Read Me, Seymour

Read Me, Seymour

Nothing serious here, mostly just bookish ramblings.

Review
4 Stars
A YA/Contemporary/Fantasy/Paranormal/Romance
Afterworlds - Scott Westerfeld

Afterworlds is actually two books in one told in alternating chapters  -- the story of Darcy, who has just completed her first novel and is moving to NYC, and the story she wrote, called “Afterworlds.” I thought this was an interesting way to lay out the book, but I was also worried that it would be kind of confusing to read this way. But the way this book was set up was perfect. I loved going back and forth between the real world and Afterworlds. I did like the real world sections a little better, but I never found myself dreading the Afterworlds chapters or anything.

 

Darcy’s story gave an inside peek into the world of authors and publishing, which is really what I was reading this book for. I do hope to get into the publishing industry one day (even though I am really enjoying my current job in the non-profit philanthropy world…who knew?) and I feel like this book gave some good insight and interesting tidbits about the publishing world. I thought that Darcy was slightly annoying and her young age definitely showed itself sometimes, but she also felt very real. She had the insecurities of an 18-year-old, and she was sometimes frustratingly naïve. But that’s why I liked her. She wasn’t the stereotypical little-miss-perfect YA lead. She was even Indian and (gasp) a lesbian! Her culture and her sexuality didn’t play a huge role in the story, but it was nice to read about a different type of character for once.

 

The Afterworlds chapters were good, but not great. The story was similar to just about every overhyped YA paranormal romance book out there right now. It had moments I really liked, and it had some serious eye-rolling moments. I think the author was kind of making fun of and even satirizing the current YA canon. I think if you aren’t big on reading reviews and you don’t read a crapton of YA, this aspect might go over your head. But Westerfeld is a great writer, so I think his book was actually meant to be a little stereotypical.

 

This didn’t knock my socks off or anything, but I do think it was a worthwhile read. I think younger readers will enjoy it at face value and those of us who are older and a little more critical will see the satire in the Afterworlds chapters while still enjoying Darcy’s story and getting the inside scoop on the publishing world.

Snow, Snow, Go Away
A Caribbean Mystery - Agatha Christie

Yesterday was a snow day for me. We got around 6 inches here, which isn't too terrible, but they hadn't plowed or salted our road at all, so my grandma and I said screw it and stayed home.It was the pretty much the perfect day to lay around in bed and start and finish a short little mystery set on a tropical island.

 

(Side note: On the front page of the Washington Post today was an article about the snowstorm, and tons of quotes from Botsonians saying we need to "man up" and "quit complaining." Sorry, but in DC we don't generally get a lot of snow, so we aren't well equipped to handle storms when they do come through. They don't treat our roads before or during the storm. We don't all drive 4-wheel drive cars and have snow tires because 360 days out of the year we don't need them. People here don't know how to drive safely in snow and ice. We aren't losing our minds over a few inches of snow; we just don't have the provisions to handle it like you do. /rant)

 

I can't even remember the last Miss Marple mystery I read, so I forgot how much I love her! She's such a sweet little old lady, but she definitely knows how to use her wit and strong conversational skills to get to the bottom of things. 

 

Of course I didn't figure out whodunit -- I pretty much never do with Christie's books. She always does a great job of building a cast of characters who are all just shady enough that anyone could be the murderer. 

 

This wasn't the best Christie book I've ever read, but I did enjoy it and I hope to get around to reading more soon. I have a few more Miss Marple books and I think one Poirot, and I'm planning on saving them for future snow days or sick days. Her books are the perfect "curl up in bed and read in one sitting" books.

Review
1 Stars
The Dullest Zombie Book You Will Ever Read
This is Not a Test - Courtney Summers

I never thought I’d refer to a zombie book as really, really, boring, but This is Not a Test was a snooze-fest.

 

Zombies have taken over, and six teens have managed to barricade themselves into the local high school and are trying to survive. But the main character, Sloane, doesn’t want to make it through. Just months before, Sloane’s older sister ran away, leaving Sloane alone with their abusive father. Death to her seems more appealing than struggling to live, only to return to a life she hates.

 

I thought the premise was interesting – will she or won’t she just give up and throw herself to the wolves zombies? But there was no inner turmoil, there was just incessant whining. Omg, I’ve never been so annoyed with a character’s constant complaining as I was with Sloane. So many times I was tempted to throw this book across the room and scream, “Kill yourself already!!” I wanted to see Sloane grow and find the will to live, but instead she just moaned and groaned and talked about wanting to die.

 

The other characters were almost as annoying as Sloane. They argued a lot (mostly about the same things over and over and over). They ate. The slept. Nothing really happened. Yawn.

 

And where the heck were the zombies? The book starts out promising with some crazy undead attacks, but after that the book could have taken place in any kind of post-apocalyptic setting. Zombies aren’t even mentioned much, let alone seen.

 

The ending was predictable and pointless. I don’t think what happened added anything to the story.

 

This is the first book in a series, and I definitely won’t be continuing on. I like my supernatural stuff to be heavy on the violence and freakiness, not on the bitching and moaning.

Review
4 Stars
Not What I Expected, In a Really Good Way
If You Find Me - Emily Murdoch

If You Find Me (side note: I always want to call this book “If You Can Find Me.” I don’t know why) follows fifteen-year-old Carey and six-year-old Janessa, who have grown up in a camper in the middle of the “Hundred Acre Wood” in Tennessee. Their mother went out for supplies over a month ago and never returned. The girls are starved and terrified that their food supply will run out before Mama returns.

 

One day a man and a woman, both of whom the girls have never seen before, come stumbling into their little section of the forest. Turns out, it’s a social worker and Carey’s father, come to save the girls from the life of neglect and abuse they’ve come to know.

 

I was expecting more of a mystery with this book – where did the mother go? Why was she raising them like this? Is there some deep, dark, secret this family is harboring? Some of these questions ended up being answered, but this book is not so much a YA mystery/thriller as it is a truly heartwarming book about the power of love.

 

Okay, that sounds super cheesy, I know. I’ve been called heartless, cold-hearted, etc. many times, because I’m not a person who loves love. I’m not super affectionate, I don’t cry reading Hallmark cards, I honestly cannot remember the time a book or movie made me cry, I don’t like sappy commercials targeted at middle-aged moms, I don’t say “Aww” when I see couples hugging/holding hands/kissing in public, I HATE romance books and movies, and I definitely don’t seek out heartwarming reads. But this book may have softened up my ice queen heart just a little bit.

 

The relationship Carey has with her younger sister is beautiful. Carey is a fierce protector; she would do anything to keep Janessa safe. They both love each other so unconditionally because they’ve been through so much shit together, and one another is all they have. Seeing the two girls slowly adjust and come to love their new family felt real. Yes, it seems like they adjusted pretty quickly, but it’s a 266-page book. I say it felt real because I know what a changing family dynamic is like. I’ve never dealt with long-lost kidnapped children or siblings, but I know how it feels to have someone new around and to have to adjust to them. I’ve read complaints that the stepsister and Carey’s relationship went from hateful to friendly out of nowhere, but that’s how it happens, in my experience. No one likes their regular routine shaken up, and living with someone you hardly knew (in this case never knew) before is tough. But one day you just accept it and decide to stop sulking and try to make things work. That’s exactly what happened to me, and what I think happened in this book.

 

There were some things I had problems with in this book – mainly the process of integrating the girls back to society, how their case was handled by one social worker and seemingly no one else, how no one realized that this was the long-lost girl from ten years ago…but I can overlook these things because this book was just so lovely! So much in this book just melted by heart .God, I hate dogs but I loved the scenes with Janessa and the three-legged dog. This book has familial love, the love that stems from friendships, a teeny bit of romantic love, and the love that you have for people that you know you shouldn’t – the kind that can be the hardest to give up.

 

I went into this wanting some intensity and drama but I came out with warmth in my soul and a newfound appreciation for my family and for the things we take for granted every day – running water, electricity, food, and general safety.

 

** Trigger warning: This book alludes several times to child molestation, and includes a fairly graphic rape scene **

Really Quick Book & Movie Thoughts
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

I can’t say much that hasn't already been said a million times about this one. I looooove characters who are royally fucked up, and there are lots of them in this book. I definitely didn't see the ending coming -- I knew something devious was brewing, but I couldn't have predicted something THAT nuts. 

 

I did see the movie as well, and I really didn’t like it. You still got the gist of the story, but the movie left out a LOT of the insanely screwed-up things the characters did. Where the book had me saying, “Omg, these are the most insane people in the world, can people like this really exist, wtf, ” the movie had me going, “Eh, they’re a little crazy.”

Reading progress update: I've read 125 out of 246 pages.
The Island of Dr. Moreau - H.G. Wells

This is soooo weird. 

 

I went into this knowing very little -- all I knew was freaky shit on island, and a guy named Dr. Moreau. 

 

I'm not a very expressive reader, so I was surprised when I caught myself actually making faces on the Metro this morning, kinda like: 

 

Basically. Like I said, freaky shit.

Bright Young Things Trilogy Review
Bright Young Things - Anna Godbersen Beautiful Days - Anna Godbersen [ { THE LUCKY ONES (BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS) } ] by Godbersen, Anna (AUTHOR) Jun-18-2013 [ Paperback ] - Anna Godbersen

I've been horribly slacking on writing up reviews, even quickie short ones. But no more! I resolve to stop being lazy (well, sometimes it’s because I’m busy, but usually it’s pure laziness) and at least post my general thoughts and feelings on my reads. Pretty much the sole reason I made this account was so I can go back and remember my opinions on books because I have a horrible memory. I know some people who can give the most specific details about a book they read 10 years ago, but I forget main character names (even in books I absolutely loved) in a couple of months.

 

So, I’ll start off with a series I started and finished in the month of January – the Bright Young Things trilogy by Anna Godberson. This is a YA historical fiction series following three girls living in New York City in 1929. Books set in the 1920s are my historical fiction weakness. I love everything – the fashion, the flappers, the women’s liberation, prohibition, speakeasies, jazz – all of it. These books really transport you back in time. I felt like I was hanging out in these clubs, drinking sidecars and chain smoking and doing the Charleston. The descriptions are lovely and detailed but not too flowery. I loved that the author described the character’s outfits almost every time they changed – I love fashion through the ages, and it made each scene even more vivid.

 

The three main characters were all likable, but I didn't absolutely love any of them. Two of the girls ran away from home in Ohio to follow their dream of living in the Big Apple. One hopes to find her birth father, and another hopes to become a star. The third girl is a rich flapper, growing up on an estate, spending lots of money and also spending lots of time with her boyfriend. In true YA fashion, these girls all have problems and insecurities to work through, and sometimes you want to slap the them in the face. But I came to like all the girls and they all had a relatively happy ending, even with one of the main characters dying (not a spoiler – this is mentioned in like the second page of the first book).

 

I would have preferred a little more intensity with this trilogy. Some things that should have been major events were just brushed over, and most of things just fell into the girls’ laps a little too easily. I love the glitz and glamour of the 20s, but there was a lot of darkness to this time as well –the Wall Street crash, and bootleggers and mobsters, for example –and this series made everything a little too perfect. But I will say that when these girls screwed up (which they did pretty frequently) they did suffer the consequences and learn their lessons, which I appreciated. One thing that frustrates me about YA is the fact that the characters do the STUPIDEST things over and over and never learn from it. Not the case here.

 

If you like books set in the 1920s, Godberson’s “Luxe” series, or just books with pretty girls in pretty dresses on the cover, check these out.

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
2 Stars
Liarthon 1
Pretty Little Secrets - Sara Shepard

Hunger for Knowledge and I kicked off what we have dubbed Liarthon, a year-long effort to finish the Pretty Little Liars series, with Pretty Little Secrets, book 4.5 in the series. I rarely read companion novels and novellas, even if I love the series they are attached to. Even though they might provide more backstory or character development, I generally find them to be unnecessary to the overall plot of the series. But we decided to read the two companion novels in this series because 1) we're addicted and 2) we were hoping we would get more clues to the overall mystery in the series.

 

This book was a quick read and there were some parts I liked,  but it gave no new information. This book is essentially set up as four short stories (around 120 pages each) focusing on one of the girls at a time. A few of these stories were SO incredibly unbelievable, even for this series, that I found myself eye rolling quite a bit. Hanna's story was alright -- she's having some boyfriend issues, and she joins a workout group at the gym because she has a crush on the instructor but she finds herself competing for his affection with another girl in the class. It was kind of predictable, but fine. Emily's chapter just irritated me. I couldn't get over the fact that she was hired as Santa at the mall. Don't tell me that they literally could not find any older man in the whole city to be Santa. Any kid over the age of two would not fall for a skinny, redheaded, adolescent girl playing Santa. Aria's chapter was the most far-fetched, though. She just so happens to leave her family vacation early, so she's home alone, and surprise! Her ex-boyfriend from Iceland shows up on her doorstep. He's running from the Icelandic police, so Aria decides to MARRY him to protect him. Wtf? Seriously? I couldn't even handle this part. Spencer's part just bored me -- she meets a cute guy in Florida on vacation and tries to win his heart, but her sister has her eyes on him as well. Yawn. 

 

So, kind of boring, very unbelievable, but I didn't hate it for some reason. I think I just hold a special place in my heart for these girls. I just want to protect them and tell them to stop lying and doing stupid shit sometimes. But despite this dud of a book, I'm sure the rest of the books in the series will be more similar to books 1-4 and give me all the intense drama my heart desires. 

Carnival of Crap
Dark Carnival: An Anthology of Horror - C. Elizabeth Vescio, Julie Hutchings, Kristen Strassel, Meghan Schuler, Kat Daemon, Brian W. Taylor, J. Elizabeth Hill, Claire C Riley, Jolene Haley, Kristen Jett, Jessi Shakarian

1.5 stars...maybe even 1.25.

 

This was pretty bad.

 

I don't read a lot of short stories, but I love horror and I love all things creepy carnival themed, so I thought this might be pretty good. This was one of my Ambien buys (see my last post) and I made myself read the entire thing as a way to remind myself to never book shop after taking sleeping pills again. I only found about three of the stories actually scary; some of the stories just downright made no sense. Too many of the stories centered around the same plot -- hamburgers/hot dogs made of human meat, the devil works at the carnival and wants your soul -- which could be interesting stories, but a lot of these felt sloppy and rushed and lacked depth. Maybe it's just me, but if I'm reading a collection of short stories, I want them all to be different and give me something new. Some of the stories that were similar even came one after the other, so I found myself skimming the second story because I felt like I had just read it.

But the worst part about this was the editing. I think every single story in here had at least a few errors. Names were misspelled, punctuation was missing or used incorrectly, there were random line breaks in the middle of sentences that I don't think were put for any kind of artistic purpose...Seriously, some of the stories were hard to read because there were just so many errors. Yes, I majored in English, but I'm not a crazy grammar Nazi. But the fact of the matter is, grammatical errors make us pause and take us away from the story (not that I was really enjoying these stories anyway). I honestly don't know how these stories got published with the amount of errors they have. 

 

Pleaseeee save your 99 cents and skip this. Like I said, I don't read short stories often, but I am still 100% sure there are better scary story collections out there.

The Books I Didn't Know I Bought

AKA A Pretty Funny Book Buying Story

 

I've dealt with insomnia since I was a teenager. It has gotten a lot better in recent months (I think partly due to being on a more regular working schedule), but I still have an Ambien prescription and I take it maybe once or twice a week when I'm having a hard time falling asleep. I'm sure you guys have heard stories of the crazy things people did after taking Ambien; people seem to do things a blacked-out drunk person would do. I've never had a super crazy Ambien experience, but sometimes it does make me a little loopy. The worst I've done is sent SnapChats to people of things around my room, saying said things were talking to me.

 

Anyway, the other night I popped an Ambien and was playing around on my tablet in bed. I fall asleep, get up, go to work, blah blah blah. I check my Yahoo! e-mail every morning at work to clear out junk and check for coupons. I noticed I had a bunch of Kindle receipts from e-books. "Huh? I didn't buy any books recently," I thought. I start clicking through them, and a hazy memory starts coming to me. You know when you get super hammered and the next day you start recalling snippets from the night before, usually thinking, "Oh shit, why did I do that?" Yeah, it was like that. Turns out, I bought a crap-ton of short horror stories and short horror story anthologies. I don't even know why; I very rarely read short stories. Luckily, most of them were either free or under $2, so at least I didn't do my bank account in. I thought it was kind of funny that I did a blacked-out book haul of sorts. (I have since started reading one of them, "Dark Carnival: An Anthology of Horror" edited by Jolene Haley. It's  slightly terrible, but I'll probably do a full review when I finish.)

 

So fast forward to yesterday, a few days after I see the Kindle books I bought. I logged on to my gmail account shortly before leaving work to find the link for the Time and Expense website we use so I can submit my hours for the week for approval. I don't use gmail much, so I went through to clear out some spam that had built up. I see several "Thank you for your purchase!" receipts from Google Play Books. "What, what? I haven't bought any books from Google in a while," I think to myself. As I open them up, I realize these purchases were made the same night as the Kindle purchases (I have a tablet so I use both Google Play and the Kindle app for reading). While I vaguely remember browsing the Kindle store, I don't remember checking the Google Play store AT ALL. Again, at least I was a smart intoxicated shopper -- all the books were $1.99. I bought some pretty random stuff, like "The Host" by Stephanie Myers and "The Calling," which is about a serial killer who kills terminally ill people and drains their bodies of blood for some reason and chops up their faces or something. I busted out laughing at my desk. Wtf kind of weird ass mood was I in buying this random shit?! I got home and told my grandma, who thought it was so funny that she literally cried laughing so hard. 

 

Lesson learned: Must turn off all electronic devices after taking Ambien. 

Although, who doesn't like a surprise book haul? ;)

 

Reading progress update: I've read 920 out of 959 pages.
A Dance With Dragons - George R.R. Martin

Soooo close to the end! I'm debating whether or not to finish this up at work today or save the last 15 pages or so for my ride home on the metro. I'm dying to get to the end of it, but I'm also really, really scared that something big is gonna happen and if one of my favorites dies, I might cry. I'd rather cry in the bathroom at work than on public transportation...

 

If anyone knows how this ends, should I finish this up in semi-privacy at my desk or will I be OK to read it in public? Ahhhh I don't know what to do! 

Book Haul That I Really Didn't Need Part II
The Museum of Extraordinary Things - Alice Hoffman Pretty Girl-13 - Liz Coley This is Not a Test - Courtney Summers Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die - April Henry Madapple - Christina Meldrum

Not including books I got for Christmas...I'm kinda drowning in new books right now but I love it. :)

 

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman: A mystery surrounding a freak show. Might be good to read during the American Horror Story hiatus! 
 
Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley: About a 16-year old girl who has spent the last three years held captive by her kidnapper and doesn't remember anything about that time and is trying to get her memory back. I've heard this is pretty dark and disturbing, which only intrigues me more!
 
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers: A group of teens are trapped in a high school during the zombie apocalypse. I think this one is supposed to be a horror novel, but it looks like it also deals a lot with the trapped kids and their pasts, so I think it'll be interesting.
 
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: I've heard soooo many people rave about this book/series, and for the longest time I wasn't really interested. But I think all the Song of Ice and Fire I've been reading has me craving more fantasy, so I'm giving this a shot. It has some concepts that I think I'll like -- magical elite, a country torn in two, flesh-eating monsters.
 
The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die by April Henry: A girl wakes up in a cabin, totally confused as to why she's there, and hears two men arguing over whether or not they should kill her. Apparently I'm into kidnapping books at the moment.
 
Madapple by Christina Meldrum: Don't know too much about this, except it deals with a girl who is accused of killing her mother and a cult. Cults fascinate me, so hopefully I like this one.
Book Haul That I Really Didn't Need Part I
The Winner's Curse (Winner's Trilogy, #1) - Marie Rutkoski Monstrous Beauty - Elizabeth Fama Every Day - David Levithan The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin Pretty Little Secrets - Sara Shepard Deep Betrayal - Anne Greenwood Brown

The last thing I need in my life right now is 12 new shiny books on my shelf tempting me to read them while I'm trying to plow my way through A Dance with Dragons (I'm on page 221 of 959...I need more hours in the day!). In my defense, I ordered 10 of these from BookOutlet on Black Friday and they just came today. But it's still killing me having so many books that need to wait to be read. Not to mention Christmas is in 3 days and 80% of my wishlist was books....

 

Anyway, here's half of my haul!

 

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski: Historical fantasy YA, I think. I don't know much about this one, but I've heard good things! Bonus: The hardcover has tattered, uneven pages like an old book and it's awesome.

 

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama: Mermaids, curses, ghosts. Sounds good to me! Funny that I have two mermaid books in this haul...I don't think I've read a mermaid book since I was a kid. 

 

Every Day by David Levithan: This will be my first David Levithan book, and people rave about him so I'm interested to see how I like this. The premise is definitely intriguing...waking up as a new person every single day.

 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin: I've heard really, really good things about this one. Plus, I tend to love books about bookstores!

 

Pretty Little Secrets by Sara Shepard: Book 4.5 in the Pretty Little Liars series. Hunger for Knowledge here on BL and I are having what we have dubbed the Liarthon in 2015, finishing up this massive series over the course of 2015. I usually skip companion novels in series, but I want all the liars I can get! Bonus: The naked hardcover says "It's so much more fun to be naughty." in silver script. I may toss the dust jacket because I love the kitsch. 

 

Deep Betrayal by Anne Greenwood Brown: Book two in the Lies Beneath trilogy. Haven't read the first one, but once I pick up the third one I plan to marathon these. Murderous  mermaids? Yes please!

Reading progress update: I've read 608 out of 685 pages.
A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin

I honestly think George R. R. Martin is a cruel, cruel man who sits at his computer imagining the worst possible things he could do to his characters and cackles while he writes as he imagines the faces his readers will make when they read that part.

 

 

Reading progress update: I've read 380 out of 685 pages.
A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin

I'm over halfway there!

 

I think I'm the only person who is Team Cersei. She's just a total bitch through and through, and I kind of love it. 

Reading progress update: I've read 60 out of 685 pages.
A Feast for Crows - George R.R. Martin

I'm so happy to be finally reading this! I finished the third book in the series about a year and a half ago, but I've been putting off this one because 1. It's huge (I have a larger edition; I think other sized copies are 1,000+ pages), 2. Everyone says this is the weakest book in the series, 3. I was hoping to marathon books 4, 5, and 6, but it looks like the sixth book is still gonna be a while, and 4. I'M SCARED. I don't know how many more favorite character deaths I can handle in this series. Arya Stark is literally my favorite fictional character of all time, and if he kills her off I would probably be so upset I'd have to take a day off work to cry. Seriously. I'm so scared.

 

Anyway, this is good so far, but there are already so many new characters! Hopefully I can keep track of everyone. I seriously have a hard time keeping track of characters in "regular" books, and I believe Martin has confirmed that there are over 1,000 named characters in this series, soooooo yeah. =/