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snark (reading) lady

In my free time, I snark things. In my freer time, I read things.

Currently reading

Night Film
Marisha Pessl
The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)
Philip Pullman
Mark Slouka
The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien

More Than This

More Than This - Patrick Ness I love Patrick Ness and I love him for writing some of my favorite things of all time. I was beyond excited to pick up his new book, and I wasn't disappointed even if this book wasn't exactly my cup of tea. More Than This tells the story of Seth, a teenaged boy who dies after drowning in the ocean. He dies and then he wakes up somewhere new. We follow Seth as he tries to survive, tries to make sense of his new existence, his old life, and how the two are related. One thing about Ness books is that I shouldn't tell you much more. Ness has a way of keeping you off balance for the entire story. You never settle into the story as much as you allow yourself to be jerked along by it. It makes for an exciting read. I never once found a, "this is a good place to stop for the night," spot. I was always tearing myself from the world after something else was just revealed. Ness' writing style can range from downright poetic, to the style in this book which is very simple, stripped down and to the point. This book asks big WHAT IS LIFE? questions, and it does so in so many words. I mean, it is titled More Than This. The story is existential, but I love that it never gets preachy. Ness presents the story, builds up his questions around it and sort of puts his hands up and tells you to infer your own answers at your leisure. Perhaps other reviews won't treat these as spoilers, but [spoiler] I liked the supporting characters for what they added to the story, though I don't think there was one built to be loved. They are all flawed, quirky people, dropped in this deep and dark setting. Also, I applaud Ness for his use and portrayal of a gay protagonist. This isn't "revealed" into some ways into the story, so I don't want to take that away from anyone.[/spoilers]So why couldn't I bring myself to rate this 5 stars? The ending. It wasn't bad by any stretch of the imagination. I was looking at my Kindle seeing 99% and thinking, "OH MY GOSH HOW WILL HE FIX THIS?" But he does. Kind of. Reading this book was like a winding path uphill and the end leaves you right at the top of the hill. You turn the last page, and kind of look around all, "now what?" You know, I'd even say that's part of the charm of this book, but it isn't something I particularly like. So that missing star (and probably closer to half star) is a personal preference thing. Worth the read and will definitely end up as one of the best things I've read this year.
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell In a lot of ways, Fangirl seems like a book tailor-made for Internet loving: an introvert with social anxieties sets off for college where she's often forced to defend Internet culture, community and fanfiction. And, I mean, the plot is a little more involved than just Cath and her fanfiction, but the charm of this book is in the details, the realism and the injection of this culture we know and so love. While romance is at the heart of this book, it isn't a book solely about a girl's freshman year romance. I have a soft spot for books that tackle on sistership, and Fangirl does that in a heartbreaking manner. My chest ached for Cath and for the way she stayed so steady while her sister floated away. I loved how their building conflict was resolved, because it wasn't almost directly addressed. They talked a little about it, but mostly, they both accepted that it was over and they didn't want to be so far apart. It reminded me so much of trying to stay mad at my sisters, but ending up realizing that I needed to share something with them, be somewhere with them, do something with them. The anger always evaporates and you fall into synch once again.The supporting characters in Fangirl were just as (if not more) intriguing than Cath. Reagan and her brand of blunt was fantastic, and never felt too mean or bitchy. Particularly because that sort of strong, unshakeable personality is what Cath needed most at one point. Levi was also great to read about. I'm always weird and super picky about love interests in stories, but Levi was refreshing. He was nice (though not perfect) and he was flawed (but not mean) and we was good to Cath. It was a well paced romance, one that never felt forced and that was grounded in lovely moments like a Kanye dance party and reading out loud and the sharing of one's passion. The writing was smooth and natural, often peppered with lines that struck me right in the feels, because I'm pretty sure Rowell was talking about me. She was talking about my life. The only down side for me where the longer snippets of fanfiction. Don't get me wrong-- I loved that Cath was a fanfiction writer and Rowell has a fine understanding of what that means for her character, but I didn't care a lick about Simon Snow. Reading so much about him only seemed like longer interruptions to the story I wanted to be reading. When I turned the last page, I knew how nice the book was but it wasn't until this morning that I realized how much it managed to settle into my skin and into my brain. I didn't expect this book to have so much staying power, but it does. I'm still thinking about it and I was sad to leave Cath and Wren and Levi and Reagan behind.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America - Barbara Ehrenreich,  Frances Fox Piven I had to read this for a class, and since I will have to discuss it there more than I ever wish to, this will not be a full, true review. I must say the following however:This book offended me more than I ever imagined it could. It offended me as a worker. It offended me as a woman. It offended me as a minority. It offended me as a Christian. It offended me as someone who has worked for minimum wage. It offended me as someone who does not have a PhD. It offended my intelligence. Nickel and Dimed is not without its interesting observation or two, however it is presented in an insulting, faux-scientific way. Ehrenrich set out to show some truths about the low wage work world and only succeeded in showing us her own bigoted, patronizing thoughts on the low wage work world. It's a story, a poor sampling, offers very few facts and relies on very little evidence.That her grand conclusion was "not having money is hard?" Congratulations, Ehrenreich. We are all astounded by this conclusion.
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black I want to like this book more than I actually do. The promise is in its premise, and there are occasional spots of 4-star worth story telling. The big picture, however, falls short of that "really liked it" mark. I loved the idea of Coldtowns. I find it strangely believable that people would be addicted to the live feeds coming out of the Coldtowns, drawn to the macabre and using them as a means of escaping a terrifying reality. Wouldn't there just be people willing to turn themselves in for the promise of a good time or immortality? I'm not a huge vampire fan, so I have no strong opinions on the lore or how it was portrayed here. I did appreciate that it was gory and that vampires were not entirely bad and definitely not good. The opening scene was fantastic. In some ways, I think it set a pace and expectation that the rest of the story failed to live up to. The pacing overall was inconsistent and there were times when Black flashed to the past and completely halted the momentum of her story. I liked Tana well enough. She was a flawed heroine, but I loved her brand of bravery. She had to push herself to do things, but she did them. She saved people, but she also defended herself and fought for her life. She had a little bit of a sarcastic bite, though her characterization wasn't such that I feel like I know much more about her. Gavriel was interesting, especially if you like your romantic hero tall, dark, and crazy. For most of the book, the relationship between Tana and Gavriel was nicely developed and paced, especially since it was heightened in the midst of the craziness of their situation. I do wish, however, that it didn't fall into the insta-love trap somewhere near the end. You've been alive forever, Gavriel, and you've known Tana like 3 days. Calm it down. The dialogue was sometimes cheesy. Also, I feel like sometimes the reactions of the MC were a little understated considering the blood and guts galore she was a part of. The writing was okay, if a little cliched. I mean, the chapters all started with quotes about death. Also, there were phrases that Black just (I'm about to pun) sucked dry. I can't tell you how many times Tana was holding back a hysterical giggle. By the 80% mark I was yelling at her to just freakin' laugh already. Between Aiden and Gavriel, there was a lot of sexual smiling and one corner of the mouth turning up.I had a fun time reading it, though I don't know how memorable it will be in the long run. It's almost a shame that Holly Black didn't do more with this interesting take on vampirism.
Awoken (Viridian Saga #1) - Serra Elinsen This book is 1 star because it's terrible and 5 stars because it's trying to be. There were so many times I was reading and I couldn't help but think, "huh. That's exactly how it happened in Fifty Shades." I laughed out loud a few times and skipped large chunks of useless descriptions a few more. I cried when Cthulhu said he couldn't be Andi's boyfriend, but probably not for the same reason Andi did. Overall, an interesting premise (from inception to finish) that's probably something better left discussed else where. I think what I'm supposed to write here is: STILL A BETTER LOVE STORY THAN TWILIGHT. Perhaps:RILEY BAY IS FOINE. I DON'T EVEN CARE IF HE HAS TENTACLES. Something like that.
The Sound - Sarah Alderson It's would be hard to describe what this story did right, because much of that is pretty run-of-the-mill, romance story quality: hot boy who's kind of a jerk, but OMG NO. JOKES. NOT REALLY. He smirks. The protagonist reads books, loves music and is a blogger! She's hot, but she totally doesn't think so because she's... curvy. Simple, occasionally witty prose peppered with pop-culture references. Basically, girl spends summer away from home, girl falls in love with boy or boys, girl is almost murdered. Something like that. Here's where the story got away from itself: - Well, basically all the cliche from above.- The thriller portion of this romance thriller is highly predictable and comes in the form of several balls being juggled. There's a rapist AND a serial killer to worry about, and you've got to wonder about our girl's odds.- The MC makes some questionable choices, all because of said hot boy and his rippling muscles. - There is some undercover slut shaming built into the story. Whenever the MC thinks about wanting to have sex with the attractive male she's spent a few weeks getting to know, it's followed by thoughts like, "I'm such a skank!" and "what is wrong with me???" Nothing, girl. Nothing. - The story dragged on for longer than what the plot called for. - The supporting characters bled together, so that I never knew which preppie boy was which and which bitchy girl was which. In the end, it didn't matter much to the plot anyways. Nothing amazing to see here, folks! Go for it if you are a YA/NA romance junkie, and have a day to knock out a book. If not, well, I'm sure you'll find something else to fill up your time.
A Darkness Strange and Lovely - Susan Dennard The first book was decidedly "okay," and this follow-up falls short of even that. The plot is spread thin and relies heavily on the narrator missing obvious things. Every line and detail is hashed and rehashed, so that the big reveals at the end are either not so big or too little too late.

After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away

After the Wreck, I Picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away - Joyce Carol Oates Marking this three stars is strange, because this is a well crafted book, if not one that you enjoy reading. It's short, and relatively easy to read, though it does take on hefty topics like drug abuse, drinking, and rape. I've read complaints about this book "trying too hard" but I enjoyed the way JCO played with words and structure. It gives the book a duality: flimsy, yet gritty, much like the life of our protagonist after she's involved in a fatal car accident. I understood Jenna all throughout the book, even when I wanted to slap her. I liked the character of Crow, but his involvement in the storyline was the weakest part for me, and the most forced thing. There was a bridge scene that had me rolling my eyes, because it takes Crow like 10 minutes to get Jenna through some issues she's been battling all book long. Okay.Either way, I can appreciate this book for it's merit and substance.
Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1) - Orson Scott Card I'm so glad I finally got around to reading this title, that seemed to be forever on my to-read list. A lot of what people list as negative aspects about this book, I loved-- the game details, all of the time spent in the battle room, the old for their age children-- and it was such a fast paced and thrilling read for me. What's equally impressive is that it was also very introspective. It left me thinking, especially about the effects of war and of the "greater good." I loved Ender and I felt for him and a lot of the times I feared him and the sort of weapon he was made into. The only thing I would complain about is the speed of the ending. The big reveal was there in the blink of an eye, and then it felt like it was over not long after that. It's a minor thing, because things are resolved, but just in a broad way, which didn't fit in with how closely and in detail we'd followed Ender and the story previously. I think this is a deceptive book, as good children's books often are. It's a simple story just on top of deeper truths and commentary on humanity, war, government, and jeez, even PTSD. If you're like me and you've been sitting on this title for a while, do yourself the favor and get around to it.
Just for Now (Sea Breeze, #4) - Abbi Glines Basically a superficial poolside read. I don't know what to say about this other than I had a good day at the pool and it's another one for my read count.
Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell This book started slowly and awkwardly for me, feeding out little pieces of the story in too-quick jumps between point of view, and often feeling repetitive in the set-up details. It's now, on this side of the all said and done that I realize how perfect it was that I fell in love with Eleanor and Park a little at a time. I was in it before I realized what happened and what changed. I read about 90% of this book with a little knot in my stomach, knowing that things weren't going to be easy, or end neatly. They didn't, but I don't regret meeting Eleanor or Park. In their story was reflected some feelings I'm sure I've felt before-- insecurity, first love, sticking out, the odd man out of a family. The main charm of this book is in it's plain and simple relatability. We may not all have been picked on in high school, but maybe we have had our hand held by someone who made it tingle all over. It's such a simple, straight forward story, it sounds like something that could've happened to you or a friend or a friend of a friend. The characters were vivid and lovable. The story, both easy to get through and just a little tough to swallow. It's a little gem of a contemporary YA/romance book and I'm glad I gave it a chance. I spend a good amount of time at the end imagining all sorts of three word sentences. I love you.I miss you.Park, please stop. All is well.
Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein Reviews all seem to agree that the less said about this book, the better. That is, the less you know going in, the more effective this moving, intricate and evocative plot will be for you. If that's all you need to hear from me, good. Read this if you haven't already. If you'd like a few more non-specific specifics read on. Firstly, this story is brilliantly paced. There was a point where I thought, "it is over. There is no more story left. What could possibly happen next?" and really it was just shy of the end of the first act. Then, another big moment absolutely steam-rolled my emotions, and there was still about 20% of the book left. It was very good about keeping me off balance. And on the topic of off balance: I had to switch between wanting to absolutely plow through the story and needing to take breaks to get my feels in order. There were a lot of details, especially in the first half of the story, and at times I felt tempted to skip over the description of such and such plan or such and such airfield, just to be one step closer to knowing what was happening. DON'T. Temper yourself, pay attention, read and know that every little detail counts. I loved the characters so much, and I loved their friendship and it made it all the more emotionally compelling that we got to fall in love with their friendship at THIS point in their story. Truly a great read and one that will stay with me in the many days and weeks to come.
Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2) - Marissa Meyer Scarlet, like it's predecessor, is a quick, entertaining read. There was nothing truly groundbreaking within it's pages, but it was a well-paced, action driven story that was perfect for evening, forget the worries of the world reading. I rated this one a star above Cinder, because I think it had a bit more momentum, and also benefited from the fact that the introductions were done-- I was reading about characters I already knew and liked. Scarlet and Wolf were welcome additions to the cast. We don't spend too much time delving into their personalities, but the sequence of events proves to the reader that Scarlet is an able and brave girl, and what's great is that she's significantly "normal." She's often at a disadvantage strength and power wise, but it never stops her from pushing forward toward her goal. Fun over all and recommended for those who read in the genre.
The Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken 3.5 starsI'll first admit that I read this book during a weird reading time in my life. I barely had time to do any "for fun" reading and what would normally take a weekend took my about four months to accomplish. That's all just personal crap, I know, but I feel like it's fair to my review to put it in that perspective. ANYHOW, The Darkest Minds tells the story of a a dystopian future in which children either die or develop unexplained abilities that inspire fear amongst the adults. The surviving children are placed in internment camps, and there we find our protagonist Ruby. The first few chapters show us some of Ruby's life in the camp, as well as detail her escape from it and to me, it was the highlight of the book. The world Bracken built is far from perfect, and it takes a little work to fully buy what she's selling, but the writing was interesting enough that learning about all the different pieces of our MC and her life thus far was interesting, and often times heartbreaking. As we enter the road trip portion of the book, things slow down drastically. Just in and of itself, the plot is about ambling, about searching for something our rag-tag group of abilitied kids have no idea how to locate. Unfortunately, because of this, the telling of the story suffers and also seems to amble and search. I had to push myself through the middle chunk of this book, because as I much as I loved the characters, the plot lacked momentum. For a portion of the story, we don't know what Ruby's goal is, and that also adds to the feeling that things happen unconnected from any sort of end game. I mentioned the supporting characters and they were all wonderful. Well, namely, I liked Zu and Chubs. Liam was pretty solid as a leader and (shock!) love interest, though I'm assuming we'll see more of that in however the author decides to carry on the series. There was a lot of super evil in this book. The kids are in fact surrounded on all sides by pure evil. I guess cases could be made for some of the villains being complex, and acting in a way that they at least view as what's best, but that would mostly be conjecture, as the author doesn't make that apparent while reading. I mean, we're talking rounding up kids into harsh internment camps from the onset. It builds from there until the story is cocooned in a dense layer of almost-cartoonish villainy. Overall it was an entertaining premise which is what kept me going. The end was a nice set-up for follow-ups, though I wouldn't say that a single thing from this book was resolved. I would certainly read the next installment, however.
Just One Day - Gayle Forman Don't enter into this book expecting a romance. I can't say that it was, and if you want to read about one, you might find yourself disapointed. Additionally, don't ask this book to make you feel happy, or chipper, as again that is not in its job description. Was it depressing? Yep. But I think that showcasing the deprerssion Allyson feels, telling us of how she lost and found herself is what the book set out to do. Just One Day tells the story of Allyson Healey, straight edge, goodie-two-shoes, whose parents send her on a post-graduation tour of Europre. She's having a hard time enjoying herself. That is, until, she meets Willem, a Dutch actor in a outdoor production of Shakespeare. He invites her for a one day adventure in Paris. It lasts exactly one day, and after she is home, in college, Allyson must deal with what her one day taught her about herself. I must admit that there is a part through the middle where I was frustrated with Allyson and how very little progress she was making. Not with the story, though, but with the character which is an important disctinction to make. The other characters in Forman's story are all so nicely crafted. From the tour guide, to Allyson's roommates to her study partner and friend, Dee, they all add layers to the story and help our heroine take steps toward her self discovery. Willem is another story. I never liked or trusted him.The setting was beautiful. I not-so-secretly lust after the idea of visiting Paris, and reading about Allyson going there, and returning there, made me swoon a little. All in all, I read it in a few hours one night, my heart constricted, and when I finished I was definitely sadder than when I started. But. It is nicely written and has lovely themes. Recommended for fans of self-discovery or coming of age stories.
Altered - Jennifer Rush This is one of those love-centered, action backed YA novels that feels a little cheesy while you are reading it, but I suppose the point is that you read it anyways.I'll start by saying that I very much liked the premise of Altered. Four boys being genetically altered in the lab under your house and you've fallen in love with one of them. I like (in theory) the idea of the revelations that come once they (the altered boys and our main protagonist, Anna)are all on the run, and how it changes (or should change) Anna's relationship which each boy. I liked the boys, and their different personalities. This story is about a chase, and it unravels as you go on, and those are elements that naturally draw your story forward and provide momentum.Altered is easy to read and the main action of the story was enough to keep me curious and invested.Now, there were some problems. One was how much the romance popped up in this story at inopportune times. Later in the story, we get an additional explanation as to why Anna feels so connected to Sam, but man. Self preservation trumps the tingly feeling your bf's touch gives you is all I'm saying. In one of the opening scenes, Anna watches several men get killed and then her father gets shot. She thinks that it all can't be happening, those men can't be dead, her father can't be hurt... and OMG her crush is so close she can feel his breath!!!1REALLY? Was that really the right time to stick in that little thing about being close together? After she watched people get KILLED? I hate moments like that. If you are going to have a heroine who is on the run with these strong boys, and she's taken combat training and you want to make her kick ass, don't cheapen her by having her cosntantly wonder if her crush likes her mid-escape. It kind of sucks. There were a couple of other eye-roll worthy moment. Despire involving genetic alterations and a clandestine operation, many of these elements were watered down. For instance, while on the run, they encounter an encoded clue and the first part of it has nothing X's, I's and V's. Anna is all, "what can this mean???" and it literally takes her chapters later and looking at a clock to realize, "ROMAN NUMERALS." It was small things like that that make this sort of Spy Kids-ish. In all, though, it was just sort of light and fun. Pick it up if you are a big fan of action driven YA novels and you have a few extra hours laying around somewhere.