Welcome to my January 2018 wrap-up! This month I read 12 books (woop woop!) and I will list them from highest to lowest rating below, along with their summaries and any thoughts I had about them. Let me preface this by saying I usually rate books low, unless they hold my attention and offer something new, so this month was a pretty good month for me, with a few bumps here and there.
Monsters Love Colors | 5/5 Stars.
Summary: Did you know that monsters love to scribble,
Why? Because monsters love to make new colors! Celebrate along with the hilarious monsters in this wild and energetic picture book from author-illustrator Mike Austin. Mixing and discovering color has never been so much fun!
Review: Ahhh, yes. You’re probably wondering why this book is on my read list. Ha! I picked this up from the library to check it out for a lesson plan for my younger art students. It’s a super cute book and the illustrations are well designed for their intention. I think this is a great book for Kinder through First grade as an introduction to color mixing and will be working it into my lesson plans.
The City of Brass | 5/5 Stars.
Summary: Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.
But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.
In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.
After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for.
Review: This book was a breath of fresh air. It’s not too often that you find books as diverse as this, set in a fantasy world which still has its roots in the real world. There are real world locations in this book as well as fantasy locations set in the Middle East during the 18th century. There is also a richness of mythology and cultural references, given that the author has done extensive research into these and is also a Muslim herself. Half of the story takes place during the journey to Devabad and the other half takes places after they get to Devabad. There is a romance in this, that sort of turns into a triangle (in my opinion) that was a little unnecessary for the book and it kind of all takes hold more when they get to Devabad. If you can get past that, then I think anyone would love this book. It’s marketed as a YA, but it is definitely an adult book that deals with adult concepts and has a rich fantasy world that is not normal for YA.
Everless | 4/5 Stars.
Summary: In the land of Sempera, time is extracted from blood and used as payment. Jules Ember and her father were once servants at Everless, the wealthy Gerling family’s estate, but were cast out after of a fateful accident a decade ago. Now, Jules’s father is reaching his last hour, and she will do anything to save him. Desperate to earn time, she arrives at the palace as it prepares for a royal wedding, ready to begin her search into childhood secrets that she once believed to be no more than myths. As she uncovers lost truths, Jules spirals deeper into a past she hardly recognizes and faces an ancient and dangerous foe who threatens her future and the future of time itself.
Review: Have you ever heard of the movie In Time? It came out seven years ago so you may not have heard about it. But it uses the concept of “time” as a universal currency. You pay your rent with time, you buy things with it and when you work, you get paid in time. You can give people your time if they’re running low, etc. And when you run out of your time, you die.
You can also check out the concept of “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman.
Sound familiar? Well, that’s because it is.
In Everless, people use time as currency, only instead of it being futuristic where they transfer time back and forth through clocks on their arms (like in the movie In Time), they’re bled out by a “Timekeeper” that makes their blood into blood iron coins. (There’s also a Timekeeper in In Time, but his job is to keep track of everyone’s time and the usage of that time.)
So in Everless, these coins (and blood itself) are currency. People pay with blood and/or with coins and it takes time off of their life. When they make “time” back, they can take the coins that were previously blood and put them in a beverage and the coin will dissolve, in which they drink it and their time is restored and/or lengthened. Because of this, the wealthy are able to live hundreds of years (and in the movie In Time, the wealthy can live millennia as long as they have that much time). Same concepts, only in different worlds and time periods; and time is transferred differently.
There are a lot of things that are also different about the worlds, but it’s hard not to state the obvious. I know that every time I saw someone comment about the summary of the book, there were a lot of people that were like “Have you heard of the movie In Time?!” and they were excited to see the same concept and see if it was exactly like this in the book. It was, but it was twisted more into fantasy than sci-fi. I’m not sure if the author was banking on it having been seven years since the movie had been made that no one would remember it and make the connections, but come on… it’s Justin Timberlake. Who’s not going to remember him? Haha.
Regardless of the extremely strong similarities, the book was still enjoyable and I was curious to see how the book would twist the concept and try to make it it’s own. The plot was a little predictable, especially if you read a lot, and I had already figured out the big plot twist by the end of the book when it was revealed. There were little eggs sprinkled here and there along the way and if you’re a reader that is constantly analyzing the plot and characters while you’re reading (hello to my graduate peeps who cant stop their brains from acting like you’re still in literature classes!), then you’ll figure it out too before the end. If you’re someone that takes things at face value as you read, then the plot twists will probably come as a surprise to you.
Either way, I will be reading book two when it comes out next year (hopefully) to see how the story will develop into something completely of its own, which it was finally heading towards by the last page of the book. This wasn’t originally for my Read Harder 2018 Challenge, but since it’s going to be a series, I’m using it now for a prompt.
You can check out the trailer for In Time here if you’d like. I liked the movie too. 😉
A Conspiracy of Stars | 4/5 Stars.
Summary: Octavia has only ever had one goal: to follow in the footsteps of her parents and become a prestigious whitecoat, one of the scientists who study the natural wonders of Faloiv. The secrets of the jungle’s exotic plants and animals are protected fiercely in the labs by the Council of N’Terra, so when the rules suddenly change, allowing students inside, Octavia should be overjoyed.
But something isn’t right. The newly elected leader of the Council has some extremist views about the way he believes N’Terra should be run, and he’s influencing others to follow him. When Octavia witnesses one of the Faloii—the indigenous people of Faloiv—attacked in front of her in the dark of night, she knows the Council is hiding something. They are living in separate worlds on a shared planet, and their fragile peace may soon turn into an all-out war.
With the help of Rondo, a quiet boy in class with a skill for hacking, and her inquisitive best friend, Alma, Octavia is set on a collision course to discover the secrets behind the history she’s been taught, the science she’s lived by, and the truth about her family.
Review: I really enjoyed this book and would have given it five stars if there hadn’t been a few things here and there that I wanted to know more about. The beginning of the book might drag for some people because it focuses on setting up the story and delving into the science of the world. We’re introduced to Octavia, who is a Greencoat, who are kids in training to become Whitecoats (scientist). Both of Octavia’s parents are Whitecoats (which I was happy that both of her parents are alive since a lot of stories have broken families with dead parents in their plots), but they obviously keep her in the dark because she’s a Greencoat and they’re under oath not to tell anyone anything that they know and discover as Whitecoats. We get a chance to see the world of N’Terra and outside of it, the planet Faloiv, which is beautifully described. It made me want to disappear into the forests of Faloiv. This planet and plot gave me somewhat of an Avatar feel. There is a bit of a romance that develops about 40 pages or so into the book. I wasn’t really thrilled about that, but it is kind of a side-thing and thankfully is not the main topic of the book. Octavia does get distracted a lot and thinks about Rondo and how attractive, etc that he is randomly in the book when I was like “JUST TELL ME WHAT’S GOING ON!” So they get a little off track with the introduction and set up with the romance. Once it get’s back on track, the action picks up and the story is a quick and fast read. However, what I wanted to know more about was the Faloii, who are the indigenous people of the planet. Information about them is kept under wraps for the majority of the book and we still don’t know much about them by the end of the book, but I can see why the author may have done that so all of that information can be explored in the second book. Overall, I’d recommend this book.
Cress (book #3) | 4/5 Stars.
Summary: In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.
Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.
When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.
Review: This is the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series. It was much better than the second book, which I didn’t like at all, which made me hesitant to pick up the third book. This installation was a breath of fresh air. Cinder becomes the main character again, we’re introduced to Cress and Thorne gets more page time because he is with Cress a lot of the story. Thankfully there wasn’t a lot of Scarlet and Wolf in this story. They’re there, but they don’t bog the story down like they did in Scarlet’s story. At some point, I will pick up the last book to finish the series, but at the moment, it’s been put on the backburner for me to complete my challenges. This also was plugged in for a prompt for my Reading Women Challenge.
Nimona | 4/5 Stars.
Summary: Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism!
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.
Review: This graphic novel/comic was so fun! I used it for my Read Harder 2018 Challenge for a graphic novel written and illustrated by the same person. The illustrations weren’t anything amazing if you’re one of those people that like really amazing drawings and detailed backgrounds. The cover is pretty accurate of what the drawings look like. However, the story was great. The villain is pretty much the “good guy” and the good guy is pretty much the “villain” and then there’s Nimona. She forces her way into the “villain’s” life and becomes his sidekick, but she pretty much is more powerful than all of them. She’s a shapeshifter and can become anything, so she romps around the graphic novel as various animals, including a dragon that burns everything with fire depending on her emotions. There’s also a lot of symbolism about them vs. “the establishment”, which is symbolic for “the government” entity that a lot of people hate in real life. It’s a commentary of the government if you want to analyze the plot that far. After I read the book, I also picked up the audiobook just because and the audiobook was great as well. It was even more fun than the book and I loved hearing the story came to life. I’d suggest anyone pick up either of these.
The Last Unicorn | 4/5 Stars.
Summary: Adapted for the first time from the novel by Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn is a tale for any age about the wonders of magic, the power of love, and the tragedy of loss. The unicorn, alone in her enchanted wood, discovers that she may be the last of her kind. Reluctant at first, she sets out on a journey to find her fellow unicorns, even if it means facing the terrifying anger of the Red Bull and malignant evil of the king who wields his power. Adapted by Peter B. Gillis and illustrated by Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon.
Review: This was one of my favorite movies as a kid since it was released around that time. I never knew that it was a book and I certainly didn’t know that they’d made the book and movie into a comic series. But when searching for graphic novels for my Read Harder 2018 Challenge, I found this jewel. I picked it up from my library and devoured it. I wasn’t sure if the story would be the same or if it would be an interpretation of the original, but Peter S Beagle was involved in the comic process and wrote the introduction to it. The comic has six issues, all of which were in this volume. It’s exactly like the movie, but I never read the book, so I can’t say how much the movie and comic follow the plot of the book. The illustrations are gorgeous in this comic series and are true to the design of the movie.
Fever | 4/5 Stars.
Summary: A stunning standalone from a master of suspense, a compelling story of survival and betrayal set in a world after ‘The Fever’.
Nico Storm and his father Willem drive a truck filled with essential supplies through a desolate land. They are among the few in South Africa – and the world, as far as they know – to have survived a devastating virus which has swept through the country. Their world turned upside down, Nico realizes that his superb marksmanship and cool head mean he is destined to be his father’s protector, even though he is still only a boy.
But Willem Storm, though not a fighter, is both a thinker and a leader, a wise and compassionate man with a vision for a new community that survivors will rebuild from the ruins. And so Amanzi is founded, drawing Storm’s ‘homeless and tempest-tost’ – starting with Melinda Swanevelder, who they rescued from brutal thugs, Hennie Flaai, with his vital Cessna plane, Beryl Fortuin with her ragtag group of orphans and Domingo, the man with the tattooed hand. And then there is Sofia Bergman, the most beautiful girl that Nico has ever seen, who changes everything. So the community grows – and with each step forward, as resources increase, so do the challenges they must face – not just from the attacks of biker brigands, but also from within…
Nico will find experience hardship and heartbreak and have his loyalty tested to its limits as he undergoes an extraordinary rite of passage in this new world. Looking back as he writes in memoirs later in life, he recounts the events that led to the greatest rupture of all – the murder of his father.
Review: I’m not sure I’m ready to talk about this book in all honesty. I mean, I have some feelings about it that are gasp-worthy that happen more towards the end of the book, which I can’t really tell you about without spoiling everything. If you like post-apocalyptic meandering stories then you will like this one. It starts off with Nico, in his 40s, speaking about how he needs to write/tell a memoir for his father and he begins telling the story at the age of 13 and how things were after the Fever hit and wiped out a lot of the population. He and his father do the pretty standard post-apocalyptic things like searching for food and shelter, running into unsavory people and eventually want to start rebuilding the world. The majority of the story takes place in the little town they create, Amanzi. I literally did not read the synopsis further than ‘South Africa’, haha, because I needed something set in South Africa for my Read Harder Challenge. All I knew about this book was there was a fever, it was post-apocalyptic, and it was set in South Africa. So you can imagine how surprised I was as I was reading this book. One of the main plots in this story is finding out who murdered his father, but it doesn’t take place while his father is dead… since Nico, as a grown man, is telling the reader about everything leading up to his father’s death and then his investigation into who murdered his father after he dies. It’s a book about people and what we do when our world crumbles around us and how we rebuild. If you’re looking for an “apocalyptic” book that speaks mostly about what the apocalyptic event is, this book isn’t for you. However, let me tell you, that ending was set up perfectly and it wasn’t what I expected!
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland | 3/5 Stars.
Summary: Commemorating the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with a deluxe hardcover edition, completely re-illustrated by Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co.
It’s been 150 years since Lewis Carroll penned Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the story which has become a favorite of children and adults the world over. Now, in a deluxe hardcover edition from Puffin, Alice’s story comes to life for a whole new generation of readers through the colorful, whimsical artwork of Anna Bond, best known as the creative director and artistic inspiration behind the worldwide stationery and gift brand Rifle Paper Co. Lose yourself in Alice’s story as she tumbles down the rabbit hole, swims through her own pool of tears, and finds herself in a rather curious place called Wonderland. There, she’ll encounter the frantic White Rabbit, have a frustrating conversation with an eccentric caterpillar, and play croquette with the hot-headed Queen of Hearts. Follow Alice on her wild adventure through the eyes of the artist in this definitive gift edition.
Review: My thought while reading this was seriously, “Was Lewis Carroll f*king high when he was writing this book?” I text my mom when I was done with it that he must’ve been on drugs and she laughed. It’s that crazy and illogical. I think this is a book that you have to read as a kid for you to really fall in love with it, however, I never liked this book or the movie when I was a kid anyways. I read this for my Read Harder 2018 challenge.
Sphinx | 2/5 Stars.
Summary: Sphinx is the remarkable debut novel, originally published in 1986, by the incredibly talented and inventive French author Anne Garréta, one of the few female members of Oulipo, the influential and exclusive French experimental literary group whose mission is to create literature based on mathematical and linguistic restraints, and whose ranks include Georges Perec and Italo Calvino, among others.
A beautiful and complex love story between two characters, the narrator, “I,” and their lover, A***, written without using any gender markers to refer to the main characters, Sphinx is a remarkable linguistic feat and paragon of experimental literature that has never been accomplished before or since in the strictly-gendered French language. Sphinx is a landmark text in the feminist and LGBT literary canon appearing in English for the first time.
Review: The beginning of this book really drew me in and I wanted to know more, but it quickly turned into rambling where the “character goes nowhere” even though they are always moving, which is something that the Translators Note discusses at the end of the book. I thought that the book was going to be more of an internal monologue about this character’s feelings for the person “A”, but it pretty much dissolves into a “memoir” of person “A” and becomes somewhat a detail of events. It didn’t have the same feeling as the beginning of the book, so, unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this book. Maybe it has to do something with the translation since it’s translated from French into English, but the book was also written in the 80s, so that may also play into it. This was for my Reading Women Challenge.
Memoirs of a Polar Bear | 2/5 Stars.
Summary: Memoirs of a Polar Bear stars three generations of talented writers and performers―who happen to be polar bears.
Three generations (grandmother, mother, son) of polar bears are famous as both circus performers and writers in East Germany: they are polar bears who move in human society, stars of the ring and of the literary world. In chapter one, the grandmother matriarch in the Soviet Union accidentally writes a bestselling autobiography. In chapter two, Tosca, her daughter (born in Canada, where her mother had emigrated) moves to the DDR and takes a job in the circus. Her son―the last of their line―is Knut, born in chapter three in a Leipzig zoo but raised by a human keeper in relatively happy circumstances in the Berlin zoo, until his keeper, Matthias, is taken away…
Happy or sad, each bear writes a story, enjoying both celebrity and “the intimacy of being alone with my pen.”
Review: I was really excited to get my hands on this book. The title is beautiful, the design of the cover is beautiful, the summary is beautiful and even the writing is beautiful. The plot, however, was pretty inconsistent. For example, in the first story, the grandmother polar bear was able to talk and write her own memoir and she became famous. I thought they might be some sort of humanoid polar bear hybrid, but nope, they’re actual polar bears. But okay, that would be okay if they were polar bears like in The Golden Compass. Nope. In story two, the daughter is unable to speak at all like her mother (the grandmother) and the trainers/owners in her story don’t even know anything about polar bears being able to speak and act like polar bears never could speak or act like humans to begin with. It’s like the first story never existed. There are also a lot of hints of bestiality in this book and/or interspecies relationships, which wasn’t really for me and made me cringe every time the author broached that topic. That’s just not a topic that I’m interested in reading about. This was for my Reading Women Challenge.
The Map Thief | 2/5 Stars.
Summary: The story of an infamous crime, a revered map dealer with an unsavory secret, and the ruthless subculture that consumed him.
Maps have long exerted a special fascination on viewers—both as beautiful works of art and as practical tools to navigate the world. But to those who collect them, the map trade can be a cutthroat business, inhabited by quirky and sometimes disreputable characters in search of a finite number of extremely rare objects.
Once considered a respectable antiquarian map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley spent years doubling as a map thief —until he was finally arrested slipping maps out of books in the Yale University library. The Map Thief delves into the untold history of this fascinating high-stakes criminal and the inside story of the industry that consumed him.
Review: This book drove me a little batty. I started reading it for my Read Harder 2018 Challenge for the true crime prompt and thought that this book was going to be all about this thief stealing maps. What it was was a history of maps and map making and biography of the thief’s life. There wasn’t a lot of information about him stealing and how he stole the maps and all that info, so it was really slow for me. It dragged and dragged and dragged because I didn’t really care for any of the information. I just want to know about the heists! But, if you like all of that other information, then you’d enjoy this book.