Quick Review: Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi

restore me It’s been a couple of years ago that Tahereh Mafi completed her Shatter Me trilogy but I guess she wasn’t finished with it because here we are with book 4.  I feel like I should went back and read the original series because there were so many things I forgot about.  The one thing I didn’t forget about is how the Mafi’s writing style changed as Juliette’s mind because more stable.  As she becomes less isolated and understands her power the writing style because more fluid and less choppy.  In this one, as things start to unravel for Juliette and Warner we start to see a return to the choppy phrasing from earlier books.  I knew as soon as Juliette’s journal appear that things are not going to end well.  Not to get too far ahead, let’s start at the beginning.  Restore Me begins a little more than two weeks after the end of the last novel.  Juliette has taken over as Supreme Commander of North American and soon discovers she is way over her head.  Not only does she know very little about politics but the people she trust have been keeping things from her.  Things start to spiral out of control when the kids of the other Supreme Commanders start showing up.  Juliette learns that as much as she wants to run from her past she can’t because in truth she doesn’t even know her past and what she doesn’t know just might get everyone killed.  I really enjoyed this and I’m glad Tahereh returned this world because clearly there is a lot to explore in Juliette’s story.

Review: Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

img_4946This book was really cute. It is the story of Sara, who comes to America, specifically to Broken Wheel, Iowa, to meet her pen pal only to find out that her pen pal has died. Sara and her pen pal Amy exchanged books and bonded over their mutual love of reading. Sara had worked for a bookstore in her home country of Sweden, but it has permanently closed its doors. So, she has the time to vacation and to decide what is next in her life.

Since Amy isn’t there to meet her, the town steps in. They set her up in Amy’s house (as Amy would have wanted) and get someone to drive her around (a couple of someones, actually, both of whom have their own little subplots). Everyone is so kind and generous to her that she decides she needs to find a way to pay everyone back. She finally lands on opening a bookstore in a store front conveniently owned by Amy and using Amy’s books. This, of course, changes the lives of many people in town. The book is quite long, but it has at least 4 sub-plots that are all resolved in the narrative and that takes time.

 

When I posted about this being my current listen, I said that I picked this book because it is set in Iowa and I was pretty sure it was written by someone not-from-Iowa. I thought that was a wonderful novelty. Having lived in Iowa many years, I’m always interested in hearing what people who haven’t had that experience think about the state. And, I have to say, I found it a little confusing.  First, I was pretty sure that the town was supposed to be in Southern Iowa, but then it mentioned that it could be a bedroom community for Cedar Rapids, which is not in Southern Iowa. (And, is the next town over from where I went to high school). Second, there’s a gay kid who comes to town to investigate the bookstore and then make friends with the gay guys that run the local tavern because he has no other outlet for meeting gay people. But…he has a car and lives near-ish to Cedar Rapids and can’t make it to Iowa City which isn’t that far beyond Cedar Rapids and has an actual gay bar (not just a bar owned and operated by a gay couple) and has had a gay bar since the ’90s? Also, while we’re talking about the bar owned and operated by a gay couple, this book was set around 2011 and there was at least one comment about that couple and marriage, but gay couples could get married in Iowa in 2011. That bothered me a little. I was also a little bothered by some of the representations of Iowans. Like, I love the Iowans I know, but we’re super nosy and will tell people what we think, so I don’t know how its possible that no one knew Sara was coming and that no one made it clear to Amy beforehand that she had to A. tell Sara she was dying and B. make specific arrangements for Sara, should she be dead by the time of her arrival. (I admit it. I am often that person telling someone exactly what I think after I’ve nosed around a little.)

The audio book is read by Fiona Hardingham and Lorelei King and it had me wondering the entire way through, do people outside the US have an understanding that American accents fall into two categories: typical American and Southern? Do people outside the US think that everyone in rural American speaks with a Southern accent? Because, that is not true. There are features of Iowa English that make it unique (as is true of every regional area) but those features don’t really overlap with Southern English. They’re probably closer to Minnesota English (and Canadian English), Wisconsin English, and Indiana, Illinois and Northern Ohio than the South. You’re more likely to hear someone say the word “milk” and have it sound like “melk” then you are to hear someone say “pin” and “pen” the same way.  Also, Iowans have all the r’s. This is something that interests me to no end and I may do a series on accents, language and representation in the things we’ve read here on this blog.

Anyway, it was cute. So, if you’re willing to go on a meandering little walk through a small town that’s allegedly Iowa (but that actual Iowans wouldn’t believe was Iowa) and you don’t mind a bunch of little divergences, then I recommend this. If that sounds irritating to you, then give this a pass.

 

 

Quick Review: The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan

the burning maze

**Minor Spoilers**

I have to say this is best of the Trials of Apollo series so far.  We’ve settle in nicely into Apollo/Lester’s to rescue the oracles from the Triumvirate and earn his place back on Olympus but the stacks are much higher than ever before.  If I had one issue with Rick’s works is the lack of consequences for the main characters.  The life of demigods are often faced with many deadly trials but somehow always managed to live.  After a while, the near death experiences lose their impact when the reader knows the character is going to live because they are after all the hero.  True as readers we want them to live and have their happy endings but you can’t keep stating how dangerous demigods lives are if they never truly see the consequences but I digress.  Apollo and Meg explore the Burning Maze with the help of Grover. This leads them to California where the west has been dealing with unprecedented wildfires.  Either Rick knew that California would dealing with wildfires in real life or just coincidence.  It would be nice if a few demigods could go in a maze, defeat an enchantress and stop the wildfires but alas it doesn’t work that way.  The maze brings them to Meg’s former home and the help of Piper and Jason.  Our heroes face the third Emperor who is by far the most dangerous.  More than anything, we are seeing the most growth in Apollo is this one.  He’s still Apollo so the ego is still big but it has had some bruising.  He’s starting to understand his own humanity as he’s understanding that he is no longer immortal and is truly vulnerable.  Apollo is slowly embracing his humanity and with that comes all the joys and the pain that comes with it.  More than anything, if he is going to complete his quest he is going to have to become more human and depend on his friends to do it.  The stacks are much higher than they have ever been in one of Rick’s series and making of powerful series.

Quick Review: A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

a reaper at the gates ***Minor Spoilers***

We finally made it to the third book in the An Ember in the Ashes series and things are getting real.  Laia, Elias and Helena are basically on their own as they deal with the many crisis’ going on in the Empire.  Laia is focused on one two things, bringing down the Nightbringer and saving her people.  Elias is the new Soul Catcher but having trouble in his new role.  Helena is the Blood Shrike, trying to defend the Empire and the Emperor who she doesn’t like and defending what is left of their family.  As they go about their business, they have no idea that they are doing exactly what the Nightbringer wants them to do.  It frustrating as it is interesting to read as the reader knows that the characters are playing into their enemies hands but are unsure as to how exactly and horrified that they is nothing they can do about it.  I spent a fair amount of my time reading wanting to scream at Laia, Elias and Helena to STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING!  YOU ARE MAKING A DUMB MISTAKE!  Especially, Helena who was supposed to be one of the smartest in her class at the Blackcliff but time and time again was easily out maneuvered by The Commandant or the Nightbringer.  He biggest mistake is that she assumes that everyone loves the Empire as much as she does and will play fair and is shocked to find that’s not the case and even though she is told this many times she continues to make this mistake.  (I think a certain political party is the same way and is why it keeps losing)  Her unwillingness to believe or play that game keeps costing her and is even more frustrating because the one time she does, she won.  Anyway, this was a great set up to the final book that will definitely feature more pain.  Let’s hope our characters learn from their mistakes in this book.

Review: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

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So, this is the story of Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha. Gibreel is India’s biggest movie star and Saladin is an expatriate who has just been to India for the first time is fifteen years. They are on a hijacked airplane that explodes over the English channel. The two of them plummet to Earth and the novel builds from there as a series of dreams and strange transformations. They are the only two survivors of the incident. Gibreel and Saladin’s story serves as a frame for a bunch of smaller stories that all intersect and overlap with the main narrative. Gibreel’s story overlaps with the story of Muhammed. Yes, that Muhammed. There is an alleged incident in which Muhammed heard an angel whisper some verses that were meant to be included in the Quran, but that he later recanted because the verses did not come from the angel on Allah’s behalf but from Shaitan, the adversary. Yes, this is the book the caused all the controversy and had Rushdie in hiding for years because of a fatwa against him. I feel like here is where I should say something about freedom of speech and blasphemy laws, but I don’t think that there is anything that I could say that hasn’t already said better. Rushdie is exploring something in this novel, Muhammed’s life, that he should be free to explore without fear of death.

 

There were many things I enjoyed about this book. The story is clever and there are many really neat parallels between the sub-plots and the main plot. I like magical realism and enjoyed the bizarre parts of the novel. Rushdie tackles some pretty big themes like racism and migration in the text and he does it well. But, I think this might be another book that is a victim of its own hype? It has caused so much scandal (and is still banned places because of its blasphemous text about the Prophet). I was expecting to be wowed beyond belief but I wasn’t. This was a good novel, and its complex narrative with all the subplots make it a really rich and engrossing read. But, it left me cold and I wasn’t so involved in it that I couldn’t have put it down. So, it was good and I recommend it. But, it won’t be making my Top 10 this year.

 

The audible production is read by Sam Dastor and he did an excellent job. Because the narrative moves in and out of the main story and the sub-stories (and because there are characters who have similar names), I think I was saved a little potential confusion because each character had their own voice. That being said, there were sections I had to re-listen to because there was just so much detail and the text was so rich that I needed more than one pass to absorb it.

Review: War Storm by Victoria Aveyard

war storm A satisfying ending to a very good series.  It starts just minutes after the end of King’s Cage, where Mare is reeling from being betrayed by Cal choosing the crown over her.  I wasn’t really all that surprised by this because as much as he loves Mare and has been open to the red plight but he is a Silver Prince that was born to rule.  He’s going to give that up?  Anyway, Victoria does a great job of balancing her Game of Thronesque story lines.  With so many families, groups and countries vying for the future of Norta the story could have been easily bogged down but it isn’t.  Alliances are clear and who is going to betray who is clear.  We all know who is on what team and when it comes down to it who is going to side with who when it comes to the end it didn’t disrupt the storyline.  At the moment, Mare and Cal are reunited in the same objective of get Maven out of power but their alliance is shaky at best.  We know that Cal has no intention of giving up his throne as he feels he is the best to reunite his fractured nation but the Scarlet Guard has no intention of putting him on the throne.  Maven has the Nortan crown but little support.  Iris, his wife from neighboring country the Lakelands, is already scheming to take the crown from Maven as soon as he depletes his army against Cal.  The western nation of Montfort that is the only democracy in this new world that has silvers and reds working together has made their intentions known that they will not have another silver king either.  So who wins? Well that would be too spoilery but I will say i like the ambiguous ending.  Victoria has definitely left enough open that if she ever wanted to return to Norta, Monfort or the Lakelands she could but if she doesn’t then she has given her characters a good send off.  Mare is broken and bruised but is working on healing.  She has been many people throughout the four books.  She’s been Mare from the sticks, a thief.  She’s been Mareena, a lost Silver and the lightning girl a leader and inspiration for the rebellion but who is she really.  Cal’s growth is quite as strong but then again I think Cal has already had a good sense of who he was.  Maven is probably the most tragic.  The abuse that he suffered from his mother is beyond cruel but that shouldn’t excuse his many crimes he committed throughout the series.  My biggest complaint is that Cameron who was one of POV characters in the last book only makes an appearance in one chapter.  Other than that, this was a satisfying ending to a very good series.

Review: The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider

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Fovea Munson is a seventh grader. Her parents are surgeons that work in a cadaver lab training future surgeons. You know, when your patients are already dead, the hours are better. Fovea can deal with that, but she looks forward to her summer vacation every year where she goes to camp. And, when summer camp is cancelled and her parents receptionist quits suddenly, she finds herself working at the lab, which is so gross. And, if you think that is as bad as it gets, you’re wrong. Three disembodied heads in the lab talk to her. And, they need her to do them a favor.

 

From here the story builds into something that is funny and touching. Fovea needs to enlist help from outside, reaching out to a person she knows but isn’t really friends with at school. She sets up an adventure. It is great! The cast of characters are delightful and Fovea herself is amazing. I really, really enjoyed going on this adventure with her.

This is a middle grade book, for readers 8-12. If you know a kid that age that’s into science and weird stuff, get them this book. If you know some adults who are into science and weird stuff (and don’t mind reading kids books. I know, what, so weird), recommend it for them, too! I certainly enjoyed it!

Review: At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

At the end of April, before I started the Asian Lit Bingo Challenge, I was listening to an audio book before bed. Because there is maybe something a little wrong with me, the book I was listening to was At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft. 510qnpnltsl-_sl500_

I read this ages ago when I was younger and into horror and creepiness and not at all aware of the world. And, let me just say… don’t re-read old things that you loved as a younger person if you don’t want to have to confront everything that’s problematic about them.

Sigh.

Anyway, the audiobook is read by Edward Herrmann and he does an amazing performance. I believed he was an academic who just wanted to do his research but who fell into something older and scarier than he could have imagined and who now JUST WANTS TO WARN HUMANITY OKAY. He really sold it. I loved it.

But, back to the problematic bit: H.P. Lovecraft had no problems at all relating the tales of these terrible creatures to exotic things you may have heard about from other places like The Orient.

https://giphy.com/embed/3o6Ztb4ANSDC1wK1zi

via GIPHY

That’s H.P. Lovecraft, waving his fingers mystically when he thinks about the Orient. And, the first time it happened, I rolled my eyes and thought, “product of his time. all of his work is xenophobic. you know that.”

But, it comes up a lot. Like, a lot a lot.
https://giphy.com/embed/qmfpjpAT2fJRK

via GIPHY

 

It’s a good thing I was listening before bed because all of that eye rolling is exhausting. The descriptions of the creatures are still top-notch and weird and the atmosphere still comes across as spooky. And, Edward Herrmann, man. Seriously. He sells the crap out of it.

 

So, I recommend this recording if I you want to read or re-read this story. But, know, that if you’re even a little bit woke, this dusty old dude is going to make you want to shake your head and argue with him in between being creepy and being weird.

Review: Inferno by Julie Kagawa

inferno The final book in the Talon Saga was kinda of a disappointment in the sense that I didn’t really love it only liked it.  It took a really long time to get going and for the final book the lack of urgency was a strange.  The characters kept telling each other about how the end is coming soon but really didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to prepare for it until they had no choice to and then things Finally got going.  But damn, we had to go through a lot of things to get there.  There was the unnecessary trip to Brazil to meet an ancient dragon that was never mentioned before and there was another trip to Asia for the that we all knew how it would end up.  There were past mentioned characters showing up and taking up time for no reason but fit in one more heroic arc?  I don’t know.  The finale however was worth it though.  The final battle between the Rogues, St. George and Talon made up the lackluster beginning.  It had drama, suspense and melodrama all wrapped into one.  I appreciate the theme of the series being that even though we may be different, what we all want out of life is the same.  We want to live in peace and have freedom of choice.  And authoritative governments are bad.  The best way to bring down an oppressive regime is to overcome our differences and work together and learn from each other.  I very important message for today.  That’s what you should take away from this series in the end. I just wished the last book wasn’t so bogged down in so many side trips.

Quick Review: Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova

bruja born I received this as an ARC a month ago.  Thank you to the publisher for making it available.

I’ll admit I didn’t like it as much as Labyrinth Lost because I thought this was a continuation of Alex’s story not that we didn’t see Alex’s story progressed but she wasn’t front and center.  Her older Lula took center stage.  It was interesting to read about her she dealt with the traumatic experience of surviving Los Lagos and losing her identity but I wanted to know more about Alex and how she was dealing with her new powers as an ecantrix and exploring her bisexuality.  Her relationship with her best friend, Rishi was so wonderfully set up in the last book, it was disappointing not to see more of it in this one.  While we are told that they are still together and happy, we only get one scene with them together.  I understand why she wasn’t included in the narrative as a sinmago, she had nothing to add to the story but I still wanted to more.  In the last book I found Lula to be shallow and not that interesting and she started out that way. I have more of a connection to her now but I’m still only meh on her.  The one trait that Lula and Alex have in common is that they are stubborn and will do what they want even if it’s the absolutely the wrong thing to do.  I got frustrated about how many times she was told, not to do that but she wouldn’t listen because it wasn’t what she wanted to hear or she thought she knew better or could figure out a different solution and the end others we left to deal with the consequences of her actions instead of her.  Ugh.  Oh well, the next book is going to focused on the youngest Mortiz sister, Rose and she has very intriguing powers.  I’m looking forward to that one.