Friday, December 15, 2017

50/50 Friday (63): Favorite/Least Favorite Sidekick

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Favorite/Least Favorite Sidekick



"Juliette hasn’t touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal. As long as she doesn’t hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don’t fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war – and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she’s exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior."

I love Kenji.  He basically serves as the comic relief in this series and I'm not mad at it.  His dialogue is such gold and he always stands by Juliette, even when Adam goes a little crazy.  While I have come across people who didn't like this series, I haven't yet spoken to someone who didn't like Kenji.

Least Favorite:


"Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?"

This was so hard for me.  Typically, even if I don't like the MC, I will like the sidekick (or supporting cast of characters).  I love the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series but I just couldn't get into Zuzana's chapters.  I found that I couldn't really connect with her character and she always felt a little off to me.  Her interactions with Karou are cute though :)

Who are your favorite/least favorite sidekicks?  Have you read any of these books?  What did you think of them?  Make a post and link up below!

Next Week's Topic: Favorite/Least Favorite Christmas themed book (or book that takes place during Christmas (or other holiday))

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

English Course Mini Review Round Up: Part 1

If you don't know already, I'm in university and I'm doing two programs: Environmental Biology and English Critical Studies.  For my English program, we tend to read quite a bit (naturally) and this semester I was in a course that studied the novel (basically a LOT of structure discussion).  I'll be doing a few round up posts (we read 8 books so I decided to do two books per post for a total of 4 round ups) to recap my thoughts on the novels we read!

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Standalone to date

"On New Year's morning, 1975, Archie Jones sits in his car on a London road and waits for the exhaust fumes to fill his Cavalier Musketeer station wagon. Archie—working-class, ordinary, a failed marriage under his belt—is calling it quits, the deciding factor being the flip of a 20-pence coin. When the owner of a nearby halal butcher shop (annoyed that Archie's car is blocking his delivery area) comes out and bangs on the window, he gives Archie another chance at life and sets in motion this richly imagined, uproariously funny novel.

Epic and intimate, hilarious and poignant, White Teeth is the story of two North London families—one headed by Archie, the other by Archie's best friend, a Muslim Bengali named Samad Iqbal. Pals since they served together in World War II, Archie and Samad are a decidedly unlikely pair. Plodding Archie is typical in every way until he marries Clara, a beautiful, toothless Jamaican woman half his age, and the couple have a daughter named Irie (the Jamaican word for "no problem"). Samad —devoutly Muslim, hopelessly "foreign"— weds the feisty and always suspicious Alsana in a prearranged union. They have twin sons named Millat and Magid, one a pot-smoking punk-cum-militant Muslim and the other an insufferable science nerd. The riotous and tortured histories of the Joneses and the Iqbals are fundamentally intertwined, capturing an empire's worth of cultural identity, history, and hope.

Zadie Smith's dazzling first novel plays out its bounding, vibrant course in a Jamaican hair salon in North London, an Indian restaurant in Leicester Square, an Irish poolroom turned immigrant cafĂ©, a liberal public school, a sleek science institute. A winning debut in every respect, White Teeth marks the arrival of a wondrously talented writer who takes on the big themes —faith, race, gender, history, and culture— and triumphs."

I actually really enjoyed this!  There's a large cast of characters so you do have to keep track of everyone.  This makes the beginning third or so a bit of a slog but it's completely worth it.  The whole book jumps back and forth in time and it's all brought together brilliantly in the end.  Trust me, if you're struggling, the end is totally worth it.  The writing is a bit dense (and not too flowery) so you also have to be prepared for that.  Another bit I wanted to mention: the endless themes.  This book deals with so many issues ranging from immigration and the immigrant experience to the ethics of genetic engineering.  It's quite the compilation but somehow it all works together.  One last thing: the teeth analogies.  I LOVED this.  Smith uses teeth as a way to express certain feelings and concepts throughout the book (for example, pulling out wisdom teeth), using our inherent connotations.  This is done so artfully and beautifully.

The Final Verdict:
While it's a bit deep and dense in the first third, once you make it past that marker, the world truly opens up like a flower.  The characters are well done and the ending makes remembering all the characters completely worth it.
4 stars

How to Survive a Summer by Nick White

Standalone to date

"A debut novel centering around a gay conversion camp in Mississippi, and a man's reckoning with the trauma he faced there as a teen.
Camp Levi nestled in the Mississippi countryside is designed to "cure" young teenage boys of their budding homosexuality. Will Dillard, a Midwestern graduate student, spent a summer at the camp as a teenager, and has since tried to erase that experience from his mind. But when a fellow student alerts him that a slasher movie based on the camp is being released, he is forced to confront his troubled history and possible culpability in the death of a fellow camper.
As past and present are woven together, Will recounts his "rehabilitation," eventually returning to the abandoned campgrounds to solve the mysteries of that pivotal summer, and to reclaim his story from those who have stolen it. With a masterful confluence of sensibility and place, How to Survive a Summer introduces an exciting new literary voice."

I enjoyed this for the most part.  It mainly deals with Will's traumatic memories of his time at a gay conversion camp which was heartbreaking to read about.  Again, in the beginning I found it hard to get into.  There's the initial hook in the first chapter but then the proceeding 5-6 chapters were just really hard to get through for me.  The book also deals in past and present (the story is being told in the present and Will remembers things from his past relating to that summer) and I loved the switches back and forth.  It was very easy to follow and it was a good choice of the author's to have the past directly told rather than the reader just getting it second hand as a memory.  As for the characters themselves, I loved how White didn't portray the people of the camp as these faceless, evil, religious people.  They had a past (which was included) and that made it clear that everyone has a past and has reasons for what they do, even if it seems evil to others.  I also had the opportunity to hear Nick White speak (he went to graduate school with my professor) which was a great experience.

The Final Verdict:
Make it through the beginning exposition: the ending is completely worth it.  The characters are very well fleshed out and the structure is put together nicely.
4 stars

Have you read either of these books?  What did you think of them?  How do you feel about past/present narratives?  Let me know in the comments!

Review Wednesday: Artemis by Andy Weir

Standalone to date

"Jazz Bashara is a criminal.

Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.

Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first."

When I first read The Martian, I fell in love with Weir’s sense of humor.  His dry wit matches up well with my own sense of humor, so I was dying to either reread The Martian or pick up something new of his!  Luckily, he released another book!

1. The plot.  This book takes place in Artemis, the small town that has been built on the surface of the moon (in the Sea of Tranquility where the lunar landings took place).  We follow Jasmine, a resident of the town for basically her entire life.  She gets involved with some large scale illegal deals which complicate her life more than it already is.  In the beginning, it was kind slow.  However, all that exposition is worth it.  The plot begins at a trickle and, before long, is a full-fledged disaster with excitement at every turn.  I also loved how real it was (not real in the sense that we actually have people living on the moon, but human nature real).  You will have criminals in every society and you do need those criminals every once in a while.  The cycle of society is also mentioned which I loved.

“On a scale from one to ‘invade Russia in winter,’ how stupid is this plan?”

2. The characters.  Like I said above, all the exposition is completely worth it.  We get to know a group of characters relatively well.  Throughout the book, we are also given glimpses into Jasmine’s life as a smuggler and how she got started with her whole enterprise.  These glimpses into the past were welcome breaks from the action and really help the reader to understand Jasmine more.  I especially loved the ending, when most of the known cast comes together.  Seeing them interact with each other was the best moment!  Additionally, while I think there was a bit of a lack of wit at the beginning, by the time Weir settled into the story, the characters (especially Jasmine) were displaying sparkling wit at every turn.  A bit of a caveat with the humor: if it's not your kind of humor, then it reads (honestly) as crass and immature.  Personally, I enjoyed it for the most part but if it isn't your thing, it won't be enjoyable.

“The overstimulated kids were literally bouncing off the walls. Lunar gravity is the worst thing to ever happen to parents.”

3. The setting.  This is a distinctly different setting than anything I’ve ever read (I think I’ve only read maybe one other book that takes place on the moon) so it was such a nice change of scenery.  Everything is explained in detail.

“I envy one thing about Earthers—they get much faster internet.”

4. The technicality.  Another quality I love about Weir’s writing is his ability to weave in technical information and solutions in his writing.  I understood more from The Martian because I’m studying to become an environmental biologist, but it was still amazingly cool to hear about exactly how this certain piece of machinery works and how Jasmine worked out a plan to either make it or destroy it.  Weir is also careful to keep the technicality to a bearable state so even if you know next to nothing about machinery (like me), you won’t drown in all the specs, but you’ll still give your brain a work out.  This isn’t a mindless read by far.

“But no idiot-proofing can overcome a determined idiot.”

5. The romance.  This is also one of my favorite aspects.  There is no romance.  There’s suggested romance near the end but there isn’t any sort of romance plot line mucking up everything.  In a book like this, there is no need at all for a romantic plot line and I’m so glad Weird forwent what seems like a formality these days.  There isn’t romance in every daring escape or in every action we make, and Weir reflects this perfectly.

The Final Verdict:
A daring venture coated with abundant wit (although it can veer on the side of forced at times) and an excellent exercise for the mind.  
4.5 stars

Monday, December 11, 2017

Music Monday (7)

Music Monday is a weekly event hosted by Lauren over at Always Me.  Every Monday, you share one or two of your favorite songs you've been enjoying that week to help other people discover new music!  Here are my picks for this week:

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Novemeber Wrap-Up

It's that time again!  Honestly, I can't believe how fast this year is flying by.  There's so much I have to do by the end of the year, not to mention the end of the semester (which ends in the middle of December).  But we shall power on!  This month has certainly been interesting in terms of reading.

Friday, December 8, 2017

50/50 Friday (62): Newest/Oldest Book You Own

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Newest/Oldest Book You Own

Friday, December 1, 2017

50/50 Friday (61): Favorite/Least Favorite Book Read in November

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Favorite/Least Favorite Book Read in November

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