Friday, August 2, 2013

Diggin' for Dinos

Once again, I have neglected my poor, little blog. Since I’m a Youth Services librarian, summer is always the busiest season for me, as we get a huge influx of patrons for our Summer Reading Program. On top of that, I moved (again), went to ALA (which was awesome!), life was generally crazy, and my blog fell by the wayside. I’ve still been reading a ton, though, so I’m hoping to have some reviews posted soon. 

We just wrapped up our Summer Reading Program a few days ago, and while I’m exhausted, I’m happy to report that it was a huge success. To celebrate, I thought I’d share my favorite program of the summer. 

Since this year’s theme was “Dig Into Reading,” one of the first things that popped into my head was a dinosaur dig (to the surprise of nobody who knows me; dinosaurs are my favorite.) Who doesn’t want to get a little bit messy and play in the dirt? I found a tutorial on how to make dinosaur eggs, but because I’m me, I guesstimated the amounts for each ingredient, made them into muddy rocks, put them on the driveway to dry on a hot, summer day, and the result is pictured below.

I gave the kids a variety of “tools” to try to break open their "eggs," which included plastic forks, spoons, and Popsicle sticks. I also suggested that they just use their hands, and a couple were strong enough to do just that! One used a Popsicle stick as a pick, which I thought was absolutely awesome. Once they broke open their eggs, they were so excited to see the dinosaurs inside! 

After we found our dinosaurs, I pulled out some clay and allowed the kids to make fossils. Here’s the one I did, of just the footprints. The kids got really creative with this, and some even made the clay act as a rock and put their dinosaurs on top. 

This clay color is not flattering at all.

Our final step was to “dig” for cardstock bones. This is the template I used. We have trays that we use for various art projects, so I grabbed some of those, put the bones in, covered them with sand, and the kids reassembled the bones on a piece of paper. We got out the crayons and markers for this part, and they loved creating their own dinosaur habitats /coloring in the dinosaur bones. 
The trays with cardstock bones and sand.

What we found in the sand.

While this program was definitely messy, the kids had a riot and they all left with smiles on their faces.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

“Real relationships - the kind that were supposed to last but never did - were more trouble than they were worth.”

L.A. Candy – Lauren Conrad (L.A. Candy #1)
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance 
326 pages 

Summary: Jane and her best friend, Scarlett, have just moved to LA to pursue their dreams. All of their plans change, however, when a television producer discovers them at a bar and offers them the chance to audition for a reality television show that will chronicle their lives in L.A. Will it be more than the duo bargained for? 

Review: ::sigh:: 

I’ll start this review with a confession: I was a covert fan of both Laguna Beach and The Hills, and whenever there was a marathon on MTV, I felt compelled to watch it. Something about both shows was so addicting to me, and as much as I wanted to look away, I just couldn’t do it. Shame, shame; you know my name. 

Because of this, it probably isn’t really a surprise that L.A. Candy was on my radar. Much like the shows that Conrad was in, I didn’t really want to read this book, but because I was so curious about it, I decided to give it a try. Surprisingly, L.A. Candy wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. 

If you’re looking for an extended episode of The Hills or something similar, you’ll really enjoy this book. To me, it seemed like a “before they were famous” version of The Hills that recounted what it was like for the starlets as they rose to fame. It was interesting to see how the characters adjusted to all of the new pressure and attention they were receiving, though some portions did seem unrealistic. 

I also really liked that it provided the reader with a sort of “behind the scenes” glimpse into what being on a reality show was like. I’ve always wondered how much was scripted and how much was real, so it was interesting to see that concept explored in this book. 

The characters were rather one-dimensional, and I didn’t really bond with any of them. Jane made a lot of really questionable, dumb decisions, and her naiveté kind of drove me crazy. I did sort of like Scarlett, though, as she was the only one who wasn’t sucked in by her new circumstances, and she actively questioned what was going on. Perhaps both girls, along with their friends, are fleshed out a bit more in later books in the series. 

One of the things that really drove me crazy was the language in this book. There were so many instances of “OMG,” “BFF,” etc, that made my head want to explode when reading it. Do people really talk like this when they’re 19/in their early 20s, because I’m pretty sure my friends and I grew out of that by that point in time? There is a possibility that I may have bonded with the characters a bit more had the narrator’s voice not been so maddening. Seriously, it was like, totally, like, super annoying. Like, OMGWTF? 

If you like your books filled with life on reality television, drama, backstabbing, or are a fan of the Gossip Girl series, The Hills, or Laguna Beach, you may enjoy L.A. Candy

I’m going to go sit in my shame corner now and think about what I’ve done. 

Rating: 2/5 

Other Books in This Series: Sweet Little Lies, Sugar and Spice

Read-alikes: Gossip Girl series – Cecily von Ziegesar

Friday, June 7, 2013

“Everyone makes choices in life. Some bad, some good. It's called living, and if you want to bow out, then go right ahead. But don't do it halfway. Don't linger in whiner's limbo.”

Poison Study – Maria V. Snyder (Book 1 in the Study series) 
412 pages 
Genre: YA, Fantasy 

Summary: Yelena is about to be executed for murder, but at the last possible moment, her life is spared. While this should bring Yelena a sense of relief, she has no time to relax, as the only reason she wasn’t killed was because she is now the official food taster for the Commander. Will this arrangement prove to be more than Yelena bargained for? 

Review: I read Snyder’s Inside Out a while ago, and while that story wasn’t really my cup of tea, I absolutely loved the way she writes. Because of this, I quickly determined that I would read another of her books that better aligned with my interests. Fortunately, Fire Study was right up my alley, and I’m so glad that I read it. 

Fire Study opened with a bang and didn’t let up until the very end. When the book began, we met Yelena shortly before her scheduled execution for murder, and her life is spared because of a technicality in a law, as the next prisoner sentenced to death shall become the commissioner’s food tester, if that person so chooses. It made me put myself in Yelena’s situation and try to figure out what I would do if given this option, which was interesting to think about. Do you die quickly, or do you, perhaps, die an agonizing death by poison? On the whole, it seems like a no-win situation, but Yelena decided to take her chances and live, if only for a little while longer. 

Sometimes after an engaging beginning, books begin to lose speed, but that was definitely not the case with Fire Study. The plot continued to move quickly as Yelena adjusted to her new role, and it was so exciting to see what was going to happen next. Just as it seemed like things were finally settling down, a fight would break out that would have Yelena scrambling for her life, and it made perfect sense in the world Snyder created. It was also interesting that the reader couldn’t really tell where everyone’s loyalties were, and just as one thought one had it all figured out, another plot twist was thrown in that completely through everything one thought they knew out the window.

In the same vein, I really liked the way in which the reader was exposed to information about Yelena and other characters. Instead of laying everything out at the beginning of the book in a neat and tidy fashion, information was revealed in bits and pieces. At the story’s onset, I wasn’t very sympathetic to Yelena, as I believed her to be a cold-blooded killer, but as more information was revealed, I began to sympathize with her more and more. As information was revealed, the reader was definitely able to see justification in Yelena's actions.

Yelena was a wonderful narrator, and I really enjoyed reading the story from her perspective. In addition to having a complicated past that the reader had to piece together, she was also a complete badass that knew how to take care of herself. Many people in Yelena’s position would have cowered in fear, but she handled herself really well and was incredibly brave. 

Valek, the man in charge of Yelena’s training, was also an outstanding character. Their relationship did not get off to the best start, as I’m sure would be the case in any similar situation, but I loved watching it evolve over time. Valek’s loyalty to the Commander seemed so unwavering, and I would love to have greater access into his mind to see what made him tick.

Fire Study was a completely awesome book with complex characters, ulterior motives, and uncertainty. If you enjoy books featuring amazing females, definitely check it out! 

Rating: 4/5 

Other Books in This Series: Magic Study, Fire Study 

Read-alike: Grave Mercy – Robin LeFevers

Thursday, June 6, 2013

“This is what love does: It makes you want to rewrite the world. It makes you want to choose the characters, build the scenery, guide the plot. The person you love sits across from you, and you want to do everything in your power to make it possible, endlessly possible. And when it’s just the two of you, alone in a room, you can pretend that this is how it is, this is how it will be.”

Every Day – David Levithan
324 pages 
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Fantasy 

Summary: A lives a very unusual life: he doesn’t have a physical body, and every day, he wakes up in someone else’s body. While this doesn’t give A any sense of stability, he has accepted his fate and does his best to live his host’s life. All of that changes when he wakes up as a boy named Justin and falls in love with his girlfriend, Rhiannon. Will he be able to act upon these feelings? 

Review: I have heard a lot of positive buzz surrounding Every Day, so I went into this with all of the expectations. All of them! Fortunately, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in one sitting, simply because I couldn’t pull myself away. 

One of the most compelling parts of Every Day was definitely the concept. I tend to think about really strange things throughout the day, and one of the things I’ve given a lot of thought to is what it would be like to wake up in someone else’s body. This phenomenon was explored in such an interesting way in Every Day, and I was eager to see who A would be next. I really liked that A was easily able to pick up on cues that alerted him to what the expectations were in his host body, and it was great that he didn’t try to stray too far from what the person he was inhabiting would normally do, until he meant Rihannon. 

I’m referring to A as “he” here, but it’s only for simplicity’s sake (and the fact that his first host was male), as our narrator’s gender was never revealed. I really liked that A didn’t have stereotypical male or female traits, but was just a well-rounded human being. Every Day brought up interesting ideas about gender being a social construct, especially as it relates to being in love and just being human, and it was so well-done. I wish gender discussions were taken on by more authors. 

Speaking of love, A quickly fell in love with Rhiannon, and their feelings seemed so sweet and genuine. Rhiannon’s boyfriend, Justin, was not a good match for her, and when A was Justin, it was easy to see why. The relationship with Rhiannon also played into the whole “why does gender even matter” concept, and it was quite effective in its execution. 

Inhabiting other people’s bodies brings up many ethical dilemmas, of course, and Levithan handled these in a rather deft way. For example, when A would go out of his way to see Rhiannon, was that really the right thing to do, since he was living in someone else’s body? This was especially apparent with a character named Nathan, and I loved how things played out with that storyline. In the same vein, when A found out that there may be a way to inhabit just one body, would it be okay to sacrifice someone else’s life for his own? 

Every Day was a wonderful, unique read that will keep readers engaged from start to finish. If you enjoy contemporary books with a fantastical twist and gender bending, definitely give it a try! 

Rating: 4/5 

Read-alike: Slide – Jill Hathaway

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

“Herr Schiller? Are there really any such things as ghosts?' The old man did not even show surprise at the question. He heaved a sigh. 'Yes Pia, there are. But never the ones you expect.”

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden 
281 pages 
Genre: YA, Mystery 

Summary: The Vanishing of Katharina Linden begins explosively, as 10-year-old Pia’s grandmother dies in a completely combustible way that nobody could have predicted. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Pia’s schoolmates begin treating her poorly, thinking that what happened to Pia’s grandmother will happen to them, too, if they become friendly with her. Things get even stranger when children begin to go missing in Pia’s small, German town. Can these events be stopped, or will Pia be the next victim? 

Review: I was really looking forward to reading The Vanishing of Katharina Linden based solely on the description. While the book was enjoyable, unfortunately, it didn’t quite meet the expectations that I built up in mind. 

The Vanishing of Katharina Linden wasn’t a bad book by any means; rather, I just didn’t feel as ensnared in the plot as I would’ve liked. The book literally started out with a bang with the death of Pia’s grandmother, which pulled me in right away, but after that, it seemed as if the events slowed down quite a bit. It took me awhile to finish this book, which is surprising when one considers that it’s relatively short, and I would imagine it was because it wasn’t moving fast enough for me.

Things really began gaining momentum towards the latter half of the book, however, and I really enjoyed that portion immensely. When Pia and her best friend, Stephen, were trying to piece together clues, I was on the edge of my seat, hoping they wouldn’t get caught. There was so much intrigue, and I don’t want to give anything away, but as it turned out, appearances were quite deceiving. 

Pia wasn’t my favorite narrator ever, but it could be because I was picturing her as a much older girl than she actually was, and I wasn’t forgiving enough with her mistakes. The story was told from an older Pia’s reflection of what happened at the time, and instead of seeing a 10-year-old, I was seeing an adult. Stephen did read like a 10-year-old to me, however, and I really liked when he was in the scenes. These characters were forced together out of necessity because of their outcast labels, and it was interesting to see their friendship strengthen over time. 

One of the things I found most compelling about The Vanishing of Katharina Linden were the relationships therein. While I didn’t quite bond with our narrator, her relationship with Stephen seemed quite genuine. Another relationship that really stood out to me was the one between Pia’s parents. Pia’s father was German and Pia’s mother was English, and they often butted heads about where they would live, parenting styles, and a slew of other things. It was such a real, dysfunctional relationship, and I could really see the characters come to life through their actions, although they sometimes made me cringe. 

While The Vanishing of Katharina Linden was a bit uneven for me, fans of mysteries may really enjoy this one. 

Rating: 3/5

Monday, May 20, 2013

“I think honesty is important, like you said. But what I actually think is that the key to a good relationship is forgiveness, because without it we're all completely screwed. ...we're all human, and we all make mistakes. Without forgiveness, we'd all be walking this Earth angry and alone, and I think that would really suck.”

Notes from the Blender – Trish Cook, Brendan Halpin
240 pages
Genre: YA, Realistic Fiction

Summary: Declan, a rebellious teenage boy who doesn’t really fit in anywhere in his high school, lives with his dad after his parents’ divorce. Neilly, a beautiful, popular girl in the in crowd of her high school, dates popular boys and lives with her mom. While these two teens seem to have nothing in common, their worlds collide when their parents announce that they’re going to get married. Will they all be one big, happy family?

Review: Notes from the Blender was a quick, engaging read that kept me entertained from start to finish.

One of the truly outstanding parts of this book was definitely the characters. Declan seemed like such an authentic teenage boy, as he was constantly thinking about girls. He also loved death metal and didn’t really relate well to his peers, which immediately made me sympathetic to his character. I really appreciated his “devil may care” attitude, and his reactions to everything going on his life were genuine. This was especially apparent as it related to the impending marriage between his father and Neilly’s mother. His life was changing rapidly, and as much as he tried to maintain his stony façade, it began to crumble when he was by himself.

Much like Declan, Neilly was also a wonderful narrator. Declan assumed she was perfect, and he actually had a huge crush on her. As time went on, however, and the duo began to talk more, Neilly revealed that there was much more to her than meets the eye, which isn’t a surprise as impressions are often deceiving.

Friendship was one of the primary aspects of this book, and watching Declan and Neilly’s relationship evolve was wonderful. The more they talked, the more they realized they had in common, which, in turn, developed into a genuine bond over time. If one was basing everything on outside appearances, these characters couldn’t have been more different, yet when the superficial layers were removed, everything changed.

Family was also of upmost importance in the book. Both Neilly and Declan’s parents were actively involved in their lives, and it was a delight to see them turn to their parents in times of trouble. If one of their family members were attacked, each character would step in to defend them. This doesn't always happen in a lot of books, but I'm very glad it happened here, as it is pretty true to life.

In addition to all of these great aspects, Notes from the Blender also brought a ton of issues to the table. Of everything presented, the ones that stuck with me the most were LGBT, the pitfalls that occur with divorce and remarriage, what being a high schooler is actually like, alcohol and drug use, and veganism. I especially enjoyed the portions dedicated to LGBT and veganism, even though the authors did get a bit preachy at times.

If you like realistic YA fiction, check out Notes from the Blender!

Rating: 4/5

Read-alikes: Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You - Peter Cameron, Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell

Sunday, May 19, 2013

“Most of what I say is complete truth. My edit button is broken.”

Hourglass – Myra McEntire (Hourglass, Book 1)
390 pages
Genre: YA, Paranormal

Summary: Emerson is your average 17-year-old girl, with one huge exception: she can see ghosts. If that isn’t strange enough, things take an even more bizarre turn when she starts seeing whole scenes from the past. At approximately the same time, she meets a guy named Michael, who was hired by Emerson’s brother to try and help her get rid of these visions. Will these efforts work?

Review: Like many of my YA reads, the cover was what initially drew me to Hourglass. I absolutely love the color combination, and her hair blowing around crazily in front of her face intrigued me further. While I had no expectations going into this, I’m glad I decided to read it, as it was pretty fun.

The biggest aspect of this book centered around paranormal abilities. I’m really drawn to books that have paranormal plot devices, and Hourglass certainly delivered. Emerson had the ability to see ghosts and impressions from the past, and it was fun to see everything through her eyes as she was seeing things. When her visions became more intense, she began to worry a bit, which seemed like a believable reaction if one was faced with these circumstances.

Similarly, time travel was also a crucial element to Hourglass’ plot. This component caused philosophical questions to be raised for both the reader and the characters as they struggled to figure out what they should do. Do they go to the past and alter a tragic event, in hopes that it doesn’t affect anything else, or do they leave it alone and accept what has happened?

As far as the characters go, I felt pretty meh about our narrator, Emerson. While I thought her abilities were really cool, I also thought that many of her decisions were absolutely terrible. This is especially poignant as it relates to her feelings regarding certain characters within the story. It seemed like as soon as one love interest turned his back, she was all over another possible love interest. I understand that it’s possible to be attracted to more than one person at a time, but really? Your feelings are that fleeting?

Ah, the romance. There was a love triangle very similar to the one that can be found in Twilight, and while I know love triangles exist in real life, I wasn’t really buying this one. This could be because crazy things would happen at just the slightest touch with one of Emerson’s love interests, so it didn’t really make any sense to me that she would be going after another guy when said things were happening. Also, what was with best friends going after the same girl? I’m sure that happens, too, but one would hope that when Emerson has clearly showed interest in one of the friends, the other would back off so they don’t ruin their friendship. Why was the best friend always trying to get the girl his friend liked whenever his friend left the room? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Much like romantic relationships were a crucial component of this book, familial relationships were just as important. Emerson was living with her older brother, Thomas, after their parents’ death. I really liked how Thomas was constantly trying to help Emerson overcome the problems she faced. He even went so far as to hire someone that she could talk to to try to work out what was wrong, and I thought that was awesome. It was easy to see how much they cared for one another

While Hourglass was a bit uneven for me, overall, it was an enjoyable read. If you like paranormal stories, give it a try!

Rating: 3/5

Other books in the Hourglass Series: Timepiece, Infinity Glass

Read-alikes: The Summoning – Kelly Armstrong, The Splendor Falls – Rosemary Clement-Moore, The Blue Girl – Charles de Lint

Friday, May 17, 2013

“Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?”

Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins 
372 pages 
Genre: YA, Contemporary 

Summary: Senior year is almost upon Atlanta-native Anna, and she cannot be more excited about the upcoming school year. She has an awesome best friend that she loves hanging out with, and best of all, she met a boy and is eager to discover how everything will turn out with him. All of her excitement comes to a screeching halt, however, when Anna’s father sends her to a boarding school in Paris. As expected, Anna is crushed. Can she find a way to cope with her new situation? 

Review: D’aww, Anna and the French Kiss gave me all of the warm and fuzzy feels. ALL OF THEM! I made the mistake of starting this one before I went to bed, and two hours later, I was still reading it with no intention of putting it down, which is a problem when you need to be a functioning adult in the morning. Oh well, I am perfectly fine with the fact that I lost sleep because I was reading Anna and the French Kiss, as it was awesome! 

I’m not entirely sure why, but one of my all-time favorite YA plot elements involves kids being sent to boarding school. To me, boarding school has this wonderful mystique about it, where young people can go and live dazzling, exotic lives, but I’m sure this is just my projection of what I think going away as a teenager is like, as I always wanted to go to summer camp and never got to. Having the book take place in Paris was especially exciting, and watching Anna trying to fit in with a new culture and the customs therein was wholly believable. This was particularly well done as it related to Anna’s language acquisition and the progress she made with it throughout the book. When she first moved to France, she knew very little of the language, and the plot definitely touched upon the pitfalls of this particular dilemma, often in rather hilarious ways. 

Even though Anna was dropped into an unknown land, she had a relatively easy time making friends, which, in turn, made her transition a bit smoother than it would’ve been had she been forced to navigate everything alone. All of the interactions between the teenagers seemed authentic, especially as it related to everyday situations. Some of the characters were a bit more standoffish than others, while others accepted Anna right away, which provided a magnificent contrast and would be akin to what one would experience in high school. 

Especially poignant was how the relationship between Anna’s home friends evolved after she left. When she returned home for Christmas break, things were much different than when she had left. While it was sad to see that things had changed, it was also really realistic. Much like Anna was creating a new life for herself, her friends from home were doing the same thing. It’s always hard when your friends seem to be moving on without you, but it is a part of growing up, especially if one moves away. Perkins handled this concept in a rather exceptional way. 

The romance within the book was sweet and frustrating at times, which is exactly how it tends to play out in real life. Often little hints are mentioned, but the person to which they are directed at is never quite sure whether they’re reading too much into it, especially when said person is in high school. This is exactly how it was depicted in Anna and the French Kiss

In the same vein, the betrayals and misunderstandings were often rather hard to take, but much like the authenticity of the romance, elements of truth shined through. Who hasn’t gotten upset with a friend over something, especially a boy, and didn’t talk to them for awhile? 

Of all of the characters, my favorite was definitely Etienne. Etienne was complex and interesting, and my heart ached for him as things went wrong in his life. He tried to be a great friend to everyone, and his multi-faceted emotions and effort to put on a brave face made him extremely likeable. 

If you’re looking for a realistic book about being sent away to boarding school, definitely give Anna and The French Kiss a try. I can’t wait to read more of Stephanie Perkins’ books! 

Rating: 4.5/5 

Read-alikes: 13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares – Rachel Cohn, DUFF – Kody Keplinger

Thursday, May 16, 2013

“My imagination is something of a badass.”

The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To – D.C. Pierson 
226 pages 
Genre: YA, Fantasy 

Summary: Darren Bennett is a social outcast who doesn’t really have any friends, until he meets Eric Lederer. The duo have a ton in common, especially as it relates to a shared love of science fiction and drawing, and facing high school seems much easier than it ever was before they met. There is, of course, a secret that Eric has been harboring: he doesn’t sleep at all. Will this secret remain between the two of them, or is something so odd bound to become public knowledge? 

Review: Going into this, I hadn’t heard very much about this book, but I found the title really intriguing and decided to give it a try. Even though I had zero expectations for The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To, I was still left feeling disappointed at the conclusion of the book. 

Perhaps it’s because I’m out of the target age bracket for this book, but I didn’t find it very funny at all, which is a shame because the synopsis on Goodreads indicated that it would be “hilarious.” While it didn’t do anything for me, I do, however, think that 11 to 14 year old boys would find this quite comical. 

For me, both Darren and Eric were pretty flat characters, and I wish that more development was done in both cases. I really felt as if I should feel more sympathetic to both characters, especially as crazy things began to happen to them, but because I wasn’t given the chance to get inside their heads, I didn’t really care about their fates. This is especially true as it related to the love triangle between Darren, Eric, and Christine. While I knew I should feel compassion towards a certain character, especially because the other was being an unbelievably horrible friend, I didn’t feel much of anything at all. 

Though there were elements of the book that I definitely didn’t like, there were also things that I really did. For one, the concept was incredibly cool and unique. Having battled with bouts of insomnia myself, I was curious to see where the author would take the plot, and it definitely went to some interesting places. 

Eric didn’t have insomnia, though, which is what I had originally assumed; in fact, he couldn’t sleep at all. On the one hand, it seems like it would be pretty awesome to not need any sleep ever, as you’d have more hours in the day to do the things you want to do; however, there would always be that wish to feel “normal.” I don’t want to give too much away, but seeing how never being able to sleep affected Eric was definitely interesting, and when symptoms of what sleep deprivation can do to someone were taken into consideration, it made a lot of sense. 

There were also some wonderful fantasy elements within the book that added to its uniqueness. The way fiction turned into reality was quite exciting, and I especially liked how this was handled with the drawings the characters created. I haven’t really read anything quite like this before, and it was nice to see such a fresh concept. 

While this book didn’t quite work for me, fantasy fans, especially 11 to 14 year old boys, may really enjoy The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To.

 Rating: 2/5

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

“... all this talking, this rather liquid confessing, was something I didn't think I could ever bring myself to do. It seemed foolhardy to me, like an uncooked egg deciding to to come out of its shell: there would be a risk of spreading out too far, turning into a formless puddle.”

The Edible Woman – Margaret Atwood
310 pages 
Genre: Literature; Feminism 

Summary: Marian McAlpin, an ordinary twenty-something woman, is about to get married. While she should be elated about the prospect, she finds herself unable to eat. First, it’s only meat, but gradually, she can no longer eat vegetables, eggs, or even cake! Can she find out what is going on before it’s too late? 

Review: First, a quick story: I have made it no secret that Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors. Anytime I see one of her books at a book sale, my hands act upon their own volition and grab said book, and I eagerly carry it around like it’s a pot of gold. I acquired my copy of The Edible Woman from a used book sale, and though the copy was old and worn, I decided to go ahead and buy it anyway. When I went to read it the other day, I noticed that it was signed by the author, and I definitely squealed with delight. Thank you, random person who got rid of her old book, for completely making my day! 

Wait, what was I doing, aside from contemplating the wonder that is Margaret Atwood? Oh yeah, writing a review!

I have read a good amount of Atwood’s body of work, and each time, I marvel at what a wonderful writer she is. Atwood has an amazing ability to make profound statements and draw realistic characters that make the reader feel as if she is part of the story, too. The Edible Woman, Atwood’s first published novel, was exactly what I’ve come to expect from this author, and like the title suggests, I absolutely ate this up. 

One of the primary ideological concepts of this book was feminism. Throughout the course of the book, the characters made philosophical statements on parenthood, marriage, and other social mores that still resonate today. Oftentimes, it was hard for me to remember that this book was written in the 1960s, as so much of what was being discussed is also part of society’s current discourse. For example, one of the characters was reflecting upon being a parent, and noted that she sometimes regretted her choice. While this is quite a controversial way to feel, even in this day and age, she was being honest, and it was refreshing to see that represented in literature.

Single parenthood and promiscuity were also addressed, and it was interesting to see how the characters handled both issues, as varying viewpoints were represented throughout the text. Marriage as an institution was also called into question, and the way in which it affected everyone, especially the main character, was quite compelling indeed. 

Marian, our narrator, is a character that, while rather unremarkable, is someone that many women can relate to. When the subject of marriage came up, something she thought she really wanted, her appetite and countenance began to change, which directly correlated to the dilemma she was having internally. She didn’t want to lose herself, but by not eating, she was wasting away to nothing. 

In the same vein, I could really identify with Marian when she stopped eating meat. The way in which she was visualizing it is exactly how I see it, and while she didn’t relish in the feeling and referred to vegetarians as “cranks,” it was interesting to see my internal thoughts echoed in a piece of writing. 

Duncan was also a fascinating character, and as more was revealed about him throughout the course of the text, I grew to like him even more. At times, Duncan reminded me a bit of Holden Caulfield, just because of all of his eccentricities, and finding out what drove him was quite a ride. 

As is the case with all of Atwood’s novels, the writing in The Edible Woman was absolutely exquisite. I often found myself lingering over certain passages to grasp what was being said, and then re-reading them a bit later on. 

If you like magnificent prose with a feminist edge, give The Edible Woman a try. 

Rating: 4/5 

Read-alikes: The Awakening – Kate Chopin, The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Monday, May 6, 2013

“Surely He does not give us hearts so we may spend our lives ignoring them.”

Grave Mercy – R. L. LaFevers
549 Pages
Genre: YA; Historical Fiction

Summary: In 15th century Brittany, 17-year-old Ismae seeks solace within the confines of the walls of St. Mortain’s convent. This isn’t your average, everyday abbey, though: in fact, these nuns are highly trained assassins who will do whatever it takes to carry out St. Mortain’s orders, especially when it comes to guarding Brittany’s independence. When Ismae goes to court to protect the duchess, will she be able to carry out her divinely inspired orders?

Review: My original interest in Grave Mercy can be summed up in two words: assassin nuns. How awesome is that concept? I’m used to nuns being docile and kind, so when there’s an extra dash of danger thrown in, I am completely hooked. Fortunately, Grave Mercy turned out to be just as awesome as I expected it to be, and though it weighed in at a respectable 549 pages, I read through it incredibly quickly.

The first thing I need to comment on is the tag line: “Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?” Tag lines often make me roll my eyes pretty hard because they tend to be dripping with cheesiness, but this line sums up Grave Mercy perfectly. During the period of time in which this book took place, women were viewed as docile creatures who needed men to help them in all situations, but LaFevers totally turned that notion on its head and made all of her women strong and capable. If anything, they were “wolves in sheep clothing” as they learned the art of seduction right along with the best way to fight and poison people. They weren’t passive sheep, but rather, these women took everything into their own capable hands and acted accordingly.

Ismae, the protagonist of our story, is a prime example of this. From the time she was born, Ismae didn’t really seem to belong to any portion of this world, as her mother tried to abort her and was unsuccessful. Because of this, she carried a deep, red stain on her back reminding her of how unwanted she was every day of her life. What’s truly remarkable about Ismae is she didn’t let this stop her; rather, she became more involved in her training and used her pain to her advantage. Ismae is a total and complete badass that doesn’t need help from anyone and is perfectly capable of saving herself, in addition to the men around her, and I absolutely loved reading about what was occurring in her life.

Duval was also an interesting character, and as soon as he was introduced, I had a feeling that he was going to be very important to the story, especially as it related to Ismae’s fate. I won’t go into detail all that much, but the way in which he was worked into the plot was extraordinarily interesting, and as more and more was revealed about him, it was easy to see how significant he was. I also liked that the reader could never be quite sure of his motives, as new information was being presented all of the time, and just when you thought you had him figured out, something else would transpire that would completely throw everything you thought you knew into chaos. Similarly, Ismae’s relationship with Duval was quite realistic, and I rather enjoyed watching things progress between the two of them.

As if the plot and awesome characters weren’t enough, the writing and story itself were super compelling. There wasn’t a single moment where I was bored with this text, and as each new plot twist was revealed, my attention was rapt to the pages. Sometimes when one reads historical fiction, one can get a bit bogged down in the details, but fortunately, that was not the case here. As I flipped the last page of the book, I think I yelled “That’s it?! …but, but, but I want more!,” which doesn’t always happen for me, so it probably goes without saying that I’ll be reading the sequel soon.

If you like historical fiction with badass females, Grave Mercy is a must read!

Rating: 4.5/5

Read-alikes: Gilt – Katherine Longshore; The Book of Blood and Shadows – Robin Wasserman

Sunday, May 5, 2013

“Now I understood that the same road was to bring us together again. Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.”

My Antonia – Willa Cather
232 pages
Genre: Classics

Summary: Set on the backdrop of 19th century Nebraska, My Antonia chronicles the life of Antonia Shimerda, an immigrant girl trying her best to get acclimated to her new home, through the eyes of one of her childhood friends, Jim Burden.

Review: I’m not entirely sure how I made it through my formal education without having Willa Cather as required reading, but alas, it happened. I have, however, owned My Antonia for a number of years, but I haven’t picked it up until now because, in all honesty, a book set in Nebraska during this time period didn’t really seem all that interesting to me. Why did I buy it, then? I’ve read really great reviews, and I feel like it’s my duty to give every classic the old college try. As I’m sure you can imagine, I went into this with a great deal of trepidation, but much to my delight, I enjoyed it quite thoroughly, and I’m glad that I got off of my throne of judgment long enough to read My Antonia.

My Antonia was more than just a story set in an American prairie; it was also a glimpse into immigrant life in the early 19th century, and a story of love and loss. While reading Antonia’s tale, I couldn’t help but think of my ancestors who made the trip to America, and what it must have been like to be completely absorbed in a culture that you didn’t know very much about. It wasn’t always easy for Antonia’s family, but fortunately, they found very good friends in the Burden family who helped them with their assimilation. It was interesting to see Antonia’s immersion into the culture combined with her nostalgia for her homeland, as I’m sure that is an accurate indicator of how one would feel when one is faced with these conditions.

Jim Burden was a wonderful narrator for this piece, and calling the novel My Antonia really showed how much she had meant to him. While Jim and Antonia were living separate lives, Jim never really forgot about the girl who stole his heart when he was young, and his longing for the past was heartfelt and believable. Jim was not a perfect person and was well aware of that, but his flaws made him a very real, human character.

The portions of the book featuring Lena were also interesting. Like the other characters in the novel, Lena was far from flawless, but her shortcomings made her interesting and compelling. Her friendships with Jim and Antonia seemed genuine, as they weren’t always perfect, but they tried to be there for one another as much as they could.

Love and loss were also at the very heart of this novel, and Cather did an incredible job of weaving both into the tale. Many of the losses came out of the clear blue, as is often the case with life, and the reactions to everything were quite authentic. Cather also expounded upon love in a very real way, highlighting the complications of being in love and expounding on the fact that, when it comes to relationships, things aren't always clear cut. More than anything, this novel was a wonderful examination of the human condition.

If you enjoy classics, beautiful writing, and complex stories with interesting characters, My Antonia is a must read.

Rating: 4/5

Friday, May 3, 2013

"When you say Matt's name, you have the same look in your eyes that he'd get whenever he'd say yours.”

Twenty Boy Summer – Sarah Ockler
290 Pages
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Summary: While Frankie and Anna are mourning the loss of Frankie’s brother, Matt, a bet is made that Anna can meet twenty boys during their upcoming vacation, and one will undoubtedly be her first real boyfriend. Anna is reluctant to partake in this, however, because she is harboring a painful secret from Frankie: she actually had a relationship with Matt and has no real desire to pursue another. Will Anna’s secret be revealed?

Review: I hadn’t heard much about Twenty Boy Summer before I read it, but I thought the cover was pretty cute, so I decided to give it a try. Ultimately, I’m really glad I did, as this was a wonderful story of love and loss.

At the heart of the novel was, of course, the grief that Anna and Frankie were grappling with over the loss of Matt, and Anna’s big secret. Both of these were handled in a wonderful way, and my heart was breaking for Anna as she struggled not to tell Frankie what had transpired between her and Matt the year before. Feeling loyalty to someone, even if they’re no longer around, is something I completely understand, and it must have been so hard for Anna to not be able to talk about the depth of her grief, as such a huge piece of her story was hidden.

Anna was a realistic character with complex emotions, which effectively made her very relatable. Her thoughts were often in conflict with each other, and when the monkey wrench otherwise known as Sam was thrown in, a whole slew of new issues and feelings emerged that she was forced to deal with. All of her reactions were believable, and it seemed as if anyone in that situation would have reacted in a similar way.

Our other main character, Frankie, couldn’t have been more different than Anna, but she was also rather compelling to read about. Unlike Anna, Frankie’s motives were not evident from the very beginning of the novel, and it was often incredibly difficult to see where she was coming from. At times, her actions were downright frustrating. It wasn’t until the latter part of the book that the reader began to understand why she was acting the way she did, and once it all was revealed, everything made perfect sense.

Even though grief was a huge part of the novel, there were many other themes to keep this book moving. Love was also one of the biggest elements of the book, and finding new love after death was explored in a wonderful, authentic way. Acceptance is such a huge part of the grieving process, and while it isn’t an easy thing to do, it’s a necessary step that one must take. You don’t forget the person you cared for, but rather, you try to find happiness again. Watching the girls come to this conclusion over the course of the novel was incredibly moving.

If you’re looking for a heartfelt story with love, heartache, and friendship at its core, give Twenty Boy Summer a try.

Rating: 3/5

Read-alikes: 13 Little Blue Envelopes – Maureen Johnson, Instructions for a Broken Heart – Kim Culbertson, anything by Sarah Dessen

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

“Oh, Snap," I say. "What?" "Sorry. I was flashing back to 2005.”

Eve and Adam – Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate 
291 pages 
Genre: YA; Science Fiction 

Summary: Evening was involved in a horrific car crash that should’ve ended her life. Somehow she survived, and was quickly whisked away to her mother’s lab for treatment. As she is convalescing, Eve’s mother asks her to create the perfect boy using advanced software in the facility, but will things really be as perfect as they seem? 

Review: I was super excited to read Eve and Adam, mainly because it was written by the authors of the Animorphs series, a bookish staple of my childhood. Fortunately, I liked Eve and Adam just as much as I liked Animorphs, and I was hooked from start to finish. 

The plot was rather compelling, if at times predictable, and I flipped through the pages eagerly to discover if what I thought was going to happen would play out. On most occasions, I was able to foresee all of the events, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story in the least. Eve and Adam is very fast-paced, and there is rarely a dull moment. 

While the plot isn’t all that unique conceptually, it was still fun to see how everything unfolded. Evening was in a terrible accident that should’ve ended her life, yet she was able to heal remarkably quickly with her mother’s help, and it was fun to see her reaction as secrets began to unravel.

Evening was a rather strong narrator, and I really liked viewing the story through her eyes. Even though the description of the book makes her sound like she’s boy crazy, she really isn’t, though she does have fun working on her special project. Eve was a smart, capable girl who really thought things through and had no problem helping friends in need. 

Aislin, Eve’s best friend, was a wonderful foil character for Eve. While Eve was very pragmatic, Aislin was ruled a bit more by her emotions and often found herself in undesirable situations that Eve helped her get out of. Their friendship was incredibly strong, and even though they were really different, their friendship never faltered. It’s so refreshing to see such a positive female friendship depicted in a YA book, as they can often be portrayed as being rather catty, which is, of course, true to life, but it isn’t always the case, as can be seen with Aislin and Eve. 

I also really liked Solo, and it was interesting to discover why he was constantly trying to thwart Eve’s mother’s plans. Solo infiltrated the lab under the guise of seeking employment, and the things he finds out along the way are astounding. His relationship with Eve was also well-done and believable, and watching it evolve over time was a fun ride. 

If you’re looking for a fast-paced book with a science fiction feel, or if you are a fan of the Animorphs series, definitely give Eve and Adam a try. 

Rating: 3.5/5 

Read-alikes: The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary E. Pearson, Uglies – Scott Westerfield, Unwind – Neal Shusterman

Monday, April 29, 2013

“To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life.”

Les Miserables – Victor Hugo 
1463 pages 
Genre: Classics 

Summary: Les Miserables takes place during the uprising in 1832 France, and follows the lives of various inhabitants therein. 

Review: When I finished this book, I felt like hoisting my fists in the air triumphantly and running around the block humming “Eye of the Tiger” or the theme song from “Rocky”. Les Miserables is absolutely massive, and the simple act of reading it makes one feel as if one is undertaking the most epic journey of all time. Like most voyages, however, it had its highs and lows. 

Let’s start with the highs, shall we? Les Miserables is written absolutely exquisitely. There were many instances in which I would find myself backtracking to read a passage over again, just because of the sheer beauty of the words. To say Hugo was an eloquent writer seems like the understatement of the year. He was so good at using words not only to say something in an exquisite way, but to get to the very heart of the human condition. His prose is filled with passion and emotion, and it’s hard not to become completely engrossed in the world he creates. 

The characters were just as complex and interesting as the writing, and it was easy for me to view things from their perspective. This was quite painful at times, as the content of Les Miserables is incredibly sad, but being able to empathize with the characters was a natural extension of the world created. Hugo really got inside the characters heads and lives and discussed all kinds of details about each to the reader, which made everyone seem wholly believable and real. 

At times, it was hard for me to keep the characters straight because there were so many, but I think the standout for me had to be Jean Valjean. Watching his evolution throughout the book was riveting, and his story was heartrending and intriguing. I tend to like the “criminal” characters the best in anything I’m reading, perhaps because I like to get to the heart of their motives, so I suppose it isn’t all that surprising that Jean Valjean’s story is the one that resonated with me the most. 

While there were some absolutely amazing aspects of Les Miserables, there was one thing that I really didn’t care for: Hugo would often go off on random tangents about sewers or some obscure piece of history, and twenty pages later, I’d say to myself “Really? We’re still talking about sewers? Can we hear more about Cosette now, please?” For me, this detracted from the story immensely, and it’s the reason it only earned three stars from me. I just didn’t care for the digressions, as they often made the plot move rather slow, which is a shame because the story itself is so compelling! 

Rambling departures aside, Les Miserables was an excellent read and I cannot wait to read more of Victor Hugo’s body of work. If you like classics, definitely give this a try! 

Rating: 3/5 

Read-alike: The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexander Dumas

Sunday, April 28, 2013

“If I win, I'm a prodigy. If I lose, then I'm crazy. That's the way history is written.”

Artemis Fowl – Eoin Coiffer
316 pages
Genre: Children’s, Adventure

Summary: Artemis Fowl is a 12-year-old evil genius who revels in criminal deeds. After kidnapping a fairy named Holly, things become infinitely more complicated. Can Holly escape Artemis’ malevolent clutches?

Review: The Artemis Fowl series is constantly circulating in my library, so I decided to read the first book to see what all the fuss is about. I didn’t really find anything special here, but the adventure within its pages makes it easy for me to understand the appeal it has for kids.

As much as the action will entice young readers, the plot never really drew me in, and I even found the scenes that were supposed to be exciting incredibly dull. I couldn’t quite muster up enough feeling to care about any of the events therein, and it all seemed very predictable to me. I think this is largely because of the simplistic writing style, which I wasn’t very fond of, but again, kids probably enjoy the straightforwardness.

I also didn’t really care for any of the characters, and found them to be quite two-dimensional. Artemis didn’t really seem all that compelling to me, and I wasn’t on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what Holly’s fate would be. Perhaps more character development is done later in the series, though.

While I didn’t like most of the characters, there was one standout for me: Juliet. I really enjoyed the scenes that she was in, and I especially liked that they used professional wrestling to distract her for hours. I used to be am a really big wrestling fan, so when she was talking about different moves and whatnot, it cracked me up.

There was also quite a bit of humor throughout that the book would delight young readers. This, combined with the basic writing style, also explains this series’ massive popularity, as it’s funny and easy to understand.

While this book wasn’t my cup of tea, I can certainly see why children gravitate towards it. Fans of 39 Clues will love Artemis Fowl!

Rating: 1/5

Read-alikes: 39 Clues series – various authors, Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"You can't spend your entire life avoiding chance. It's out there, it's inescapable, it's a part of the soul of the world. There are no sure things in this universe, and it's absolutely ridiculous to try and live like there are!”

Midwives – Chris Bohjalian
384 pages
Genre: Contemporary; Mystery

Summary: In what should be a routine labor for experienced midwife, Sibyl Danforth, everything takes a tragic turn when unexpected complications arise that leave her patient, Charlotte, dead. While grappling with her grief, Sibyl soon finds herself on trial, as she is being implicated in Charlotte’s demise. Will the true events from that fatal evening ever be revealed?

Review: I’m usually not the biggest fan of mysteries, but I read and enjoyed another of Bohjalian’s books, The Sandcastle Girls, so I thought I’d give Midwives a try. Fortunately, I found Midwives to be just as intriguing as The Sandcastle Girls, although the subject matter varied greatly, and I was hooked from start to finish.

One of the shining aspects of Midwives was the suspense. This book could have gotten stale incredibly quickly, but there was action throughout and I was never bored. I really liked how the element of doubt pervaded every aspect of the novel, and just as I was convinced of one thing, Midwives would slap me in the face with new evidence that would blow my mind and make me think a different way. Additionally, the way the story was revealed in bits and pieces was an excellent strategy when dealing with the events of the fatal night and the subsequent trial.

I also really liked that an excerpt from Sibyl’s diary was included in nearly every chapter, as it shed insight into her life and what had occurred that the reader wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Sibyl herself was very unreliable, often questioning whether she did the right thing, and I would imagine that anyone would feel much the same way if he or she was in Sibyl’s shoes.

Reading the story from Sibyl’s daughter, Connie’s, perspective, made Midwives absolutely fascinating. Connie wasn’t there when everything went down, though she did sometimes accompany Sibyl to births, but she always seemed to know exactly what had transpired on the night in question with absolute certainty. By providing this perspective, it really allowed the reader to see how other people were affected by everything that was happening besides the person on trial, Sibyl. Connie’s life changed dramatically because of her mother, and her perspective served to humanize the entire trial and the emotional impact it wrought in her life.

In addition to this book being suspenseful, it also provided a really good background on midwifery. Going into this, I had no idea what midwifery even consisted of, and it was really interesting to see what it actually is, even though some scenes did make me a bit squeamish (but I’m sure I would have felt the same way had I been reading about a hospital birth.) Midwives also brought ethical and moral questions to the table, especially as it relates to hospital and home births, and the nature of guilt and innocence, and it was interesting to see so many perspectives represented.

What an ending! Just when I was sure I had everything figured out, every notion I had was turned on its head on the very last page of the book. I’m pretty sure I exclaimed “What?” as I re-read it a few times, trying to ensure that what I was seeing was actually printed on the page. To say that it left me thinking for awhile afterward is probably the biggest understatement of the year, and it was the perfect way to end this book.

If you’re looking for a suspenseful read that will leave you guessing until the very last page, give Midwives a try. I can’t wait to read more of Chris Bohjalian’s books!

Rating: 4/5

Other Books by Chris BohjalianThe Double Bind, Skeletons at the Feast, The Sandcastle Girls, The Night Strangers

Friday, April 19, 2013

"There is something about talking in the night, with the shreds of sleep around your ears, with the silences between one remark and another, the town dark and dreaming beyond your own walls. It draws the truth out of you, straight from its little dark pool down there, where usually you guard it so careful, and wave your hands over it and hum and haw to protect people's feelings, to protect your own ."

Tender Morsels – Margo Lanagan
436 pages
Genre: Fantasy; Re-imagined Fairytales

Summary: Tender Morsels takes place in two distinct worlds: the real world; and Heaven, the world Liga imagines for herself. Heaven is a wonderful place where nothing bad ever happens, and Liga and her daughters lead a peaceful existence, until the real world forces its way into their perfect paradise. Will the trio finally be forced to confront reality head-on?

Review: If I could sum up Tender Morsels in one word, it would probably be “crazy,” as this is one of the most bizarre books I’ve ever read. In fact, there were many instances when I had to put the book down, just to ruminate a bit on the content while muttering to myself about the insanity within its pages.

Did I enjoy Tender Morsels? Honestly, I’m still not sure, and I had a really hard time assigning a rating. I thought it was beautifully written and it was easy to get into the characters’ vernacular as I became more absorbed in the story, but the subject matter therein was definitely cringe worthy. If you’re going into this book expecting a light read, put it back and walk away because it’s incredibly gloomy; however, if you like re-tellings that are on the darker side, you’ve found what you’re looking for.

The distinct worlds Lanagan imagined were extremely complex, unique, and detailed, and it was easy for me to picture them in my mind. I especially enjoyed the scenes in Heaven, although I read them with a sense of foreboding as it seemed that something awful would happen to wreck their unspoiled paradise. When compared to the real world, it was easy to see why Liga would choose to live in Heaven instead of facing the harsh realities of life, especially when her past is taken into account.

The characters in this book were numerous, and oftentimes, it was hard to keep them straight in my mind; however, all of the characters were flawed and their actions seemed realistic. I especially liked Liga’s daughters, Urdda and Branza. They had never faced the realities of the real world, and when they were confronted with them head-on, it was interesting to see how they reacted.

Additionally, Tender Morsels brings interesting philosophical and moral questions to the table that will leave the reader thinking about them for awhile. For example, is it better to be safe, or is it better to take chances and live your life to the fullest, even if things don’t always go your way?

This book is definitely not for everyone, but if you enjoy dark fairytales with moral and ethical dilemmas, unique world building, and strong, deeply flawed characters, you may enjoy Tender Morsels.

Rating: 3/5

Read-alikeThe Book of Lost Things - John Connolly

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

“Everybody wanted to be the hero of their own story. Nobody wanted to be comic relief.”

The Magician King – Lev Grossman (The Magicians, Book 2) 
400 pages (13 Discs) 
Genre: Contemporary, Magic 

*Spoilers for The Magicians abound after this point, so if you haven’t read it yet, proceed with caution.* 

Summary: Quentin and his friends have left the hallowed halls of Brakebills and have entered the world of Fillory, where they are treated as kings and queens of the realm. For once, everything seems to be going right, until Quentin becomes a bit bored and decides to embark upon a quest that will take him farther than he’s ever gone before. Will he find the adventure he’s looking for? 

Review: The first book in this series, The Magicians, had an incredibly amount of hype surrounding it, but I was left with an overall feeling of apathy after finishing it. To me, it was a bit uneven, as I loved some parts and loathed others, yet I was still intrigued enough to find out how things would progress in The Magician King. Fortunately, I enjoyed this book much more than its predecessor. 

I ended up borrowing The Magician King in an audio format from the library, and I’ve very glad I did. The narrator was excellent, and I found his voice to be exciting and engaging, hitting just the right notes in the correct places. It took me awhile to finish this as it was absolutely massive (13 discs!), but I’m really glad I stuck it out because I was thoroughly entertained the whole time. 

The quest, the predominant portion of the book, was intriguing and exciting, and I liked following the whole crew on their adventures. Quentin and Julia happened upon many amazing characters, creatures, and magic along the way, and it was so fun to go with them on their journey. 

One of my favorite characters in this book was Julia, and I really enjoyed that her perspective was included frequently. Julia was extremely unique and complex, and her depressed state seemed very authentic, especially when everything that had occurred in her life was taken into account. The underground scene in which she was involved was also rather intriguing, and I loved discovering more about it as the story went on. 

I also really enjoyed the introduction of the character Poppy. Poppy added a wonderful dynamic to the group, and the scenes she was in were definitely among my favorites. I appreciated how smart, savvy, and sassy she was, and I thought it was great that she had no problem telling people exactly what was on her mind. 

As was the case in the last book, Quentin was my least favorite character, and his melodramatic whining throughout the entirety of the text was rather annoying. Everything in the world was handed to him on a silver platter and he didn’t appreciate any of it, and instead, lamented about not having enough adventure. You just stumbled into the world that you have been daydreaming about since you were a kid, and you’re still not happy? Are you kidding me? 

On the whole, though, I found The Magician King to be a fun read full of magic and wonder. If you liked the first book, or if you enjoy Harry Potter or The Chronicles of Narnia, you will probably like this book, too! 

Rating: 3.5/5 

Read-alikes: Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling, Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis