Reviews

2017 Reading Wrap-Up: Books #26-30

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler – 4 stars

I can’t put my finger on why this wasn’t a five star read for me, but it just fell a little flat.

I appreciate the rawness of the monologues and the fact that I was uncomfortable when I was reading some of them. That means that they were making me think. I do think this is an important read and I am glad that I picked it up. I easily gave the monologues themselves 5 stars because of how personal they are and how I could relate to them in a way I didn’t expect.

I think one of my biggest issues was the fact that there was only one monologue for trans-women, so it kind of felt like it was excluding them in the discussion about women. Especially given the fact that V-Day is about fighting violence against women, and trans-women face some of the worst violence, it felt like a glaring omission to me. And yes, I realize that it is called The Vagina Monologues, but it just rubbed me (forgive the pun) the wrong way.

I thought that the additions at the end of the V-Day special were interesting because it let us see the impact V-Day is having on the world. They have accomplished so much, but we still have so far to go.

The Vagina Monologues

Wires and Nerve Volume 1 by Marissa Meyer – 5 stars

Iko is probably my favorite character from The Lunar Chronicles so I was ecstatic when I heard she was getting her own graphic novel. And I am happy to say that it did not disappoint.

I was a little apprehensive of the artwork when I first saw it, but I think that it really worked for the story. I also appreciate that due to the color scheme that was chosen, any blood from the fights is not in your face. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it when I’m reading other graphic novels, but given the audience and the story, I appreciate the muted aspect of the violence.

It was just so much fun to see the entire gang. And I really enjoyed the new characters of the Kinneys. I know that we saw Sir Kinney in the other books, but he does play a bigger part in this. And I love the relationship between him and Iko. But I also loved Tressa. She was just so much fun!

I was so sad when it was over because I want to know what else happens! I want to continue seeing Iko being the badass, feminine, sassy person that she is. I also am so curious to see how the story goes from where it is to where it ends up in Stars Above. I cannot wait until volume 2!

Wires and Nerve

El Deafo by Cece Bell – 4 stars

This was so adorable!

I really love that this is a graphic novel for kids that focuses on not only what it’s like to live with a severe hearing impairment but also on teaching others how to interact with someone who has a hearing impairment. I love that whether or not you have a hearing impairment, you can related to a good majority of the stories. It features stories about trying to fit in, dealing with pushy friends, struggling at school, and first crushes.

The artwork is so cute and really conveys some great emotions. Even though the main audience for this is kids, I feel like anyone can read it and take something away from it. I also appreciate that Bell included an author’s note where she stressed that El Deafo is just her experience and that she is in no way speaking for all that are hard of hearing or Deaf.

Overall, this was a fantastic read and I think everyone should read it.

El Deafo

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander – 5 stars

What can I say? I’m Harry Potter trash. So when I heard that not only was there going to be a new edition of Fantastic Beasts but an audiobook narrated by Eddie Redmayne, I was sold.

I’m still in awe of the fact that Rowling came up with all of these creatures, what they look like, and their characteristics. My only complaint is that it isn’t longer and that there are several omissions of creatures mentioned throughout the Harry Potter series (such as hinkypunks and boggarts). I will never get tired of reading as much as I can about the wizarding world.

The audiobook is fantastic and it was like having Newt read it to me personally. If you can, I highly recommend checking it out.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery – 4 stars

This was the first time that I read Anne of Green Gables, and I must say, I really enjoyed it. I honestly had no idea what the story was going into it other than the fact that it was set in Canada.

I overall really loved Anne. She is smart, spunky, full of imagination, and so utterly driven. However, there were quite a few times that I was a little annoyed by her (especially when she went on long spiels about whatever is on her mind). It also was a little hard to imagine that she had so many disastrous things happen to her constantly. But like I said, overall, she was a wonderful character.

I also really ended up enjoying all of the side characters. And though I did expect a certain character’s death, I was still heartbroken when it happened.

Montgomery’s world is so easy to imagine as she does a beautiful job of painting a picture of what it would be like to live there. However, there were a couple of times where Montgomery’s writing was not my favorite. By the end of the book, I was over the fact that anytime Matthew said anything, he started with “Well, now, …”

I would highly recommend checking out the audiobook narrated by Rachel McAdams. She does such a great job with the story and it really enhanced my reading experience.

Anne of Green Gables

Reviews

2017 Reading Wrap-Up: Books #11-15

The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health by Colin T. Campbell – 2 stars

Ooof.

So I picked this up because one of my professors recommended it last semester.

I also read this on audio, so it’s not like I had the physical book to check the references. I just want to put that out there from the beginning.

I found it increasingly annoying that throughout the course of the book, there were simply mentions of research showed “in one study” (with references to different studies each time) rather than naming the actual studies. But again, I only had the audio, so I didn’t have the reference list. It was just sketchy to me that there were rarely, if ever, study names or authors mentioned. Unless the author was Adkins. In which case, he was mentioned several times.

I also thought that a majority of the time in the book was spent by the author congratulating himself on all of his work without really providing much to support his self-congratulations. For a book called The China Study, there was very little time spent on the study and very little data actually spelled out. But the author continuously said that “the data show.”

It was clear from the beginning that the author had his own agenda that he was going to push and it became super antagonistic towards others in both the medical and research field. Like, unnecessarily antagonistic.

I also have a huge problem with his repeated claims that by changing diets, you can reverse cancer and heart disease. I know I’m just a nursing student at this point, and we all know that I’m being taught by the pharmaceutical companies (or at least, that’s the author’s claim – spoiler alert, he’s wrong – we spend a good portion of each course talking about nutrition and changing life styles and that we need to work with our patients on providing education), but what I’ve been taught is that once you have heart disease, it’s a life-long process. You will always have to be on, say, anti-hypertension medication. Yes, you can stall it from becoming worse, but to claim that you can reverse it is really dangerous in my opinion because plaque doesn’t just go away. And again, with cancer, you don’t reverse it. You can become “cancer free” but that just means that you are in remission. There is always a chance that it will come back, unfortunately. But then again, that’s just what I have been taught.

I appreciate that we need to change our diets. I do. But I think that the heavy-handed manner in which this book was presented will do a lot more harm than good because the author a) repeats himself a lot without really saying much, b) is ridiculously antagonistic and comes off as being better than other researchers and c) presents the material in a “my way is the only way” fashion that is really off-putting. I could see using parts of the book as evidence, but overall, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend others to read this in its entirety.

the-china-study

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – 5 stars

I absolutely adore Jane as a character. She is fierce, strong-willed, compassionate, resilient af, educated, and just such a breath of fresh air of what was expected of women during that time. I loved reading about her relationship with Adele and how much she cared for her. I loved that she did what was best for her when the truth came out about Mr. Rochester’s wife. And I loved that despite all of the absolute sh*t she went through growing up, she never lost herself nor her beliefs.

I have very mixed feelings toward Mr. Rochester. It is clear that he loves Jane and is a pretty good master and can be kind but jeez. He is kind of an absolute d*ck to his first wife, lies to Jane about marrying Blanche, and then begs Jane to become his mistress once she finds out about his first wife. And he really treats Adele rather awfully. I was surprised at the end when Jane mentions they have a child because he was so very clearly against children for the majority of the book. But there’s still a part of me that was really intrigued by his character.

I absolutely adore Adele and Mrs. Fairfax. I loved seeing Jane interact with Mary and Diana and wish there could have been more time with the three of them being awesome together. St. John is just blah for me. Mr. Brocklehurst is the literally worst. The Reeds can all go where the sun don’t shine. And Bessie. Sweet Bessie. I was sad that we didn’t get more time with her, either.

I liked that the story takes the reader through the majority of Jane’s life and that we get to see her grow as a character. And I loved the little bits of feminism that shine through. Like how in the epilogue, she specifically points out that she married Rochester. I also liked the little breaks where she would talk directly to the reader. It made it feel more like a conversation than reading a book. If that makes sense. I just really enjoyed this book.

jane-eyre

Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance by Dr. Atul Gawande – 4 stars

This is the first book I’ve read from Dr. Gawande and it made me so excited to read the rest of them. The fact that he kept me engaged in an essay about hand-washing says a lot about his power as a writer. Despite the fact that he is writing about the medical world, Dr. Gawande manages to keep an almost conversational tone and manages to explain conditions in such ways that those who are not in the medical field can understand. I hope that one day I am able to do the same in my practice as a nurse.

I think the story that captivated my attention the most was the one about the doctors in Iraq during the war. It was amazing to read about the conditions and their solutions to the lack of resources. This story was followed closely by the story of the doctors and surgeons in India as my second favorite. Again, it was fascinating to read about how they coped with limited resources and the fact that they usually had to send their patients out to get the supplies they need.

This is a bit of a side-note, but I was really proud of myself for recognizing the symptoms of cystic fibrosis that Dr. Gawande wrote about before he actually called it cystic fibrosis. And I also loved reading more about the development of the Apgar score for newborns. I also thought the chapter on malpractice lawsuits was interesting since it feels almost taboo to talk about it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and I loved the afterword where Dr. Gawande suggested his ways of becoming a positive deviant. I truly am looking forward to picking up another book by him soon.

better

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick – 3 stars

I don’t really know how I feel about this book. There were very high points (such as Herr Silverman) but the majority of the book was just blah for me.

It took way too long, in my opinion, to reveal what it was that Asher did that caused Leonard so much pain. And I was really confused by the letters from the future because at first they seemed so out of place. The flashbacks with Lauren also seemed a little out of place for me at first, but then it made sense when I realized it was setting up who the last gift was being given to. I didn’t really get the relationship between the two of them and didn’t understand why he wanted to kiss her so badly. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Baback and I thought he was a bit of an asshole when Leonard tried to give him the check for True Democracy in Iran. Walt was an interesting character and I liked seeing his interactions with Leonard, but I didn’t feel any particular attachment to him.

The true highlight of the book for me was Herr Silverman. It was so refreshing to see a teacher portrayed who actually saw the signs of a pending suicide and actually acted (unlike portrayals in other novels such as Thirteen Reasons Why). The fact that he dropped everything to go make sure that Leonard was okay and was able to talk him out of killing himself was really awesome to read. And the fact that Leonard just left the way he did really pissed me off. I honestly didn’t particularly care for Leonard as a main character throughout the majority of the book (especially after reading about him creepily following adults on the train and to their work – I kind of understood it, but don’t follow women down an alleyway for goodness sake) and his treatment of Herr Silverman really sealed the deal on my dislike for him.

My biggest gripe is the ending of the novel. It just felt so anti-climatic. For me, it would have been really powerful if he actually went and got the help that he clearly needs (especially since it would help to remove some of the stigma of getting professional help that is still very prevalent today) rather than just walking out. Also, I really really despise his mother. I realize there was a purpose to her being so awful as it helped to contribute to Leonard’s mental state, but oh my God. She is just so horrible at the end. Her saying that he isn’t suicidal and complaining about having to leave New York and not even acknowledging Leonard’s birthday was just so infuriating to me. It was easy to see how her treatment of Leonard contributed to how messed up he got after what happened with Asher.

I listened to the audiobook along with reading the physical book, and I’m glad I did because the narrator did a fantastic job of incorporating the footnotes into the narrative (much better than I would have if I was just reading my physical copy). I would suggest that anyone who has trouble with footnotes to try the audiobook. Also, the narrator did a really good job with the different characters and portraying the emotions of the story.

Overall, this was just an okay book for me. I don’t know what I was expecting when I went in, but it didn’t quite deliver for me.

forgive-me-leonard-peacock

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner – 3 stars

I read The Maze Runner back in 2014 for my young adult literature class and even though I didn’t re-read it before picking up The Scorch Trials, I found that I was sucked right back into the world and remembered a good majority of what happened in the previous book. But despite my initial reaction, I found myself not really caring about the characters or the world that much anymore.

I thought that the Scorch was a much weaker setting than the Maze since at least in the Maze, there was the logic part of it. And while I appreciate that this really is a survival story and Dashner tried to show that it wasn’t easy, there were parts that I thought didn’t work very well. The lightning storm seemed so weird and the fact that Minho was on fire and managed to survive without too much pain, little to no fluid loss, and was able to pretty much jump right back up to continue to fight was super unrealistic to me. Especially when later in the book, a reasonable reaction to an injury occurs.

I wanted to love the character of Jorge, but I was increasingly frustrated that he was the token Hispanic side character who always says key phrases like “hermano,” “compadre,” and “muchacho.” I didn’t particularly care for Brenda and from the beginning, I didn’t trust her, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens with her character in The Death Cure.

The whole thing with Theresa, Aris, and Thomas was annoying and I’m kind of sick of all of the twists and turns and people saying that WICKED made them do this or that. I also still don’t understand what the point of these trials are and how they will help cure The Flare. I hope we get answers in The Death Cure because at the moment, I’m really frustrated with the lack of information.

the-scorch-trials

Reviews

2017 Reading Wrap-Up: Books #6-10

Fatal Puzzle by Catherine Shepherd and translated by Julia Knobloch – 2 stars

I’ve had this on my Kindle for over 2 years (it’s one of many Kindle First books that I got and then proceeded to not read because I’m a horrible person like that) and since one of my goals is to read all of my Kindle First books this year, here I am.

The idea of jumping between 1495 and present day was intriguing, but the way that it was executed was rather disappointing. I’m not sure if it is because it was translated to English so the writing fell flat or if the writing just was not strong to begin with. There were several plot points that I had a really hard time getting behind and felt like there was no need to include the paranormal aspect.

The puzzle aspect held promise, but I feel like the fact that the first two victims’ last names matched up with an aspect of the puzzle just to throw off the scent was a little too easy. I find it hard to believe that the investigator would focus on the last names and not the names of the towers.

The current day killer seemed so out of left field. I wish we had gotten more from his perspective, to be honest. Especially given some of his inner thoughts near the end of the book. It just didn’t make sense to me. And again, it felt too easy to have one of the suspects that the police were interested in.

I felt like the 1495 scenes didn’t feel as authentic as I would normally like my historical fiction because the language felt a little too modern for my taste.

I’m giving it a 2 star rating rather than a 1 star rating because I’m taking into account that some of my problems could have been due to the translation from German to English.

fatal-puzzle

Glass by Ellen Hopkins – 4 stars

I did enjoy this more than I enjoyed Crank (as weird as it is to say you enjoyed reading about someone’s life being destroyed by meth). And I found this one to be more believable than Crank as we saw more of the ramifications and consequences of Kristina’s addiction.

Kristina still continued to annoy me, but this time I was a little bit more understanding in that I really saw just how far gone she was with her addiction. There were many times that I wanted to slap her in her face and tell her to get over it, but I know that a) she’s a fictional character and b) that won’t do anything for an addict – they have to want to get the help themselves.

I really don’t like Trey and was really rooting for her and Brad to end up together. I just thought that she and Brad had more chemistry and that he was a much better guy for her (even if he was a meth dealer). I was a little confused because I thought that Brendan knew about Hunter? I may be remembering wrong. But I wasn’t the biggest fan of having him pop up again.

I thought that Kristina was just a straight up b*tch to Heather for no reason and it kinda made me uncomfortable just how homophobic she seemed to be with all of her nasty thoughts towards Heather. It was a bit hard for me to imagine Leigh being okay with her sister acting like that towards her girlfriend.

I was glad that her mom finally took some sort of stand against Kristina when she kicked her out because of her usage. And I like that she filed for full custody of Hunter because it was the first wake-up call that Kristina truly was losing her battle to her addiction. And this is going to sound harsh, but I was really glad that she ended up being arrested. I think what made me glad to read it is that this is aimed at a teen audience and I want them to see that they can do some serious damage to themselves. I know that addiction is a disease, but there are so many instances in pop culture where a drug user and/or dealer do not face many consequences and it ends up being almost romanticized. I hope that makes sense.

Anyway, I think it’ll be interesting to read Kristina’s story’s conclusion. I wonder what will happen with the proposed deal with the Feds and what will happen with her and Trey know that they are expecting a child. Especially since it was clear that Hunter was too much for Trey to handle.

glass

Fallout by Ellen Hopkins – 4.5 stars

Fallout was way more powerful for me than Crank and Glass. But I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the narration shifts to three of Kristina’s children. As the child of an addict, I found myself sharing a lot of the same emotions and thoughts that Hunter, Autumn, and Summer had.

I thought that switching the narration was a smart move on Hopkins’s part. It really shows just how far reaching the consequences of addiction can be. And I feel like we were still getting Kristina’s story, so it felt like a good ending to the series.

I felt like Hopkins did a good job of representing the panic attacks that Autumn feels. And I kind of liked that she also had OCD. I totally understood why she told Bryce that her parents were dead despite the fact that they weren’t. When your parent is an addict and have pretty much abandoned you, sometimes it’s easier to just pretend that they are dead. It makes it much easier to deal with the pain. But it’s also hard to explain that sometimes. And while I get that Bryce was mad that she lied, I hate that he didn’t give her a chance to really explain. I kinda wish that Hopkins hadn’t added the possible pregnancy, but that’s just me.

Hunter was an interesting perspective to read since we’ve seen him in Crank and Glass, even though he was just a baby. I wish that we could have seen him and Brendan get to know each other a little more, especially since Brendan seems to have changed his life around after being in the armed forces. While I didn’t like that he cheated on Nikki, I did kind of like that it helped bring him closer to Scott as he was asking him for advice on how to show Nikki he was sorry. And I’m glad that he really was sorry and did try to make it up to Nikki.

Summer was interesting to read about, especially having her in the foster system. Her storyline was my least favorite, but it was still compelling. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kyle, but he grew on me and I did like their relationship. I also liked that Summer was willing to stand up for and protect her foster siblings when things went south.

I also liked that at the end of the book, when everyone has finally re-connected, Kristina finally gets some closure and actually has an emotional breakdown (I know, that sounds harsh of me). And I totally understand why Hunter and Summer are having a hard time believing anything that Kristina is saying. Once you’ve heard enough lies, even the truth sounds like it. Especially coming out of the mouth of an addict. I think that this was a very strong conclusion to Kristina’s story and I’m glad I stuck out reading the entire trilogy because I wasn’t sure I would after Crank.

fallout

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn – 4 stars

This was my first time reading Gillian Flynn and if the rest of her novels are like this short story, I cannot wait to read them.

I was gripped from page 1 and flew through the entire story. I actually really enjoyed the narrator and even though she wasn’t always the most honest person, there were times that you saw her humanity and goodness shine through.

I also actually liked the idea of not knowing which story is true because there are always multiple sides to each story. Though I’m not sure I’m 100% okay with the ending and the situation that the main character ends up in legally (I’m purposefully being vague to avoid spoilers but I think if you’ve read it you’ll understand what I’m talking about).

the-grownup

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World Edited by Kelly Jensen – 4 stars

I really wish that this book was out when I was a teen because I think I would’ve gotten a little bit more out of it and would have rated it 5 stars.

I love that it focused on intersectionality and brought in a diverse set of voices to tell their stories. I love that there were recommendations for books, movies, graphic novels, and music. I love that each author stressed that there is no right way to be a feminist.

There were some stories that I had a hard time connecting with, but that was one of the reasons why I wanted to read this. I wanted to learn about other’s experiences with feminism and just the world in general. I can’t quite put my finger on what was missing for me, but overall I really enjoyed this and I think that everyone should read this. It’s a great introduction to feminism if you are just dipping your toes in and are not quite ready to jump both feet first into writers like bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Margaret Atwood (to name a very small bunch).

 here-we-are
Reviews

Reading Wrap-Up: Graphic Novels

From Hell by Alan Moore- 3.5 stars

Guess who finally finished this after reading it for nearly 6 months!

I don’t know why, but I had a really hard time keeping up with the story for some reason. It just seemed all over the place at times. I think part of it is because some of the characters looked the same, so it was hard to figure out who was who at times. I also easily lost interest in the story, which is surprising because I find Jack the Ripper kind of fascinating. Even the appendix, which was supposed to help clear up what was going on, didn’t keep my interest and I found myself wanting to skip over parts of it. I just really didn’t enjoy this very much, which stinks because I really enjoyed Watchmen and want to read A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, though now I’m a little worried about it.

from-hell

Black Widow Volume 3: Last Days by Nathan Edmondson – 4 stars

This still has some of my favorite graphic novel artwork. It’s just so gorgeous.

I wasn’t that keen on the Chaos part of this run, and there were times I wasn’t quite sure what was happening. But I loved all of the in-between parts, especially seeing Natasha in action as a new KGB operative. I love the idea of her trying to make up for her past deeds and wanting to just be on her own for a little bit after dealing with Chaos. I wish we were getting a little bit more since there was a bit of a cliff-hanger with the little boy, but I still really enjoyed this last volume.

black-widow

Superior Iron Man Volume 2: Stark Contrast by Tom Taylor – 3 stars

The art was really good, but the story was a bit lackluster. Taking away all of Tony’s humanity and morality is an interesting idea to play with, but I felt like the ending was really weak and I guess I need to read Secret Wars now, even though I hadn’t planned on it at this moment. I was hoping for a bit more of Pepper being a badass since she’s on the cover in her Rescue suit, but sadly, there was a real lack of her fighting. And where did the Daredevil storyline from the first volume go? Overall, this definitely wasn’t my favorite.

superior-iron-man

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up The Marvel Universe by Ryan North – 4 stars

This was my first Squirrel Girl graphic novel and I absolutely loved it! The writing was great – a wonderful mix of sassy, sarcastic, witty, and playful. The footnotes were fun little additions. The artwork was fabulous. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Allene, but you weren’t really supposed to be since she is the warped version of Doreen. I also loved the side characters and love that they are such a great friend group. It was really fun to read about a girl superhero that is also a super computer nerd and used her computer nerd knowledge to save the day. This graphic novel made me even more excited to read my other Squirrel Girl tradebacks.

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Reviews

Reading Wrap-Up: Adult Books

So towards the end of last year, I realized that I was getting a little bit burned out on YA. I’m still going to be reading it, because it’s my favorite genre, but I am going to be trying to pick up more adult books this year (especially since I signed up for Book of the Month club).

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – 4 stars

I really enjoyed this, despite being a little unsure at the beginning. I really like the relationship between Cormoran and Robin and appreciate that right now, their relationship is professional. I also appreciate that Rowling, I mean Galbraith, created a character that is a wounded veteran and we see him still coping with what happened to him. I like that Strike is a bit rough, but never a full on asshole, though he can have his moments. I liked all of the twists and turns that Rowling was able to create and I honestly didn’t see the ending coming at all, which is unusual because I’m fairly good at predicting who’s the criminal in these types of stories. It was just an overall strong start to this series and I look forward to reading the rest.

cuckoos-calling

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – 5 stars

Wow. Just wow.

I don’t even know what to say.

I loved reading how the two half-sister’s lines ended up and how circumstances can affect not only the present life but future generations. It was definitely a difficult read as Gyasi portrays the slave trade, slave life in America, the fugitive slave law, and Jim Crow, but it’s also an incredibly important read. We cannot forget our history and we need to learn from it, which myself and my fellow white people still have a lot to do. I wish I had more eloquent words, but right now, I don’t other than I wish everyone would read this.

homegoing