Sunday, October 30, 2016

Review: All the Light We Cannot See

18143977Title: All the Light We Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Genre: Historical fiction

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
I haven't had the greatest track record with Pulitzer-prize winning books. I usually find them either really dull and boring or really pretentious and over-my-head. I had sort of resigned myself to not picking up any more Pulitzer books because I figured I wasn't going to enjoy them, but my uncle convinced me that this one was worth reading. I'm really glad he did, because I loved this book! I really enjoy historical fiction, especially stories about the world wars because they always seem to showcase the resilience and strength and beauty of the human spirit in terrible circumstances. This book was no exception.

All the Light We Cannot See is a gorgeously written book. The words are simple, but every single word is selected and arranged with so much care. This is one of those books where you know every sentence, every word was included for a purpose. There were so many references to light and blindness, seeing and darkness, and they all wove this beautiful story together with so many things to think about.

This book is terribly sad. I cried at least three times, and it was because I cared about the characters so much that I was really upset when terrible things happened to them. It wasn't even the main characters, I cried for secondary and peripheral characters too. It was interesting to see the conflict of WWII from two different sides, from both Marie-Laure's and Werner's points of view. They don't even meet until near the end of the book but their actions and lives to intersect and influence one another in unexpected ways. That sort of unpredictable yet undeniable connection between two people is one of the most beautiful parts of this book.

I liked how this book was focused on the characters and their childhood as much as it was focused on the grand scale of the war. I always like small-scale, personal stories that illustrate the effects of something huge and vast; sometimes it's just so hard to comprehend the complexities of something so monstrous and big as a world war, but when you see its effects on one little girl you are moved to tears.
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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Review: Armada

ArmadaTitle: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
Genre: Science fiction, humor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.
But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.
And then he sees the flying saucer.
Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.
No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.
It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?
At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

Let me preface this review by saying I don't play many video games, but I am defintely a sci-fi nerd! Most of the references in Ready Player One went over my head, but I still had a lot of fun reading it and I was excited to read Armada because I thought I would get more of the references/jokes. Armada was also a lot of fun, but not quite as enjoyable as RPO. Maybe it just wasn't as funny when it was the same kind of story the second time around?

Armada's premise is that the government created video games to train civilians into fighting off an alien invasion. Far-fetched? YES. But it just gets so much weirder! There are so many twists and conspiracy theories, and after a certain point it got so ridiculous I stopped being surprised. I'm not really sure how I feel about the ending, it just went to such a weird place. I really did like Zack's relationships with his family/friends/mentors, and that made the book worth reading even with all the nonsense that was the plot.

I definitely enjoyed the book way more because of the narrator. Whil Wheaton has such an over-the-top, energetic voice, and I was way more engaged in the story than I would have been if I just read the book in paper form. I also really liked all the Star Trek/LOTR/Star Wars references :)

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

AZ challenge: Almost thereee

Two more books before I finish my challenge! I think I can actually finish the challenge, but I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch :)

A: And I Darken by Kiersten White (2/26)
B: The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson (2/8)
C: Court of Thieves by Kate Elliott (1/12)
D: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (4/3)
E: The Expats by Christopher Pavone (10/6)
F: Fall of Giants (8/30)
G: A Great Hunt by Robert Jordan (1/22)
H: His Majesty's Dragon (3/30)
I: The Immortal Heights (1/5)
J: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (8/26)
K: Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal (8/23)
L: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (9/4)
M: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (3/21)
N: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (6/18)
O: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine (3/12)
P: Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov (6/15)
Q: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that cannot stop talking by Susan Cain (3/27)
R: Rook by Sharon Cameron (3/7)
S: Shadows of Self (1/3)
T: Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights (1/31)
U:  UnBound by Neal Shusterman (9/8)
V: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (TBR)
W: Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson (5/12)
X: Bird Box by Josh Malerman (10/13)
Y: I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai (8/19)
Z: Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear (TBR)

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

TTT: Top Ten Creepy Books I've read

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: Top Ten Creepy Books

So I've been AWOL for 2 weeks, and I honestly don't have a dramatic reason for it. Life is just busy, applying to grad school is tough!

Even though I haven't been posting much, I have been reading. A lot of my recent reads have been creepy to get into the Halloween spirit, even though I don't usually read a lot of horror. That said, here are some of my favorite books that got under my skin.


THIS BOOK TERRIFIED ME. Listening to it on audio made it worse (better?). It's subtle because you never actually meet the "Bad guys" and it's more about the creepiness of what you can't see than what you can.

I just finished this on Saturday. It was my first Stephen King book/movie/anything and I loved it! It was terrifying but also, oddly enough, really beautifully written. The Overlook is one creepy old hotel.
The absolutely most horrific and terrifying retelling of Snow White I have ever come across. It's a short story but it's incredibly dark and disturbing for such a short piece!

mad scientist and man-eating monsters. Enough said.

Gone Girl is creepy just because people are so messed up!

Serial killer in Chicago, many years ago. What's especially creepy about this one is that it's nonfiction!
People are never who you think they are...
Although I wasn't a huge fan of this book, I was definitely creeped out by how ordinary people can have such sinister secrets.

Shadows that can eat you, blood portals, and never ending betrayal. This book is brutal!

The Picture of Dorian Gray isn't even supposed to be horror, but it's definitely creepy. Sometimes it's a little scary to see your inner self reflected in a mirror!
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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

TTT: Top Ten Books I read on recommendations

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: Top Ten Books I read on Recommendations

I didn't like ToG that much, but the blogger community convinced me to keep going. So far I've enjoyed the series much more than book 1, so thanks blogger community ;)

A friend recommended this to me in high school and I didn't get to it until this year, after we both graduated college...better late than never?

One of my best friends recommended this to me when we were freshmen in college. It was my first fantasy book since middle school, and it got me hooked onto one of my now-favorite authors and fantasy all over again :)

Another book my really good friend recommended to me freshmen year, but this one didn't go over as well! My Wise Man's Fear review  describes alllllll the very mixed feelings.

Another thumbs up to the collective recommendations of the blogger community, plus special mention to Brittany at Book Addict's guide for the audiobook rec!

This was recommended to me by another really good friend who reads a lot of fantasy.

Yet another blogger community rec, although there were a few people who specifically recommended it to me and I don't remember who but THANK YOU this book was amazing.

My old roommate read this last year and recommended it to me, and I really enjoyed it! I am definitely looking forward to more of this series.
I wasn't going to read this because I never find Pulitzer prize winning books to be interesting or particularly profound, but my uncle recommended it and it was actually really good (and heartbreaking. I cried three times).
My friend recommended this to me as my intro to comics, and I LOVED IT. Words cannot begin to describe the amazing feeling of relating to a fictional character on a whole new level, and seeing someone who shares something similar to your community and family pressures and confusion. So excited for more comic books :)
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Friday, October 7, 2016

Review: The Expats

12617758Title: The Expats
Author: Chris Pavone
Genre: Suspense, contemporary

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:Kate Moore is a working mother, struggling to make ends meet, to raise children, to keep a spark in her marriage . . . and to maintain an increasingly unbearable life-defining secret. So when her husband is offered a lucrative job in Luxembourg, she jumps at the chance to leave behind her double-life, to start anew.
She begins to reinvent herself as an expat, finding her way in a language she doesn’t speak, doing the housewifely things she’s never before done—play-dates and coffee mornings, daily cooking and unending laundry. Meanwhile, her husband works incessantly, doing a job Kate has never understood, for a banking client she’s not allowed to know. He’s becoming distant and evasive; she’s getting lonely and bored.
Then another American couple arrives. Kate soon becomes suspicious that these people are not who they claim to be, and terrified that her own past is catching up to her. So Kate begins to dig, to peel back the layers of deception that surround her. She discovers fake offices and shell corporations and a hidden gun; a mysterious farmhouse and numbered accounts with bewildering sums of money; a complex web of intrigue where no one is who they claim to be, and the most profound deceptions lurk beneath the most normal-looking of relationships; and a mind-boggling long-play con threatens her family, her marriage, and her life.

This was a fun spy book to listen to as an audiobook. It was interesting because it was a spy novel that mostly centered around an expat housewife, of all things. You learn very quickly that Kate is not ordinary housewife, since she used to be in the CIA. And the epigraph makes it clear that Kate isn't the only person hiding things from her spouse: "The one charm about marriage is that it makes a life of deception absolutely necessary for both parties." Thanks, Oscar Wilde.

I liked how this book wasn't a cookie-cutter thriller. The suspense isn't a bunch of adrenaline rushes and twists and turns in this book. This book uses layers of deception instead. Each revelation makes you reframe the events you've already seen, and I found this layer-by-layer deconstruction of everyone's deceptions really interesting. I also enjoyed the wry, witty little moments and conversations Chris Pavone inserts throughout the novel.

While it was refreshing to read a book where the main character has a life that includes assembling Ikea furniture and pacifying her two young kids, at times I was a little bored with how mundane everything was. Then again, the contrast between Kate's normal life and her spy life was made even more sharp because of how mundane her daily life is. It made certain scenes hilarious (imagining Kate trying to jiggle that Luxembourg-standard window open, for one).

This isn't my favorite thriller or suspense novel, but it was great to listen to. I loved the narrator's voice, and she did a great job with the fake "Oh hiiiiiii, I'm so glad to see you!" duplicitous middle class housewife voice. The book was light-hearted and didn't have too many twists and turns, so it wasn't too confusing on audio either. I definitely enjoyed it!

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Review: Ancillary Justice

17333324Title: Ancillary Justice
Author: Ann Leckie
Genre: Science fiction

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest. Once, she was the Justice of Toren - a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy. Now, an act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with one fragile human body, unanswered questions, and a burning desire for vengeance.


You know the kinds of books that require a lot more thinking than whatever you'd been reading recently, and you have to read and re-read the first bit multiple times until things start to make sense? My first experience with that sort of book was A Wrinkle in Time, my first sci-fi book at the age of 8. I think I was just too young to understand the whole tesseract business and I had to read the first part of the book so many times just to understand what was happening, but once I got that under my belt I loved the book. My experience with Ancillary Justice was almost identical, except this time I can't use the "I was too young to understand" card. Shame on me and my escapism-loving brain haha

While I did have to read the first 50 or so pages twice to get a good grip on this book, once I got familiar with all the terminology and the way the world worked, I was hooked. This book has layers upon layers to unearth, and both the past and present storylines were captivating. I was never disappointed when we switched back and forth from one story to the other because both were equally interesting and had really high stakes.

What I loved about this book is how much it stretched my brain. The main character is a spaceship AI, in case you didn't know, and it doesn't know/chooses not to distinguish between men and women. How can it distinguish that when so many different cultures have so many different ways of projecting and presenting masculinity and femininity? So the spaceship uses "she" for everyone unless specifically corrected. It makes for some mindbending reading as you try and figure out if characters are male or female because that's just something we've been trained to think is important; then you think about it and you realize that the character's gender has no bearing on their actions/personality/role in the story so is it really worth trying to figure out if wearing jewelry makes someone female in this society? But you end up trying to figure it out anyway.

I thought the exploration of gender roles and stereotypes was excellently done, and at first it seems like the book is beating you over the head with the pronoun choice but it's actually quite subtle. The world is rich and varied, and people of all skin tones populate it. I very much appreciated the sweeping diversity of this book.

I also loved how complex the main conflict was. It takes quite a while for the past and present storylines to converge, but once they do, you are blown away by the implications of the past on the present and future. There's no easy way out, and you really don't know who you can trust. Even if you completely disregard the actual plot, it's just such an interesting journey to see how Breq develops from Justice of Toren to One Esk to Breq. It's not even really a development, because that implies linearity and a single progression, but it's more of a simultaneous accumulation of changes in different parts of the same entity. Confused? I was too, for a good chunk of the book, but I promise you'll eventually wrap your head around it.

I enjoyed this book so much I bought myself a copy, because I definitely see myself re-reading this over and over again. I cannot wait to read more of this trilogy!

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

TTT: Top Ten Favorite Villains

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: Top Ten Favorite Villains

It's no secret that I like my villains multi-dimensional and complex. My favorite villains are the ones that think they're doing the right thing or who have a tortured past that makes you want to sympathize with them just a teensy bit. I also have a soft spot for the villains who are just so plain evil that you can't believe they're human...I love how terrifying it is to know there is no line the villain will not cross. So here are some of my favorite multidimensional and terrifying villains!

Lady De Winter - one of the first villains I read about who actually freaked me out. She's just so cold and terrifying.
Mayor Prentiss - completely evil and INSANE. This man is not human.
Queen Levana - evil and ruthless, but has quite sad past and you can really see why she is obsessed with the things she is
Lada - I know she's the main character but Lada is terrifying in her ruthlessness. She's completely multidimensional and complex and you know she's going to grow up to be a terrible person but you just hope she won't anyway

The Raven King - He's literally not human, and I love how he tricks and manipulates people into getting what he wants. He's so charming and charismatic yet so terrifying.

EVERYONE - I don't want to spoil who the villains are in this book because there are so many twists and turns and betrayals, but damn this book was terrifying because you knew the villains were brutal and ruthless.


The AI that ended the world - It's not human, and it did what it thought necessary to save the world. The AI is so complex and multidimensional

Prince Regal - I have never been as infuriated by any character as I have been by Prince Regal. He is spiteful, manipulative, selfish, and just an absolutely AWFUL human being. Hats off to Robin Hobb for making me (love to) hate a fictional character with such a passion!
Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar - These two creatures are absolutely terrifying. They seem to take pleasure in inflicting pain and torture on others
Amy and Nick - I'm not sure either one is truly a villain, but I certainly loved to hate both of them. Just like a horrifying trainwreck, you know it won't end well but you can't look away...
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