“Two Graves” Book Review

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Author: Zoe Kalo

Publisher: Createspace

Genre: Thriller, Novella

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Synopsis and Thoughts:

Zoe Kalo’s novella is a story of revenge with allusions to Dante’s Inferno. Twenty-three year old music student, Angelica, is set on seeking revenge against the man who wronged her seven years prior. Having spent years planning, Angelica attends a masquerade ball hosted by the very man she seeks.

This novella had been on my to read list for a couple of years prior to my finally reading it. The description, especially with the reference to Dante’s Inferno, are what drew me in and piqued my interest; thus, when I was offered a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review, I leapt at the chance to finally read it.  Much to my disappointment, the book failed to live up to my expectations.

Granted, Two Graves is a short novella at 70 pages, but I felt that it would’ve been better if the author had taken the time to expand on the story and flesh it out more to either make it a longer novella, or even a full length novel. The story switched back and forth between the present and what occurred in the past to make Angelica want this revenge in a jerky manner to where it threw the flow of the story off. Meanwhile, the brief glimpses of the Dante-ish masquerade ball grabbed my interest in the description of the room and it’s group of people, but there was such little time spent there that I wasn’t able to fully appreciate the mood and experience that was being laid out.

In the end, the one thing that aggravated me the most about the story, was the end. After all of the buildup, the ending felt both rushed and abrupt. I actually had to re-read the last few pages a couple of times to make sure that I hadn’t missed something, and upon finding I hadn’t, I was disappointed in the ending and couldn’t help but wonder if the author had reached a point where she couldn’t decide how to end the book, after having created so many unanswered questions, that she just decided to end it rather than keep going and attempting to answer her own questions.

The reason for the two plane rating, versus just one, is because, despite all the issues I had with this book, I enjoyed the last quarter of the story when things really began to pick up and the references to Dante finally began to become known. Although I would not recommend this book, especially not to those who are looking for a revenge story, I will say that if you do decide to read this, proceed with caution.

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Ode to the Library

img_1974In honor of the 60th anniversary of National Library Week, I thought it only fitting that I take a moment to reflect on my relationship with and love for libraries. I was about 5 or 6 when my Mom took me to the library and signed me up for my very first library card. We were living in Redlands, California at the time and I remember feeling like such a big girl that day. For as Rita Mae Brown said, “When I got my library card, that’s when my life began.”

Despite not being able to read myself, and knowing that whatever books I picked out would have to read to me, my Mom still felt it was important for me to have my own library card both to further my love of books and to provide me with a sense of responsibility and being a big girl. I can remember using my new card to check out 5-10 picture books to be read to me by one of my parents at bed time over the next week, and then being taken to the library the following week to trade in my books for new ones.

Since that very first library visit, I have continued to actively utilize my local library over the years. After moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado in the third grade, I began to enter the Pikes Peak Library Districts annual summer reading program. I spent my summers reading a variety of books in vast quantities in order to fill out the book challenge form and receive as many rewards as possible for having read the most books over the summer. Once I became too old to take part in the children’s summer reading program, I spent my summers volunteering at my local branch and working with the next generation of readers by encouraging them to continue their love of reading by distributing prizes.

During the school year, the library was the place I would visit on the weekends to check out books in order to complete research and write reports on a variety of subjects. In a time before the internet, the library along with its card catalog was where I would find all of the answers I was looking for, answers that helped me grow as an individual and intellectually. The use of the library as a research location only increased upon entering college where every trip I took to my campus library was to either check out materials needed for writing papers, or to meet up with classmates as we worked on a class project together.

It wasn’t until I finished college that I signed up for what became my third (Aurora Pubic Library) and fourth (Denver Public Library) cards. The library continues to be a prominent fixture in my life as I borrow both physical and ebooks that are on my never-ending to be read list; but, the library has also become my Blockbuster Video in an age where video rental stores have gone the way of the Dodo.

Libraries have made such an impact on me that along with visiting some of the top bookstores on my travels, I also find myself spending time at libraries while on my travels as well. It is because of my love of and for libraries that I have written this post. To all the librarians, the libraries and those who love the library as I do, Happy National Library Week!

“Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark… In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed.” – Germaine Greer

“Red Clocks”: A Dystopian Novel That Could Easily Become a Reality Book Review

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Author: Leni Zumas

Genre: Fiction, Dystopian, Feminism, Science Fiction

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Rating:  ✈️  ✈️  ✈️  ✈️ out of  ✈️  ✈️  ✈️  ✈️  ✈️

 

Synopsis:

In an America where Roe v. Wade has been overturned, resulting in: in-vitro fertilization also becoming illegal, the passage of the nationwide Personhood Amendment that gives rights to embryos, single people wishing to adopt and provide a childhood with a home are no longer allowed to, and Canada has closed their borders to women seeking abortions in order to maintain their trade agreement with the United States.

Living and trying to navigate within this new American society are four women who find their lives intertwining. Ro is a single high school teacher who wants nothing more than to have a baby before time runs out, all while writing a biography on a 19th century female explorer of the North Pole. Susan, a friend of Ro, is the mother of two young children who is trying to make the best of a failing marriage. Mattie, one of Ro’s students who finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy and looking to abort the baby without facing jail time. And Gin, the homeopath who lives out in the woods and assists the women of the town with various needs from tinctures for burns to special tea to help in both wanted and unwanted pregnancies. Things come to a head for all four of these women when Gin finds herself put on trial and forced to face the judgement of many of those she’s treated over the years.

Thoughts:

This book took me a bit to get into, but once I figured out the structure and flow of the story I found myself sucked into the lives of these four women. I found Red Clocks to be a truly frightening look at the extremes of what could happen if the United States were to ever reverse Roe v. Wade and to pass a nationwide personhood amendment. Red Clocks shows a society where women would not only no longer be allowed to terminate an unwanted pregnancy for whatever personal reason they had, but where women looking to have children who are unable to have children of their own, would not be allowed to proceed with in vitro fertilization due to the embryo not being allowed to say whether or not it wanted to be implanted, to single people no longer being allowed to adopt children due to the new rule of “every child needs two”.

Zumas does a wonderful job of examining the fallout from revoking women’s ability to live their life as they see fit for their own person and body. Zumas creates a society where “…women who miscarried should pay for funerals for the fetal tissue and … a lab technician who accidentally dropped an embryo during in vitro transfer was guilty of manslaughter.” This is a world where young girls are once again seeking back alley abortions and throwing themselves down stairs in hopes of aborting an unwanted fetus, the difference between this post Roe v. Wade society with the pre Roe v. Wade society is that prior to decision, women seeking an abortion were able to go to Canada for termination, in this new society, Canada has closed its borders to those seeking not only abortions, but also to those who want in vitro out of fear of damaging their relationship as a trading partner with the United States.

Despite the fact that this is a dystopian and speculative piece of fiction, the concepts and ideas that exist in this book are ones that are constantly being discussed and debated at all levels of society. Zumas has written an enlightening and though provoking novel that warns the reader to look closely at all angles of the argument before voting on the final outcome.

“Annihilation” or the Weirdest Science Fiction I’ve Read Book Review

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Author: Jeff Vandermeer

Genre: Science Fiction, Mystery

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

 

Synopsis:

Annihilation is the first book in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, and recounts the story of what is known as Area X. It is an area that has been reclaimed by nature and has managed to remain completely cutoff from the rest of the continent. Since its discovery, there have been 11 expeditions into Area X, some of those expeditions were successful while others resulted in tragedy and murder. When the story begins, the 12th expedition is making its way into Area X, with this particular group being made up solely of four women with very distinct job descriptions. There’s an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychiatrist who assumes the role of leader, and a biologist who serves as the narrator for the story.

Knowing the sordid history of the region and what happened with each expedition, the women are tasked with mapping the area and collection specimens. They are also meant to each keep written records of what they observe about the area and within one another, all while trying to avoid any possible contamination that may be present.

Thoughts:

I added Jeff Vandermeer’s novel to my to read list almost two years ago, after coming across it while browsing through an airport bookstore and thinking that it sounded promising. I finally decided to move it up on my to read list after seeing previews for the film and thinking that it might be a good idea to read the book before seeing the movie. Thus, I picked up a copy from local library and dove in with high hopes for what I was sure would be a truly unique and different science fiction book than what I was used to.

The book lived up to the fact that it was different from other science fiction books, it was weird and as a reader I was never truly certain that what the narrator was describing was in fact true, or if everything was a version of some truth from an unreliable narrator. I ended up finding this a rather difficult book to get through as I found myself having to go back whole passages to reread them due to having lost the trail that the author was laying, or because I had completely zoned out and stopped paying attention. Although there were brief parts of the book that really engaged me and held my attention, for the most part I found myself having a hard time focusing on the story; I had to continuously push myself to keep reading in hopes it would begin to make sense at some point in time.

Upon finishing the book, I have been left with the feeling that I would have been completely fine in going to see the movie without having ever read the book and still have left the theater feeling just as confused as I was at the end of the book. Granted this is the first book in a trilogy, so it makes sense that things would be left open-ended in order to get the reader to read the rest of the books, but I had such a hard time focusing on this book that I’m not even sure I’ll finish the series because at this point in time, I really don’t care what’s going on or what happens to the characters. As for the movie, I’ll wait for it to leave the theaters and either watch it when it plays on HBO or check out the DVD from the library.

 

“Geekerella” Book Review, or the Book that Filled my Geek Girl Heart with Endless Happiness.

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 Author: Ashley Poston

 Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Retelling

 Publisher: Quirk Books

 Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

 

Thoughts:

Geekerella was one of those books that I initially had no intention of reading, let alone buying a copy of. It wasn’t that it didn’t sound interesting, it did, so much as I already had so many books on my never-ending to-be read list that I didn’t see the necessity in reading yet another YA fairy tale retelling. Even after one of my friends read and gushed about it and told me about how I would love it too, because I’m a fangirl of many of the fandoms that are mentioned in the book, I still wasn’t convinced that this was a book I just had to have and read.

I know what you’re thinking, what happened that changed my mind? Well, the impetus that changed my mind was getting to meet the author and hear her speak about her book. Last October, I attended a young adult discussion and book signing at the Tattered Cover Bookstore where there were four YA authors in attendance to discuss their most recent books: E. K. Johnston for That Inevitable Victorian Thing, Melanie Crowder for An Uninterrupted View of the Sky, Katherine Locke for The Girl with the Red Balloon and Ashley Poston and her book Geekerella. Listening to Ashley talk about Geekerella  and why she chose to retell the fairy tale classic Cinderella with a comic con type setting and the homage to fandom life and the fans who bleed their chosen fandom, is what finally convinced me that I would get a copy that day. Sitting there, I could tell just how much Ashley loved her book and loved writing it, and I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in this world she had created, plus it didn’t hurt that there was a dachshund on the cover.

Having finally read, and loved Geekerella, I’m sorry I didn’t give the book a chance sooner. This book spoke to my geek girl heart, both with the Cinderella retelling aspect, as well as the myriad of pop culture references (Doctor Who, Marvel, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, so on and so forth, to name a few). As I sat reading the book, with my very own dachshund curled up next to me, I found myself feeling all of Elle’s emotions as she dealt with her horrid step mother and step sisters, the anger over the chosen casting of an actor for a character whose entire life story you know like it happened to you, and missing her father who was the one person who shared, and introduced, this amazing fandom with her.

This is a book that I know I will revisit time and again, be it that I need to get out of a reading slump, or that I just want to spend an afternoon being a geek. Geekerella is the book that I know I will continuously find myself recommending to my friends who love a good book with numerous pop culture references. Thank you to the author, for being that final push I needed to not only read, but love this book.

In honor of the fictional fandom created in this book, remember to: “Look to the Stars. Aim. Ignite.”

“The Key to Everything” Book Review

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The Key to Everything mood board created by the author, Paula Stokes, and used with her permission.

Author: Paula Stokes

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ out of ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️ ✈️

Synopsis: College senior and psychology major Oakland Fuller is one who spends her life looking for signs and believing in the ever elusive soul mate. Following a series of failed relationships, Oakland quickly comes around to idea that the reason is because of unresolved issues she has with her high school boyfriend Seth; a theory which is further encouraged by both the school counselor and a fortune-teller who both say the same thing. Convinced that the universe is telling her she needs to contact Seth in order to explore what feelings they may still have for one another, Oakland obsessively begins to try to contact Seth.

With frustration mounting over a lack of response from Seth, Oakland’s best friend Morgan swoops in and convinces Oakland to join her on a guided Thailand excursion during their upcoming winter break. Traveling to Bangkok finds the two friends meeting a handsome pair of US military soldiers who are also on vacation. Deciding that she will take her friend’s advice, after all she is single, Oakland engages in some harmless fun and sex with Tyson. What starts out as harmless no strings attached fun, slowly begins to blossom into actual romance and what Oakland admits is her best relationship ever. Unfortunately, her new budding relationship is put at risk when Oakland spots Seth at a temple in Bangkok, and Oakland once again begins to question the signs the universe is sending her way and who she’s truly meant to be with.

Thoughts: First, I have to thank the author, Paula Stokes, for the advance e-ARC copy she was so kind to provide me with of her first self published novel. From the start, I found myself on a roller coaster ride  in regards to my feelings towards Oakland. I had a hard time with the fact that Oakland was so obsessed with wanting to reconnect with Seth in main part because I wanted her to come off as being a level-headed individual given the fact that she was planning on becoming a clinical psychologist. Oakland was so focused on looking for signs to prove that she was meant to be with Seth, and so determined that what she was doing was for the best, I couldn’t help but feel that if I were looking for a therapist to help me, she would be the last person I would go to.

I almost put the book down after the first couple of chapters due in large part  because of how annoying I found Oakland to be. With that being said, I persevered as I convinced myself that Oakland would grow as a character and prove that she wasn’t the idiot I felt her to be. Oakland is one of those characters where I found myself wanting nothing more than for someone to smack some sense into. I had a hard time dealing with her treatment of Tyson, despite them agreeing that what they were doing was all in good fun and that there were no strings attached, I still believe that Tyson was a good and kind man who did not deserve to be treated the way he was. Tyson was most definitely a better person than me, I don’t think I would ever agree to help the person I was into help track down their ex so that they could potentially get back together with this ex they claimed was their soul mate.

I think really the only reason why I kept reading the book was because I liked the other characters. I loved Morgan, for Morgan not only served as the voice of reason but she was fun and the kind of friend I’d want to travel to Thailand with. The senior citizen members of the guided tour provided great foil to the larger story, as the book continued and they started to share more about themselves, they proved that one should never judge those they don’t know based solely on age and appearance for at any given time people can surprise you and prove to be both interesting and engaging people to know. Tyson pretty much epitomizes that kind of man I would like to meet and have a long-lasting relationship with. Tyson is not only attractive, but he’s kind-hearted and truly wants for those around him to be happy, even if it means he’s left alone and unhappy in the end.

I know it sounds like I didn’t enjoy the book and you’re probably wondering why I gave the rating I did. Well the thing is, overall, I did enjoy the book. The story telling was engaging and the description of Thailand and all it has to offer drew me in and made me want nothing more than to hop a flight right away in order to see the sights and eat the food myself. I further kept reading out of curiosity, I wanted to see if Oakland would really give up the chance at true love for the memory of first love, or if she would see reason and pick the man who was supposed to be nothing more than a fling. Not wanting to give anything away, I won’t say whether or not the book provided me with the ending I so desperately wanted.

Just know that it is because of the other elements of the story that I gave a middle of the road rating to this book. The Key to Everything was not my first Paula Stokes read, and it certainly won’t be the last.

2017: Reflections on a Year of Books and Geekiness

img_1640-2With 2017 drawing to a close, and 2018 creeping ever closer, I can’t help but reflect on the past year and the various accomplishments I made with my reading. At the beginning of the year I set a goal of 75 books that I wanted to read. Usually, I set a higher goal of 100 books, but decided to lower it this year in hopes that I could read some longer books during the year.

With a goal of 75 books set, I’m happy to say that I read a total of 102 books, surpassing my goal by 27 books. (Fun fact, I read the same amount of books last year too). Of those 102 books, 10 of them were books that were 500 or more pages. The longest book I read was It by Stephen King, which came in at a whopping 1156 pages. There were only three books that I rated less than three stars, which I find a surprising stat given how many books I read. I’m happy upon reflection to see that I enjoyed the majority of the books I read with most ratings ranging between 3 and 5. I had only two books that I DNF’d (did not finish) and the reason was the same for both, they were library loans and I ran out of time and they couldn’t be renewed; so my plan is to return to each of them at a later date.

This year marked the second year that I took part in my charity reading challenge where each book read earned a set amount of money to then be donated at the end of the year to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network. I’m happy to report that this year I was able to make a $151 donation to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, an increase of $20. Going forward I plan to continue with my charity reading challenge and to raise money for the same organization, all in memory of my father who passed away from bladder cancer in 2010.

2017 further served as the year in which I discovered and supported a variety of Etsy and online shops around the world. From shops that created book sleeves and protectors that I use when traveling in order to ensure that my books stay in primo condition, to a variety of candle shops that have created amazing smelling candles for my favorite books and fan girl obsessions, to shops that enabled me to find items that I not only love for myself but that also made wonderful birthday and Christmas gifts for friends and family.

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The two shops I frequented the most for book protectors were: @thumbelara and @pages.remembered The quality and hard work that goes into each of these shops products are superb and I have had no complaints. The products have all held up to the rigorous and constant travel and shoving of them into my suitcase that I have put my books through and I will definitely continue to buy from each of them in the future.

 

 

 

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The top candle shops I found myself following relentlessly on Instagram as well as forking over my money to were: @novellyyours  @canterburyroadco  and @acourtofcandles Each of these candle shops have a variety of candles with unique scents and development. I love the layered candles and four pack monthly mini candles that Novelly Yours produces, with some of my favorite candles being As Travars for the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy, Foggy Night a delightfully gray candle with red the color of blood bleeding throughout for the YA book Stalking Jack the Ripper, and the Monsters of Verity candle set. Canterbury Road Co has created both some of my favorite seasonal candles as well as four wonderful scents that go beautifully with my love of the Outlander series. While A Court of Candles answered my desire for candles that would acknowledge my love of Sailor Moon. There are so many amazing candle shops out there, and I know that I will continue to discover new ones, but these are three that I will definitely continue to buy from and support going forward.

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2017 was also the year I discovered the beauty and artistry of  @inkandwonder.designs  Ink and Wonder has become my go to for beautifully wooden bookmarks that are not only sustainable woodmarks, but 100% ethically sourced.  Ever since I was first introduced to their products by the YA subscription book box, Uppercase Box  @uppercasebox I have become a frequent visitor to their store as I try to get new designs every time I see they are having a special.

This was also the year when I finally decided to subscribe to my second book subscription box. 2016 I became an Uppercase subscriber and this year after trying a couple of boxes when the themes caught my eye, I took the leap and signed up for an Owlcrate  @owlcrate subscription. I have to say that I have been happy with my decision and luckily I have only received the same book in both subscription boxes once since signing up for Owlcrate, and that happened this December, which isn’t bad considering how often I had seen that had happened in the past before I was signed up for both boxes.