saw. The more they re-examine the events of that fateful night, the more questions they discover about what really happened to Turtle.

Master storyteller Jessica Warman keeps readers guessing in this arresting page-turner.


Genres: Young Adult Thriller, Mystery

Publication Date: May 19, 2015

Pages: 278

Series: N/A

My Rating: 4.5 stars

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

Wow. This is by far, one of the most realistic, emotional 'thrillers' I've ever read. It's much more just simply a tragic story then an actual thriller, though the mystery is definitely intriguing. This is all over just simply a good book.

This tells the story of the aftermath of a child abduction. Not the immediate aftermath, but the long-term, ten years ago aftermath, which really isn't focused on as much in many books dealing with the topic (in my opinion). Sam's sister Turtle was stolen on New Year's, never to be found. This is the story of how the family learns to cope, just as much as figuring out what really happened that night.

And let me tell you, it's emotional. My throat was so sore after reading this because I had such a big lump in it nearly the whole time. I'm actually kind of tearing up just thinking about it, because I could not imagine this happening to one of my siblings. I would just die. It's really realistically portrayed, which means it is sometimes difficult to read.

This family is definitely still grieving, though there are times when it is not as apparent. What's worse, Sam is beginning to question what happened that night, and the answers she's getting aren't what she would want. This mystery was So. Good. I was on the edge of my seat; the empathy I felt for these characters only amplified my desire to figure out what actually happened. It's wild, guys. I did not see it coming at all. There were about five trillion plot twists near the end, and my eyes just got wider and wider with each one.

My favorite part of the book was the discussion between Sam and Noah about their sisters. It's so shocking and not what you ever really would expect when reading about abduction, but that's what I love about it. It's so raw and authentic.

Let me tell you, this ending is just...I love it, but it's so freaking CRUEL, because it begs for a sequel that I'm not sure is coming. I have a feeling this book will just be one of those horrifyingly awful yet wonderful cliffhangers, torturing me with its desire to get resolved. Seriously. A bomb got dropped on me and then the book literally ended. Not one more sentence. Not one more word. I was so pissed.

This book was great. It blended emotion with mystery perfectly to make this beautiful book, one where I have never nor probably will ever read something like it.