Bookworm Problems: Reading Slumps

 

The dreaded reading slump: a bookworm’s worst nightmare. We’ve all been there, starting and stopping a dozen different books because none can hold your attention for more than ten minutes. Sometimes it lasts a day, sometimes it goes on for months, and in rare instances, it can last years.

I’m hoping the reading slump I’m currently in is on the shorter end of the spectrum, but it’s already been two weeks, and I haven’t found a fix yet. I’ve tried switching genres, reading old favorites, looking on blogs for new recommendations,  and moving to a new reading spot. But, nothing has worked, and I am ready to take drastic measures.

So, I think I’m going to take a reading break. Maybe watch Netflix and work on the back-log of reviews I need to write to ease my way back into things. I’m bummed that I won’t reach my reading goal this month, but I’m not going to force myself to read; that takes all the fun out of it.

Question of the week: What’s your go-to method for escaping a reading slump?

Quote

“It is definitely annoying that straight (and white, for that matter) is the default, and that the only people who have to think about their identity are the ones who don’t fit that mold. Straight people really should have to come out, and the more awkward it is, the better. Awkwardness should be a requirement.”

― Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (Becky Albertalli)

Reading Goals – March 2017

I know we’re already a week into March, but it was a pretty hectic week, so I’m just now getting this post up. Last month I managed to reach my goal of 8 books and tack on an extra five books (for a total of 13 books)! I’m still not sure how I managed to read all of them! You can check out the full list of books I read in February in my monthly wrap-up post.

This month, I don’t expect to read quite as many books, especially since a week has already passed and I’ve only finished two books (both of which I started in February). Still, I’m going to set my goal at 10 books, but I won’t be upset if I don’t hit my target because I am currently rereading The Lord of the Rings, and it is not a story to be read quickly!

So, without further ado, here are the books I hope to read this month!

Book #1: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Book #2: The Luster of Lost Things by Sophie Chen Keller (ARC)

Book #3: The Doomsday Key by James Rollins (Sigma Force series #6)

Book #4: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Book #5: Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz

Book #6: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

Book #7: Frostblood by Elly Blake

Book #8: The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Book #9: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

Book #10: Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden (ARC)

Question of the week: Have you read (or do you want to read) any of the books on this list?

Book Review – Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

img_20170219_170009_617I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting myself into when I began reading Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Honestly, I didn’t really know much about it when I bought it. But, one of my book buddies had recommended it, so I went out and found a copy, adding it to my ever-increasing “to-be-read” list.

I’m normally not one for contemporary YA romances, but I took a chance on this book, and I’m glad I did! The story was entertaining, sweet, and surprisingly uplifting for a book that begins with blackmail.

The book follows Simon, a not-quite-out gay teenager as he navigates the perks and perils of teenage life. While dealing with the shifting dynamics of his relationships with his friends and family, Simon must also juggle extracurricular activities (e.g., the school play), an online “friendship” with a guy whose identity is unknown to Simon, and a blackmailer (who knows Simon’s secret). Reading this story was a roller-coaster of emotions, and Simon’s coming-of-age story is one that I won’t soon forget!

Albertalli did a wonderful job crafting a complex, relatable main character, and I appreciate that Simon is equally as flawed as he is lovable. Simon’s not-so-perfect friends and family were just as well-written. And a special shout-out for supportive, competent adult characters…something that often seems lacking in YA novels!

On top of a delightful cast, the dialogue flowed effortlessly, and the story offered a genuine portrayal of young love in today’s society. And, what I liked most about this novel was the way it made me think about my definition of “normal” and how that can affect my view of the world. I wasn’t expecting to face such a harsh truth while reading this novel, but Albertalli wrapped it up in the warm, fuzzy blanket that is Simon’s budding romance with Blue, softening the delivery.  It was less of a slap in the face and more of a firm nudge in the right direction.

While this wasn’t the most riveting story I’ve read this year, I did quite enjoy the novel, and I took away more than I thought I would. Overall, I would definitely recommend it to others!

4 out of 5 flowers!

Monthly Wrap-Up – February 2017

img_20170228_082753_916I can’t believe the month of February is already over. It was a jam-packed month; between officiating my cousin’s wedding, road-tripping to Tennessee, spending a weekend with my best friend, and celebrating my birthday, the month seemed to fly by!

Despite all of the craziness of this month, I was still able to read all of the books on my February “to-read” list and even managed to squeeze in an extra five books! I haven’t finished writing all of the full-length reviews (as I chose not to haul my laptop around with me during my travels, and I hate blogging from my phone), but I have rated them all (see the list below)!

By far, the best book I read this month was Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the other books I read! Be sure to check out the reviews I’ve already written, and be on the lookout for more to come!

Books I read this month:
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – 5/5 🌸

The Judas Strain by James Rollins (Sigma Force #4) – 4.5/5 🌸

The Last Oracle by James Rollins (Sigma Force #5) – 4.5/5 🌸

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – 4/5 🌸

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon – 4/5 🌸

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris – 4/5 🌸

Extracted* by R.R. Haywood – 3.5/5 🌸

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedotti – 3.5/5 🌸

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – 3/5 🌸

Drop Shot by Harlan Coben (Myron Bolitar #2) – 3/5 🌸

Ensnared* by Rita Stradling – 3/5 🌸

Mask of Shadows* by Linsey Miller – 3/5 🌸

Quest of the Kings* by Robert Evert – 2.5/5 🌸

Question of the week: What was your favorite read of February? 

*The books with an asterisk(*) next to their title have yet to be published. I received a free ARC e-book of Extracted through Amazon’s Kindle First Program, and a free ARC e-book of Ensnared, Mask of Shadows, and Quest of the Kings, from their publishers via NetGalley for review consideration. Receiving a free copy of the book in no way affects the honesty of my reviews!

Book Review – Quest of the Kings

img_20170226_180847_901Quest of the Kings by Robert Evert had so much potential, but it lacked the depth needed to make it a great novel. The world-building was limited, the writing was overly simple (for my taste), and the main character grated on my nerves from the first page until pretty much the last. However, the plot was intriguing, and some of the supporting characters had compelling stories, enough to keep me reading until I had finished the book.

In this novel, we follow Natalie, a headstrong, stubborn teenage girl, living in a medieval-esque society that treats women as lesser beings, especially if they aren’t nobility. And Natalie, a peasant, isn’t a fan of this social hierarchy, a fact she makes perfectly clear throughout the entire novel, complaining every chance she has about how awful her life is in comparison to everyone else around her. And since this book was written from a limited third person point of view, Natalie’s whining is front and center for a majority of the novel.

The main reason I wanted to read Quest of the Kings was because the summary boasted a tale of adventure and intrigue, as a teenage girl takes control of her life and uses her strength and wit to prove that women can be adventurers too. That’s not the book I read. I think it was there, hidden beneath all the whining and not-so-subtle sexism, but you really have to be looking for it.

I will say this, Natalie started to show improvement in the last few chapters of the book, and I know this is supposed to be the first book in a trilogy, so maybe Natalie’s character growth was meant to be extremely slow in the beginning so that it could stretch across the entire series.

I think I would’ve enjoyed this book more if Natalie’s point of view wasn’t the only lens through which the story was told. Because, again, the plot had potential. And I know there will be readers out there who absolutely love this story because they aren’t as concerned with world-building or the holes easily poked into the plot. If you’re the type of person who can read a book without questioning everything, than you’ll probably find this book enjoyable.

Overall, I give it 2.5 out of 5 flowers.

Quest of the Kings will be released on March 14, 2017. You can read the summary on Goodreads, where you can also find links to pre-order the book!

I received a free advanced reader copy (ARC) of this e-book from the publisher through NetGalley for review consideration.

 

 

 

Book Review – Crooked Kingdom

img_20170219_165954_399Leigh Bardugo has done it again. Actually, she outdid herself with this one. Sequels always make me nervous when the first book was so masterfully executed. But I shouldn’t have worried. This book was too good to put down! Somehow, my love for the characters Bardugo introduced in Six of Crows became even stronger whilst reading Crooked Kingdom, and by the end of the book, I’m pretty sure I would’ve killed for any one of them. And to make me that attached to any character, let alone six, is remarkable.

The complexity with which Bardugo crafted her main characters and their relationships with one another is probably Crooked Kingdom‘s pièce de résistance. I mean, seriously, I can count on one hand the number of books where the characters were this fleshed out, diverse, and compelling. And to give all of them a unique voice as each narrates their piece of the story? Beyond amazing!

Crooked Kingdom basically picks up where the story left off at the end of Six of Crows (a week later), and, from there, the action never stops. Kaz and his crew are back at it with the scheming, fighting, and conning, and a bit of revenge is thrown in for good measure. And during all of this, relationships are pushed to their limits, but end up even stronger than they were before.

I laughed; I cried; I even wanted to throw my book at the wall during certain points of the story. And any book that can evoke such a visceral response from me is definitely a 5-star read. Crooked Kingdom has everything I could ever hope for in a fantasy novel: an intricately built world; diverse, complex characters; thought-provoking commentary on human nature and society; a well-written and well-executed plot; adventure with a hint of romance…I could go on, but you get the point! This book is brilliant.

As the second, and final book, in this duology, Bardugo does a great job at tying up all the loose ends and giving each character’s story the ending it needs (but not necessarily the one you might be hoping for)! That’s not to say there aren’t a hundred more stories and perspectives I would like to explore, but I did feel a sense of closure at the end of this novel. However, I will be thinking about this duology and the characters for a long time, and these are definitely books that I will read again and again.

It’s easy to tell that I more than love this book, so I think you’ll understand when I say it would be impossible to choose my favorite moment…but this one is pretty high on the list:

“Where do you think the money went?” he repeated.
“Guns?” asked Jesper.
“Ships?” queried Inej.
“Bombs?” suggested Wylan.
“Political bribes?” offered Nina. They all looked at Matthias. “This is where you tell us how awful we are,” she whispered.

Because, if you’ll remember, in Six of Crows

Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.

Leigh Bardugo is a genius. Seriously.

Highly recommended to everyone who enjoys fantasy novels!!!

5 out of 5 flowers! (I wish I could give it more!)

 

 

Quote

“I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”

-Kaz Brekker, Crooked Kingdom (Leigh Bardugo)

Book Review – Ensnared

img_20170218_195734_273Ensnared by Rita Stradling tells the story of Alainn Murphy, an inventor’s daughter who is willing to sacrifice her freedom in order to keep her father out of prison. If the premise seems familiar, it’s because it is. Ensnared is a futuristic retelling of Beauty and the Beast in which the “Beast” is a wealthy recluse, Lorccan, who suffers from a severe case of mysophobia and “Beauty” pretends to be a humanoid robot in his service since the one he commissioned from her father wasn’t ready on the day it was meant to be delivered.

The plot had potential, but it left me somewhat disappointed. The world-building was sparse at best, and many of the characters felt rather one-note. The lack of world-building doesn’t necessarily take away from the heart of the story, which is essentially a romantic tale, but it did leave me with more questions than it answered. And a definite suspension of disbelief is necessary when it comes to Lorccan believing Alainn is a robot, especially as their interactions increase.

While I wasn’t particularly fond of the pacing of this novel, it was a quick read, and the surprise twist was interesting enough to keep me reading until the story was finished. And there were definitely moments I enjoyed…no spoilers, but the monkey robots were adorable!

Fairy tale retellings are very trendy at the moment, and I think that might be part of the problem I had while reading this story. There are so many retellings to choose from that it takes a real masterpiece to stand out from the crowd. And it’s easier to nitpick when you have so much material to compare it to. That being said, I didn’t think Ensnared was bad, I just think that there’s room for improvement.

3 out of 5 flowers!

***I received a free advanced reader copy (ARC) of this book from the publisher through NetGalley for review consideration.

Bookworm Problems: Traveling with Books

20170217_200513On Tuesday, I drove eight hours to see my younger brother swim at his last collegiate swim meet, a championship meet that runs Tuesday through Saturday. And since I’m only in town for the swim meet, I knew I would be spending most of my off hours in the hotel, with nothing to keep me busy except for the television in my room and whatever I brought with me as entertainment.

So, when packing for this trip, I knew that I’d need at least a few books to make the trip with me. But, with so many books to choose from, I was left with an almost impossible task. Thankfully, there were still two books left on my February TBR list, so those automatically made it into my suitcase. But I wasn’t sure two would be enough. And that’s when the tough decisions had to be made.

For those people who aren’t avid readers, it probably seems like I’m exaggerating, but a true bookworm will understand the conundrum I faced. There are so many different questions that need to be answered when deciding which books to take and which to leave behind. I had to consider how much space I had in my luggage, whether the books needed an extra layer of protection to keep from being bent or ripped (especially important for paperback books!), what type of book I might be in the mood to read (my book choices are very mood specific!), if taking an e-reader was feasible (i.e., would there be adequate access to electricity and WiFi) and how much time I thought I would spend reading (over-packing books isn’t quite as bad as under-packing, but it still isn’t optimal!).

With so many things to consider and not enough time do so, I took the easy way out and packed an e-reader. Two actually (one back-lit and the other not). Thankfully, this trip was one in which I would have constant access to electricity (to recharge my e-readers if needed) and WiFi (to download whatever book tickled my fancy). But I don’t always enjoy using my e-reader. I often prefer the feel of a real book in my hands when I escape into the world of fiction. Which is why I still brought physical books, as well. It’s nice to have the option to pick up a real book every once in a while. And one of the books I brought was actually a library book that I’d already finished, but I lent it to my mom so she could read it this week instead of waiting for a copy to be available from her local library!

Now, I did spend the first two days I was in town exploring the local university and downtown area, and I get to spend an hour at lunch with my brother each day (visitation hours are limited because the swimmers are supposed to be focused on the meet, and they have other obligations like schoolwork!). So, I did spend a good part of my “down time” not reading in my hotel room. But, this week, I have managed to finish two books, and I’m halfway done with a third…and my mom already finished her book and returned it to me!

As such, it seems like this trip was a success when it comes to the books I brought! But that hasn’t always been the case. Especially when bringing an e-reader isn’t an option!

Question(s) of the week: Do you prefer to take physical books or an e-reader with you when traveling? Does the length of the trip make a difference (e.g., day trip, weekend getaway, two-week vacation, etc.)?

 

***I would like to end this post by saying that I recognize and acknowledge my privilege in this situation.  I know not everyone has the same opportunities, and I am lucky to live a life where these are the “problems” I am facing.