Wrap Up | January 2018

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Michaela

The Magicians | Lev Grossman- I didn't love this one. It's an interesting premise but it's hollow somehow. The book breezes through 4 years of magical education in 200 pages with minimal world building, with only one fleshed out character who isn't very likable, then jumps to the second half of the book which is wholly different. On top of that the plot feels....empty, disjointed, and weirdly paced. There's no emotional resonance here and I won't continue the series. I hate when books have great potential and just don't quite get there.

Also, side note on the show: whaaaaattt is even happening? I'm 3 episodes in, is it worth continuing?

Spinning | Tillie Walden- Another graphic novel memoir, and easily my favorite since This One Summer. The tone of this was a little more straightforward and realistic, less dreamy and complex than This One Summer, but it was beautifully illustrated and her story was compelling and real. Plus I learned a lot about competitive ice skating, which was actually super interesting. 

Provenance | Ann Leckie- I wanted to love this one, I picked it up because it was compared to The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet, and I can see why: the tone is somewhat similar and some of the broader concepts are comparable, but this one was not nearly as well written and entirely plot driven at the expense of the characters. It's also one of those books that drops you in the middle of the action with no background or explanation, and expects you to figure it out. Normally that's fine, but since this plot is all about political machinations, some background would have helped to deepen the plot and made the book a much better read. Overall, meh. 

All Our Wrong Todays | Elan Mastai- I actually thought this was pretty much the perfect fluff novel; it was kind of as if Dark Matter and Back to the Future had a sassy love-child. I loved the tone and the fast pace, and the fact that there was some interesting concepts and solid characters in it, though there were some problematic bits as well. It also does that rare thing where the books writing matures at an appropriate pace as the main character matures, and ends up being quite well done. If I don't think too critically about it, I can definitely appreciate it for the fun ride that it is. 

The Heart's Invisible Furies | John Boyne- This one didn't quite live up to the hype for me. It felt very lackluster for the first half, and it couldn't seem to decide what it's tone was, wry? witty? serious? ridiculous? But the second half it came together and hit it's stride much better. It covered some good ground, and though the ending was predictable and tidy,  it was a decent read. This just won't be on my favorites list. 

Persuasion | Jane Austen- Oh Jane Austen! This book FLEW by and Austen's trademark humor and warmth shone through the entire thing. It was a tad more serious than some of her others, and won't unseat Emma as my favorite, but it was lovely to be back with a beloved author. 

I Am I Am I Am | Maggie O'Farrell- My first 5 star read of the year and one that left me a little stunned and shivery when I closed it. This memoir explores Ms. O'Farrell's life through a series of her near death experiences that are brilliantly woven together and work to explore larger concepts while maintaining a really life-affirming, if tense, tone. The entire book was taut and beautiful and a little heartbreaking, but also proud and strong, and complex, and interesting. Stunning. This one is going to haunt me for a long time. Full disclosure, I was gifted this copy by the publisher, but my opinion is wholly my own.

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RIKKI

Animal Farm | George Orwell - My husband recommended I read this story, and so I did. It's short, satirical account of the 1917 Russian Revolution is incredibly creative and well told, although a sad truth and reality of that time. I'm morbidly fascinated that such monsters are able to rise to power in our world, this story details that well, even if from an animal perspective.

American Gods | Neil Gaiman - I find this book to be a completely satirical perspective on American culture as seen from an outsider perspective. Originally from England, Gaiman lived in America for 9 years, before going to Ireland to write this story. It's offensive, creative, and long... but very good. This was the first of his books I read years ago, and decided to re-read before watching the show. This book won't be for everyone, but you have to credit his ability to create the most interesting conversations written in literature (something I commonly find dull).

The Stranger | Albert Camus - A short and profound classic, I found this story to be rather absurd, as I'm sure it's meant to be. It's well written and somewhat interesting, but nonsensical and sad.

The Magnolia Story | Chip & Joanna Gaines - A great, real life motivational story of this sweet couple. I'm a fan of learning about people, and seeing just how unique everyone's story is. They've shared a lot of their lives and have done a great deal for their family and for their hometown. I grew up with a similar work hard mentality, and I certainly admire their hard work and dreams that have lead to their success.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe | Benjamin Alire Saenz - I'm taking a 'Teaching YA Lit' class this quarter, so all the upcoming YA you see here will be because of that. I enjoyed this story quite a bit, at least the first two-thirds of it. It's about two wayward Mexican boys who become friends. I really enjoyed Ari's introverted character and simplistic nature. His angst had more depth, and because of it, that makes YA much more tolerable to me. I also found it intriguing how Saenz worked in the complications of "coming out" as a young homosexual. There was a lot to that for Dante, but it fell incredibly short for Ari. I didn't like the end.

Eleanor & Park | Rainbow Rowell - I enjoyed this story, with a lot to resonate with in the difficulties of youth, so none of it really seemed all that far fetched or overly dramatic for me. This was Rowell's debut novel and I find it to be an interesting first story to write. It's banned, with some crass language and mention of "inappropriate" things, but nothing you might not face in real life. The ending leaves you wanting more, but as Rowell said, "...I don’t believe that 17-year-olds get happy endings. They get beginnings." And this story was merely one chapter for them.

Ashley's War | Gayle Tzemach Lemmon - What can I say about one of the most incredible stories ever depicted of the most brave, heroic women of our time?! That Ashley's story will likely haunt me for all time. She was four months younger than me, and she deployed nearly two years after I left the Army. I understood it all, felt it all again, and my heart broke for everyone who knew and loved her. She's a woman you have to not think of in sadness at her loss, but in happiness at her life. Gayle's research was incredible and she wrote of the experiences for women in the military so well.

Ask the Passengers | A.S. King - The ONLY reason I finished this book is because it's on my reading list for school. I get that this story is all about the struggle to embrace equality, specifically with same sex relationships. But this book is everything I dislike about YA. The stereotype of how teenagers act and talk is what makes YA most unenjoyable. The seemingly forced attempt to be genuine is in itself not genuine. The constant "or somethings" and insane curse words *insert eye roll here*. The tie in with philosophy was actually pretty cool, but didn't fit in, or make sense, until the later part of the story. I want to say this could've been better, but I'm not sure I can even fairly say that. 

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix | J.K. Rowling - I'm thrilled to be actually getting through Harry Potter. I have really liked all the books leading up to this one. While book 5 is still great, it seems unnecessarily long. Like, how many things can we fit into the first 600 pages before we get to the why of everything and wrap it up quickly at the end?! The excitement from the start has to last you about 200 pages, then not until the halfway point does it pick up again. I'm looking forward to being done with this one, because 800 pages was a killer! 

Other Notes

We're hosting our first ever Bookstagram meet up on February 11th! We are so excited to meet fellow readers for a casual book swap, drinks, and good conversation! Feel free to message us for info!