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Books & Chocolate

I love to read just about anything, as long as it's fiction. I read for me - that means I read what I want, when I want. My reviews tend to mostly be based on how I'm able to personally connect with the story/characters. They are not intended to influence someone to read, or not read, a particular book. I always encourage people to take a chance and make up your own mind.

 

Oh, and I love chocolate.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things: A Novel - Bryn Greenwood

In case you haven't heard of this book or looked up the synopsis -- this is an unconventional love story. Our 'hero', Kellen, meets our 'heroine', Wavy, when he's somewhere around 21 and she's about 8. It's basically love at first sight for both of them.

 

Now let me be clear. I in NO WAY support or condone pedophilia. It's disturbing to me on many levels, and not just because I have an 11-year-old daughter. Many people believe that Kellen in this book is a pedophile and that this book is about sexualizing children.

 

I don't agree. 

 

Pedophiles prey on children. They exploit them and do emotional and physical harm. I believe pedophiles have a mental imbalance and need help. My impression is that they don't believe what they are doing is wrong, or if they do then they don't care and blame it on not being able to control themselves.

 

Now let's look at Kellen and Wavy. Oh dear, what a complex situation. Wavy's parents are drug dealers/users and couldn't care less about her. They DO abuse her -- both emotionally and physically. It's no wonder she developed a crush on the first adult who showed care for her. Kellen is not the brightest bulb in the pack and has is own issues. But for some reason, he sees Wavy and feels compelled to take care of her. A relationship develops. Not sex -- a relationship. Now, as Wavy gets older the relationship does take on a more mature turn. I won't go into more detail for the sake of spoilers.

 

What I loved about this book was the fact that it made me question everything. It made me constantly ask myself, "Am I OK with this?" It also made me wonder if I would have felt differently about certain things if Wavy had a more stable home life. 

 

My high rating of this book is not because I think it's this romantic tale that made me go all starry-eyed. In fact, the relationship made me uncomfortable most of the time. But this book is well written and shows the reader a different side to a coin that most of us just want to be black on one side and white on the other.

 

I highly recommend others to read this book, but you have to have an open mind while doing it.

I See You

I See You - Clare Mackintosh

In I See You we have a situation where women are being stalked, and sometimes more, based on a new service that sells their commute details. The basic premise is that most of us do the same things every day (walk the dog at the same time on the same route, sit on the same seat in on the subway, etc.), which makes it easy for people to watch our movements and then use them to do harm. 

 

I liked the concept of the book. I wouldn't say that it kept my heart pounding and it didn't make me look over my shoulder constantly, but it was an enjoyable book. I didn't guess the outcome, so I have to give props there. Although a part of me feels like it was a stretch and I'm not sure there was much justification for the 'who done it' other than to fool the reader. But it's fiction, so I'll allow it.

 

It often drifted back in time, sometimes in the middle of current dialogue, and that annoyed me. While I'm not at all a fan of the 'info dump' method, I think there could have been better ways to introduce some of the information without disrupting the flow of the story. For me, it detracted from the feeling of suspense I was hoping to have.

 

I've seen some comments from reviews that they enjoyed I Let You Go by the same author a bit more, so I'll give that one a shot too.

The Brutal Telling

The Brutal Telling - Louise Penny

The Brutal Telling takes us back to Three Pines to investigate the murder of a hermit. I continue to be on the fence for this series, but I like the narrator and I've become accustomed to his style, so I do enjoy listening to the books. 

 

The characters continue to become intriguing and I look forward to finding out what each new book brings. I liked this book marginally better than the others in the series as it took a  bit of a twist and didn't have the 'instant confession' at the end that the other books have had. 

 

The murder and events surrounding are just as unbelievable to me in this book as they have been in the others. It's hard to look past that when it's been that way in every book. Clever? Yes - but I'm ready for a dose of reality. I'm almost getting the impression the author thinks she has to create these elaborate murders to keep the readers guessing. But I'd argue there has to be a better way. Once in a while, the strange/unbelievable circumstances can be intriguing, but I think the old adage of 'too much of a good thing..." applies to this series. But I will keep listening -- for now.

The Forgotten Garden

The Forgotten Garden - Kate Morton

I've had The Forgotten Garden on my shelf for a long time. I've wanted to read it, but it's just so LONG. I finally decided to tackle it so it would stop haunting me from the bookshelf.

 

There is no denying that Morton can write beautifully. But, the book was so LONG. It wasn't only that it was over 500 pages. It's that the pace is slow too. I felt like it was taking me forever to get through it. I kept reading, hoping there would be some sort of twist that would shock me and make it all worth it. Nope. Nothing I didn't expect at least halfway through the book. 

 

If the writing wasn't so wonderful I would have rated this lower than a 3, but I have to give credit to the talent the author has for stringing words together and generating a lovely setting with somewhat intriguing characters. I think it just could have been done in about 200 fewer pages. 

 

I wouldn't tell anyone not to read this book, especially if slow, drawn-out stories are your thing. If that's the case, you will probably love this book. It is a beautiful book, just not the book for me. 

The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater

This review will serve for the entire Raven Cycle series. 

 

I had wanted to read this series for a while but had been putting it off. I'd been so let down by a few series lately and I just couldn't take another heartbreak. I've had a lot of audiobook time this year and was in the market for a new one to start and this one was available from my library so I decided to plunge in. Luckly this series brought me out of that slump! 

 

I'll admit that while I really liked the narrator and felt the voice, in general, fit the atmosphere of the setting, it took me a long time to get used to it. It was kind of like listening to Matthew McConaughey half asleep. The speech is slow and drawn out -- and again this fit the setting -- but it was so hard to stay focused sometimes. And I didn't really care for the character voices, especially some of the women. But I was finally able to let go of all that and just focus on the story.

 

It wasn't a fast-paced series, but I was OK with that because I was most drawn to the characters. They somehow got under my skin and I wanted to remain immersed in their world. To be one of their friends. OK, so maybe one of their mothers since I'm way too old to be in their friend circle ;)

 

I'm sad it's over, but I'm hopeful the plans for the TV series comes to be. (and that they don't screw it up with bad casting)

The Vanishing Year

The Vanishing Year: A Novel - Kate Moretti

I'm not really sure why, but this book just kind of fell flat for me. I didn't dislike it - it just didn't leave a lasting impact on me in any way. I figured out the twist before it happened, so I couldn't even count on a shocking ending to spike up my interest. Maybe it was just my mood. I liked it enough to try more from this author though.  

Fangirl

Fangirl by Rowell, Rainbow (2014) Paperback - Rainbow Rowell

I really enjoyed this book! I had been expecting to love it, so I'd been waiting to read it at a time I could take my time with it. I didn't want outside distractions to leave a negative influence. However, I was waiting for an audiobook to come available at my library and I needed one to listen to, and Fangirl was available. It was risk - what if the narration sucked?

 

Well, I loved the narrator so that was a non-issue. One of the things I've come to love about Rowell's books is that most of the characters come off as 'regular' people. We're not told on every other page how hot they are. They come across as real and I love that. 

 

I loved the way the relationship between Cather and Levi developed. I could get lost in that story for a long time. 

 

The only minor complaint I have were the sections where Cather was reading her Simon and Baz stories. They were too long for me. I wanted to experience the connection developing between Cather and Levi, not between Simon and Baz. Maybe it was supposed to represent her relationship with Levi, but it felt more like a distraction. It might have bothered me less if I had been reading where I could just skip past them. 

The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star - Nicola Yoon

I liked this book marginally better than I did the author's first book, Everything, Everything. Mostly because I liked the chemistry between the two primary characters better. I listened to the audio version and it was the same narrator as the author's previous book - not enough time had passed between my listening to the books and it took me a while to remember I was in a different story with different characters. 

 

I liked how Danial was an unapologetic romantic and Natasha was all logic and science. I enjoyed the way they contrasted each other, yet at the same time brought out the best in each other. 

 

I'm a firm believer in connectivity, meaning I think that things happen for reasons we may or may not ever understand. This book is heavy on the connectivity. I enjoyed it, but I could see where it might turn some people off. If you don't believe in connectivity, then I suggest you read with an open mind. It's a fictional book, so just try to enjoy the story even if you don't share the same beliefs. 

 

The one thing that held this book back from a 5 for me was the ending. It felt a bit rushed. Not in the sense of tying up the loose ends (because there are a few left in the end), but in terms of the characters accepting the outcome of certain things. The whole book both Natasha and Danial were fighting against certain things happening in their lives. I felt that emotionally they changed a bit quickly. 

A Rule Against Murder

A Rule Against Murder - Louise Penny

I've had a lot of audiobook time the last few months, so I was able to cruise through another book in the Chief Inspector Armond Gamache series. This one took us, Inspector Gamache, and a few of the other primary characters outside of Three Pines. The new setting was a refreshing change. It was also interesting to see Peter and Clara outside of Three Pines. In previous books you could see a bit of Peter's hidden personality, but it really came through when he was around his family. And what a family! It makes me second guess any complaints I have about my own. 

 

One of the things I've come to appreciate about this series is the diversity of the characters. There's diversity in race, gender, age, sexuality, etc. - but there's also diversity in the make-up of the characters. They don't all have the same flaws, and there are a few that I don't typically see in some books. Also, there are some characters who are just plain assholes and they don't change and there's no apology for them. I think this one fact helps to make this series extremely relatable. In life there are assholes who are that way their entire life. It seems that most times in books these characters are forced to grow or at the very least face their flaws. It's refreshing to see some unlikeable characters without the need for justification or apology. 

 

As usual, there were a few plot holes for me that I just couldn't overlook. The method of murder in this book is unique, but so over the top. I could never really buy into it. 

Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything - Nicola Yoon

There was a lot I loved about Everything, Everything. While I guessed part of the twist, I didn't have it all and once I got there it put the rest of the book into a new perspective for me. At its core, this is a love story. It's about how love can make people stronger and braver than they were before. Yes, it can also make you stupid, but that's often a necessary part of what love can teach us. Is it the same basic premise of many other YA love stories out there today? Yes, yes it is. But I was OK with that. I expected it going in, so I didn't have my expectations shattered on that front. There were some aspects that were a bit loose and messy that I wish the author had strengthened. In a way, it felt as though the ending was expected to be enough to forgive all the rest. That's sloppy for me. I did like it enough to check out Yoon's other book. We'll see how that one goes...

The Cruelest Month

The Cruelest Month - Louise Penny

This is the third book in the series, and Inspector Gamache is back in Three Pines for another murder. I don't read many series where the community is just as much a key part of the overall story as the basic plot. Usually, it's too many people for me to keep track of and I prefer more streamlined stories. However, they are growing on me more and more after each book.

 

The ending of this one annoyed me a bit. It felt like a TV cop drama where the suspect just blurts out their guilt at the end based on lose evidence and a gut feeling from the inspector. 

 

The other issue I had with this one was the secondary plot going on in Gamashe's personal life. On one hand I'm glad that finally got resolved as it was starting to drag out a bit too much for me. However, it took away from the murder mystery. Many times I felt like the secondary plot was the primary and vice versa. It made me lose some interest in the 'who-done-it' for the murder mystery.

 

Hidden Bodies

Hidden Bodies - Caroline Kepnes

Well, I really enjoyed the first book, You, so I had high hopes for Hidden Bodies. Happily, Joe was just as twisted in this book as he was in the first. I will say that he didn't creep me out as much as he did in You, but maybe that's because I'm familiar with him now. He wasn't as much of a surprise. I did feel the book might have been a bit drawn out in some parts, but it still read quickly so I won't complain much. 

 

I was happy that Joe continued to be a complex character for me. I still pulled for him at times and wanted things to work out for him, yet I didn't want to like him at all. There's this part where he says something to the effect that he would never hit/hurt a woman -- yet he was where he was at that moment because he intended to kill a woman... The odd part is that I totally bought it. To put this into perspective - I cried when my husband killed a mole in our yard a few years ago. I cried when I hit a opossum with my car. I don't like killing of any kind. And yet, I found myself rooting for Joe at times... that's some great writing and characterization. 

 

It was a great sequel.

Don't Get Caught

Don't Get Caught - Kurt Dinan

This book was a lot of fun. Full of pranks and jokes, there's a lot of light-hearted entertainment packed into the pages. Some of the pranks were a bit unbelievable at times, but it didn't take away from my enjoyment. 

The 5th Wave Series

The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey

This review is for all three books in the 5th Wave series. I liked the first book marginally better than the other two. I'm actually torn on this series and wonder if my enjoyment would have been a bit less if I hadn't just bailed on another series that was driving me nuts. Cassie was quite refreshing after the disappointment I was feeling from the other series! She was sarcastic in a way I enjoyed and she was strong for most of the series.

 

I didn't mind the Cassie and Even romance that developed in the series. Could it have worked without the romance? Probably. But what I took from it was that even in the darkest of times, when you couldn't really trust anyone, we still want to believe in love. We want to believe that it's possible for love to defy the odds. 

 

The romance I didn't get was the one between Zombie and Ringer. I just didn't get it. At all.

 

My biggest struggle throughout the entire series was that I just didn't really get it... I still don't fully understand why the aliens thought their approach was the best way to achieve their goal. And the actual goal is a bit sketchy too. There were parts that felt they were in there just for the shock factor or dramatic effect.

One example is the part where they turned the kids into bombs. It seemed the message the aliens were trying to send was that the humans couldn't trust anyone - yet no one survived the blast, so how would anyone else know what the aliens were doing to the children?

(show spoiler)

 

As a whole, the series was just OK for me. I'm glad I read it, but I had hoped to enjoy it much more than I did. 

 

Glass Sword

Glass Sword (Red Queen) - Victoria Aveyard

Ugh. I was hoping this book would get better for me than the first. Based on some reviews, I knew there was a risk it wouldn't, but a girl can hope, right?

 

Mare started out in the first book as kind of a badass. Then by the end of book one, she turned a bit whiny. Now, at the end of book two, she's basically just a cold-hearted bitch. I'm struggling to find any sort of redeeming quality for her. Yeah, she's young and been through a lot - I get that she might snap a few times and say something insensitive. But we're in her head, so it's her thoughts too. She turns on everyone - all because Julian, who she knew for only a short period of time, once told her that 'anyone can betray anyone' (and we hear that statement ALL THE FREAKING TIME). She apparently trusts what this Julian says more so than her family or Kilorn who she's known her whole life and continues to stand by her even though she shits on him all the time. Julian must have been right because Maven, the guy she didn't really know and was betrothed to out of force, betrayed her. Sure, that makes perfect sense for why she wouldn't trust the people who have been by her side from the beginning. What??

 

And I'm seriously missing why Mare is treated as the most important person in existence, by both sides. I could understand why Maven would be obsessed with getting her back under her control -- except for the fact that he tried to kill her. So if he wanted to control her why wouldn't he have done that from the start? 

 

And it was way too long. By like 200 pages. Maybe more. Just a lot of nonaction and thoughts from Mare which were the same thoughts on every other page. 

 

Ugh. I'm taking a break from this series. There's one more out right now, and I think there's a 4th coming. I hope that will be the last one. I don't know yet if I'll finish out the series. I sort of don't really care at this point.

Gracefully Grayson

Gracefully Grayson - Ami Polonsky

This is the first book I've read with a transgender character, so I don't have much to compare to. That said, I thought the book was very well done. Grayson is a 6th-grade boy who identifies as a girl on the inside. It's intended for younger readers, however, I think adults can also gain from reading it. 

 

One of the things that struck me throughout the story was how much this was on Grayson's mind. It was in every thought - from what clothes to wear, to what pen to use, to what bathroom to use, and ultimately to what role to audition for in the school play. It consumed Grayson's mind, and that's no way for anyone to live, especially a child. 

 

This book covered what I'm guessing are the high points of a child trying to emerge through a different gender - from bullying to lack of understanding in his family to support from some unexpected people. I loved the way Grayson's teacher Finn handled the situation, as well as the mother of one of the other children who befriends Grayson.

 

There is one thing that struck me about this book that I struggle with -- it seemed as though Grayson's primary way of identifying as a girl was based on liking princesses, wanting to dress in skirts/sparkly clothes, liking pink, wanting braided hair, etc. I don't personally know anyone who is transgender, and as I said above this is my first book on the subject, so maybe these things are the primary identifiers. If that's the case, then I wish our society could get to place to just let all that go. I mean, the only reasons dresses and princesses and sparkly things are associated with girls is because our society has decided that's the way it should be. I guess I feel that if we accept it's OK for girls to wear pants and play football and 'do anything a boy can do', then why don't we have the same expectations for boys? Why does someone have to feel incomplete or defective just because they like something that society has told them they shouldn't like? As Grayson's little cousin said, "Why does it matter?" If only we could all be as accepting as young children.

 

I feel as though people who identify with the opposite sex they were born to experience more conflict than just these things, but that's what this book focused on so that's what I had a reaction to. To me, boy and girl should simply refer to the physical body of a person. If you have certain parts, you're a girl. If you have the others, you're a boy. What you like and what you want to wear should not be defined by those labels.

 

This is a book I intend to have my 11-year-old read -- and discuss with her afterward.