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February 2016 Reading Recap

I did not read as much as I would have liked to this month, but I still read 4 books in February. I didn’t put very much time aside this month for reading (I actually finished two of the books this weekend so I would have something to write about!), so that’s something I want to work on in March. In total, I’ve read 12 books this year and I’m ahead of schedule to finish my goal of 52 books. Since I only have a few books to review, I went in to a little more detail for some of them. :)

All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – 3/5https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1451445646l/18143977.jpg
I had really mixed opinions on this book. It follows the story of a young blind French girl, and an orphaned German boy in the Hitler Youth during WWII. It portrays what war does to people, how it affects and totally upheaves their lives, and the consequences of actions taken. It is set primarily in France, and really does not offer a whole lot more than what you may find in other novels about WWII. However, the storyline is fairly unique.

A big trend I’ve noticed over recent years is to write the chapters out of chronological order. So the first chapter will be set in June, 1939 and the next in January 1942. In mystery, suspense, or similar genres, I understand this. You’re presenting evidence out of order to create tension and to try to piece things together. In a complex, 600 page novel about WWII, it just didn’t make sense. It was confusing and made everything feel very disjointed.

The novel felt very long to me. It took me nearly a month and a half to finish – which taking a long time to read a book is not necessarily always a bad thing, but in this case it just seemed to drag. I was finding myself waiting and waiting for something big to happen, for the French girl and German boy to finally meet like you know it will, and nothing ever seemed to happen.

All of that being said, Doerr’s writing is absolutely beautiful. He clearly thought out every sentence and meticulously placed each word. The juxtaposition of ideas was flawless, and it really shone through the plot of the novel. The two protagonists were likeable and I couldn’t help but root for them throughout, even if their actions were not always the best.

So overall, a pretty mixed bag. Beautiful writing and unique plot that was not very suspenseful and sometimes confusing because of the unchronological order of the chapters. If you like historical fiction or in general just appreciate good writing, I’d recommend it. But for the average reader, I’d say pick a different book.

https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1340478576l/13624688.jpgThe Time Keeper by Mitch Albom – 4/5
I was on the fence about reading this book because it had rather mediocre reviews, but I really enjoyed it! It’s a rather simplistic tale centered around the man that “founded” time. Because of his meddling with God’s gift to creation, he was cursed and confined to a dark cave for six thousand years, and now known as “Father Time.” The only way for him to be released is to help two humans during the modern era.

The book was very simplistic; it reads almost like a fairy tale, with short sentences and clear prose. I found the storyline fairly unique. The novel alternates between Father Time and the two characters he is going to help, which keeps the story moving and helps hold your interest.

One of the main critiques I read about this book is that the characters are very archetypal – one a young, suicidal girl who gets dumped by her crush, and the other an old rich man who wants to be immortal. However, I found this suited the story. I had the mindset while I was reading that this was a fable – so I wasn’t looking for deep insights or vastly unique characteristics. The characters suited the plot and provided lessons that should be learned. I wasn’t deeply moved, but it was an enjoyable book. I’d recommend for an easy read, and the book’s pretty short so that’s a nice plus, too.

The Golem’s Eye (Bartimaeus Trilogy #2) by Jonathan Stroud – 3/5
This book introduced a new character to the trilogy named Kitty, who is part of the small band of Resistance members trying to overthrow the Magicians. Normally this type of plot would intrigue me, but I found Kitty and the rest of the resistance members totally unlikeable. They robbed shops and committed other petty crimes in the name of stopping the magicians, but their crimes were simply that: crimes. Nathaniel, the other protagonist, continued to grow more snooty and arrogant throughout the book. I understand that this is intentional by the author, but it made all of the characters in the novel simply put annoying, except for Bartimaeus. As always, his wit and sarcasm saves the day! I look forward to the third and final book, but this one was a bit of a disappointment.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan – 3/5Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians #1)
This book was almost exhausting to read. I expected a light, funny read about what the title suggested: unimaginably rich Asians. What a got was a book packed full of gossip, tons of characters, and endless experiences, many of which left me practically fuming. The book follows Nicholas Young, the only son of the rich Young family, as he brings his girlfriend home to Singapore with him to meet his family for the summer. Rachel is not rich, nor does she come from an elitist family, and the family thinks she is dating Nick just for his money which results in a disastrous summer vacation.

I did find many parts of the book funny, and it was interesting to read how these people who have more money than small countries live their extravagant lives; but all of the gossip, the torture they put Rachel through, the crimes they are willing to commit to become more wealthy and save face, it was hard and tiring to read. And the ending really didn’t give any closure to all of the problems that built up through the story. It’s extravagant, outrageous, and mildly funny. I’m glad I read it, but I’m also glad I’m done reading it.

Happy leap day!

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January 2016 Reading Recap

I’m off to a good start with my goal of reading 52 books this year. This month, I’ve read 8 books, so I have 44 more to read and am 15% done. I always read a ton in January because I’m on break from school and because I want to get a good start on my annual challenge because my reading is practically nothing at the end of the year! I still read quite a bit this year, but not as much as previous years (I read 11 last year!) since I worked this break.

I also think I am going to post these recaps more frequently. Last year I did it quarterly, but I read so much that it’s always hard for me to cram all my reviews for the past three months into one post. I can’t even fit in all the books I read just for January! :P Here’s most of my books from this month.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler – 3/5 starsYes Please
I’ve always really liked Amy Poehler in the movies I’ve seen her in (Mean Girls or Baby Mama, anyone?) but especially from the TV show Parks and Recreation. Her hyperactive character I find myself relating to a lot, and since I had read Mindy Kaling’s two autobiographies, I thought Poehler’s would be just as funny.

It really wasn’t. There were some moments where I gave a little chuckle, but overall, the book is pretty true to its genre. It’s an autobiography about her life, so I think I was a bit let down because of the expectations I had from reading other autobiographies from comedians. Took me a long time to finish it.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan – 5/5 stars
I started reading this series back in December, and I finally finished the last two books. I was a bit iffy on starting them because I’m really not very interested in Greek mythology, but Andrew kept pestering me saying that I would like them, and he was right! The main character’s perspective is so refreshingly that of a teenaged boy. It’s very down-to-earth and had me cracking up. The series follows Percy Jackson, who is a half-blood — meaning the son of a god —  and his many adventures trying to save the world.

There was nice character development all around, and then ending wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. And despite knowing very little about Greek mythology, Riordan did a really good job in subtly reminding you who gods were and what their powers were without being repetitive or detracting from the story. If you like action and adventures with a touch of romance and quite a bit of humor, I would definitely recommend this series! I’m looking forward to reading the next series!

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen – 4/5 stars
At the Water's EdgeI listened to this audiobook partly because I really enjoyed Gruen’s Water for Elephants but also because it was available and I needed something to listen to. The beginning was a bit slow, but I still really enjoyed this novel. It’s set during WWII, and focuses on privileged upperclass Maddie, her color blind husband Ellis, and their friend Hank. While the men seek to catch footage of the Loch Ness monster, Maddie slowly falls in love with the small country town and with the people where they are staying.

I was personally a bit wary when I read the description. Hunting the Loch Ness monster? Sounded a bit fantastical being set in WWII, but the story really doesn’t focus as much on the monster, but more of the actions caused by her husband and friend searching for it. There were also interesting tidbits and facts about the war throughout the novel that I didn’t know before, which was really interesting for me.  At the Water’s Edge is a great timepiece read and I would recommend it if you like a bit of adventure, romance, and history.

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari – 5/5 stars
I will admit, I didn’t really look at what this book is about before I picked it up. I saw Aziz on the front and was kind of like, “Oh my gosh! Aziz has a book out?! Where have I been? What have I been doing with my life?!” Okay, it might have not been that dramatic, but I have always found Aziz absolutely hilarious and knew that I would love his book.

I was expecting the book to be an autobiography, but it was actually  a research study centered round romance in today’s society: how it’s changed, the impacts, how it affects how people date, etc. It was a really fascinating read, educational without being boring (it’s not your typical research study), and punctuated with Aziz’s humor. It was a really easy read and fairly short, so I would recommend this one to everyone.

The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus Trilogy, #1) by Jonathan Stroud – 4.5/5 stars
The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus Trilogy, #1)I really enjoyed this book. I’m always skeptical of fantasy/magic books post-Harry Potter, but besides being set in England, there’s not really a whole lot in common. This was a very fresh and unique take on a boy apprentice who is learning to become a magician. The magicians can summon djinni (otherwise known as “demons”) who become their slaves. Nathaniel summons Bartimaeus as his first demon and the novel follows their adventure.

What really made this book is Bartimaeus’s character. He is so sarcastic, witty, and funny that it makes the book very easy to read. You learn about most of the magical world from Bartimaeus, but it’s done very appropriately. You don’t read paragraphs and paragraphs about the world; it’s all woven into his story. Another thing I’ve never seen any other book do quite like this, is his use of footnotes. Normally it’s a line or two clarifying something, but Bartimaeus uses them more as a sidetrack to his main train of thought. At first it was very weird to me to have some pages half full of footnotes, but as the book progressed I really liked it. It fit his character and the plot (with his mind working on different planes).

Overall really good first book in the trilogy. Fairly fast-paced, unique, and a definite recommend to fantasy lovers. I’d also recommend if you liked Harry Potter, but they are pretty different so it’s more if you enjoy magic. :)

Conclusion
Good start to my challenge! My favorite read this month is hand’s down Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. I think February I will have much less time to read since my classes have just started up, but I’m hoping that they will be just as good as this month. I normally don’t have such positive reviews on all my books!

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