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Pitter Patter of Little Thoughts

If I had an addiction, it would probably be books. All kinds of books. There is almost nothing better than curling up with fuzzy pillows, warm blankets, a mug of hot chocolate, and of course a book to fall into. Trying to get a full account of all the books I've read in the past - and also trying to be more diligent about documenting the books I read nowadays (and reviewing them). Thus, all current books I read will be reviewed, and all books I've realized I read in the past will not be reviewed unless I read them again. Also trying to expand my palate in books and genres. There's nothing I love better than a recommended new book in a different genre that surpasses my expectations. Feel free to leave a recommendation ^^

Currently reading

A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens, Stephen Koch
Anna Karenina - Amy Mandelker, Constance Garnett, Leo Tolstoy I finally finished this book after a freaking month and a half. I can't believe it, it's the longest I've ever spent reading a leisure book. But! I am glad I read it.

This book reads a little like a 18th century soap, filled with drama about affairs and love interests and stealing people's boyfriends and whatnot. It's not my most favorite type of genre (I don't like stupid love books where people have nothing better to do than just whine about their love lives and create drama for themselves), but Tolstoy is a master of characters.

I swear, no matter how much I didn't like most of the characters, I still kept reading because Tolstoy managed to make them so very real and different. A lot of authors have a problem where they aren't really able to make characters too much different from each other, except for the obvious story tropes they fall into. But here, Tolstoy manages to show us how humans react emotionally to different situations - all of them so very different in mindset and background and situation, but all showing this nature of humanity in interaction.
Okay, I'll stop with the flowery words. I sound like an English paper, really. (But I can see why an English class would want to read this!)

But anyways, he does this by skipping through each person's thoughts when writing a scene. Sometimes it's a little disconcerting because we start one paragraph in Levin's head, and then end up in Anna's, or something like that. But I really think it works, I really love this style of writing. We see how perceptions are so different depending on the perspective. What one character does and says for a specific motivation can be interpreted so differently by the others listening. (Example, Anna thinking that Kitty hates her for who she is, when Kitty just feels pity.)
My absolute favorite parts are when we tag along with the characters to different parties where three or more of these character we have slowly gotten to know interact. These moments are where you see the hidden motivations behind such simple words and sentences, and why characters react as they do. We have the third person omniscient view and we know everything - and it is absolutely delightful to see Tolstoy capitalize on this.

But Tolstoy ends up adding so much more to this book than just the romance. I might even dare to say that this book isn't a romance, despite that it would seem to revolve around Anna Karenina's affair. But that's not the case. Tolstoy adds major issues to this work, ranging from politics, to spiritual enlightenment, to dealing with death and in-laws, the education of women and civilians, of course divorce, and so much more. I think these additions are what elevates this book from just a mere romance to a classic.
But... at the same time, sometimes he would go on and on about a certain topic just to get it across, and I always struggled to get through those times. So good and bad.

One interesting thing is that Tolstoy manages to present both sides of the argument for whatever issues he's talking about - so the reader doesn't actually know exactly what the author believes. Some books are so heavy handed in their support for a touchy issue, but Tolstoy manages to weave it into his conversations naturally. It's quite lovely to read.

Let me also just say that I hated the characters. They were so stupid, so silly. But... then, you could empathize, almost feel for them. When Levin is pulls his heart out and offers it to Kitty, when Dolly struggles to stay afloat after making the hard decisions of staying for her children, or when Kitty goes on a soul-searching journey to find herself after a love gone bad. Or maybe even feel deep sorrow and pity for Anna and Vronsky's love gone so bitter. All of them made such stupid decisions, such stupid choices. But they were real, with their thoughtless passions and raging emotions. And for that, I love them.

The ending was a disaster, in my opinion. I don't mind that Anna died, there is really no other way that I could see the book ending. But to make the last part, the quasi-epilogue, all about Levin and his spiritual change... that is a cop out, in my opinion. It makes the book about him. About him and also about the author's own spiritual change, trying to show the reader what he is about. I am not a fan of that.

I could write a lot more, to be honest. About the characters, about nit-picky details, about my own thoughts of the issues he brought up, but it might take a book report that I'm really not willing to write.

I'm just glad I read this on my own time instead of in a high school class - I'm sure I would've just skimmed it and disregarded most of the book in those years.

Two and a half stars because it was okay. I didn't "like" the book in commonly used term where you liked the story and the characters and the setting and whatnot. Instead, I found myself appreciating the author for his writing ability and prowess with words. Although long, I do think this book is worth reading (at least some of it) just to get a grasp of how he manages to weave different characters into a conversation without losing anyone's personality.
Recommended only for those with time and those who want to read a classic. I don't think there are many books that are terribly similar that I've read.
For me, it was worth reading. Once.

The Plague

The Plague - Ken Liu A short story about the future of the world after a plague changes humans into monsters.

Found Ken Liu as an author after reading the Paper Menagerie and started going through his work. I found this story to be a miss for me. It's written very well with a great handle of characterization and plot development for the amount of pages a short stories contain.

But for me, there was just no real connection to the story. It was a good story. But I've seen so many similar things written out and explored in longer novels that this one just felt like another glimpse of a dystopia world.

Nothing exactly new, nothing mind blowing. Just a decent read that was okay.

Two stars. But it's super short, so I would recommend it for sci-fi fans anyway. And people who like short stories.

The Paper Menagerie

The Paper Menagerie - Ken Liu I read this on a whim. Seeing that it was a short story of only thirteen pages, I thought oh why not?

This short story killed me. It drew me in with easy sentences and hints of down-to-earth magic of life, and then it killed me. I read through these thirteen pages with the intent of just paging through another story. By the first page, I could tell I would like the story. In the third, I fell in love with the characters. And the fifth page set my mind to worry and my heart beating anxiously. And by the thirteenth page, my eyes swept across the words and, unwillingly, I cried.

I usually go through with a critical eye in any form of writing - trying to decipher the structure or the dialogue and the way the story was constructed to give constructive criticism, or maybe just to put out more plainly the reasons I like or disliked the story. But for this, everything was done beautifully. I have not complaints. No criticisms. Not a single one.

I don't need to say anything about the story to make you want to read it because it speaks for itself by the first page.

Five stars. Five freaking beautiful stars that are stained by unwilling tears. The depth of the emotion these characters can bring out, the love and the pain, the simple magic woven in so easily, the entire story.... everything.
Recommended for everyone. Anyone. Everyone should read it just to see how beautiful writing can be.
Plain Kate - Erin Bow Plain Kate can carve wood like a master, even at such a young age. But when her father dies and whispers begin circulating around the town about witches, Plain Kate may have to make a bargain with a witch to save her life.

I didn't really like this book because it didn't have direction. I fell in love with the concept easily. I love the idea of carving something so beautiful it looks as if it would come to life. I have a soft spot for magic and beautiful art. At first glance, this book would totally be up my alley. But instead, the deeper I got into the book, the plot cohesion steadily declined and the plot failed to actually make sense.

You see, half the book we don't even know what the main plot is supposed to entail. It just seems like a random adventure for Kate to survive and find a home. And then we get catapulted into a plot to save a city that we have no prior attachment or love for. Honestly, do we even care about Lov? Heck, you won't even see the city's name until you get 75% into the book. Ridiculous. There is no internal motivation to do anything except that it is the "right thing to do". And we don't have any solid characterization in Kate that she cares about the right thing in all aspects. Hence, this book just seems to meander along without a plan or a plot, attempting to make us love the book through the main characters.

But that is also a problem because as much as I love cats, I didn't think Taggle was that strong of a character. He was more like a human that tried to imitate a cat's mindset. Honestly, when do cats ask permission to scratch someone? He might as well have been a dog, for all the cat-like things he did.
Kate was fine as a character. She wasn't an idiot, she was fairly practical. But she didn't change at all. And that is a problem for any main character. That is also why this book felt a little stagnant.
And all the supporting characters had no personality at all, no dimension. In this way, the book is relying on Taggle and Kate to make this book - and they are just not up to par.

The ending was anti-climatic. I thought there were a couple of deus ex machina plot problems - and at the end, I just didn't really care.

I'm glad it was a fairly easy read because I don't think this book is worth reading.

One star because lack of plot cohesion.
Not recommended for anyone unless you're a very bored YA fantasy lover who has completely run out of all options.
The Emperor's Soul - Brandon Sanderson Shai is a Forger and she already knows that being bested is a rule of life. So when she finds herself in a dungeon she can't escape, Arbiter Gaotona's command to Forge the emperor's soul in a mere 98 days is a window of opportunity. But of course, if she fails in 98 days, execution awaits. Death threats and execution and deception surrounds her task, and Shai will have to use all her skills to get out of this alive.

I flew through this book in about an hour. It's such an easy read, but the meaning behind it is much more than it seems.

Sanderson is just a master of magic systems! I cannot emphasize that enough. A new world, a new system, new possibilities. I would love to explore this world a little more. I wanted to read more about power plays and the dynamics of the court. I wanted to see the past works of other Forgers and know more about Shai's past.
This book had the potential to extend much beyond 70 pages because of the potential of this world. But I'm glad it was a novella. It made the urgency more powerful.

The characters were not really fleshed out, but that is to be expected in a novella. For 70 pages, the amount of understanding we were able to glean into these characters's lives is fairly astounding. Sanderson writes the essence of characters very well.

But in the end, the reason I'm giving it four stars instead of 3.5 is that it takes the concept of creation and forgery and makes you wonder what is the true meaning of "masterpiece". When a copy is better than the original, which is the masterpiece? It is for this type of thought exploration that I love reading.

Four stars for being so beautifully written even in 70 pages, tugging a few heartstrings, but still managing to invoke deeper questions.
Highly recommended for anyone who loves a bit of magic and a new world. If you like anything else by Sanderson, you'll definitely like this one too. Also would probably recommend for someone who likes a bit of art.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - Ann Brashares Tibby, Lena, Bridget, and Carmen are best friends and they've been together since before the were born, really. But this is the first summer they're all going somewhere different. Apart. But luckily they found some magical pants at the local thrift store and they swear to send the traveling pants to each girl with expectations of a magical summer.

It was a decent book, very teenage girl-growing-pains slice of life sort of book.

I am glad that it wasn't all about romance in this book, but actually tackled other issues besides boys and fluff and other touchy-feeley things.

Even though there were four characters, I think Brashares managed to juggle their stories pretty well. It was like a series of vignettes strung together to create an overarching story that all converged and overlapped.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just too old now, whereas if I were 15 all over again, I'd be empathizing with all of their stories and crying and laughing with them. But I read it and I'm amused and a little sad, but it doesn't impact me that much.

Also, the traveling pants theme doesn't really work for me. It isn't exactly magically, they don't really mean much in the story except for linking the story together.

I've found that characters are a little too blunt as well. Probably to progress the story as quickly as possible. But Bailey is a little too precocious. So is Effie. And Paul. All the side characters speak the obvious truth to the main characters too much. They say it until the girls finally accepts it and does something about it (usually around the time the pants comes around). It's a little too straight-forward and it makes me feel like it's a little too cliche and more boring.

Three stars. And if the story weren't about more than romance, I would have given it two. But since I think the story did very well for a YA chick flick, three stars. No more than that because I couldn't get into the feel of the book.
Recommended for people who like good sisterhood camaraderie and something more than just romance. Be warned that the audience is definitely around 12-17 years old.
A History of the Present Illness - Louise Aronson Had to read this for med school, but they only gave us an excerpt (about 30 pages). But I found it interesting and fascinating enough to want to finish reading it. Which... goodness, hopefully I'll have the time to do. I'm still in the middle of Anna Karenina anyway.

So I marked it down as "want to read" but gave it a review for the portion I've already read. I'll see if I can pick it up at the library or something.

It's an interesting take on the medical world through the eyes of a woman. Stereotypes and dating and the difficulty of keeping one's optimism and balancing life with career. How to excell in work without sacrificing life. I have the subtle feeling that a lot of this book might apply to me in the future

I can't exactly review the book because 30 pages is just not enough to get a sense of how the whole book flows together, how the ending will look. But I can tell that her writing style is sharp and snappish, truthful but still ironic as she goes through her life experiences. I like the way she writes. It's a mix of inner thoughts and detailed descriptions with interspersed dialogue that highlights her observations of people or her decisions.

I'll hopefully be returning to this and writing a more complete review.
The Rithmatist - Brandon Sanderson Joel is a ordinary schoolboy at one of the finest schools. And though he's smart, he's not special. And he's certainly not a Rithmatist. But ah, with his knowledge of lines and circles and his fascination with them, he should be one. At least that's what he tells himself. But when a series of Rithmatist student disappearances starts looking like murders, the whole school becomes the setting for a whodunit mystery. And Joel, just trying to learn about what's fascinating to him, keeps falling smack in the middle of this mystery.

This was a lovely book to read. There's a certain easiness when I read it. It's not exactly lighthearted fun, but the pacing of the book or the dialogue or perhaps it's the characters... something makes the book almost like easy literature. Ack, I can't seem to find the right words right now, but the word "easy" is the only thing that can come to mind.

I love the interactions between the main characters. Everything seemed real and genuine, since the beginning of Joel and Melody's interaction to their ending scenes. Melody is a riot, a bit overdramatic and long-suffering, but really fun to read. The side characters are interesting and very 3 dimensional.

Sanderson is a-MAH-zing at magic systems and new worlds. He never fails to impress with pretty much each book in how different his worlds can be. How he comes up with these ideas is a mystery, but I am so glad he does. In this world where chalk drawings come to life as weapons and battles are drawn in circles. A line is a literal barrier and geometry is a Rithmatist's best friend. Kudos to Sanderson for this world.

Yes, there are some unrealistic portions where I don't think Joel could really get that much information just by asking, or having clearance to hear so much, but for the sake of the action and the story, it's fine.

One remarkable thing about this book is the inclusion of the illustrations of the chalk drawings. It made such a difference. Such an ingenious way to introduce common concepts and the "magic system" without relying on words to describe pictures. It made the chalkings come to life and even easier to imagine this world. Brilliant addition.

I foresee Nebrask sometime in future books, hopefully. It's an area that I want to see rather than hear about. I love that Sanderson leaves so much room for exploration in future books. It's almost as if this book is just a teaser, a taste of what this world will show us.

The ending was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. The reveal of the mystery, the whodunit crime, and the triumphant ending that makes sense.

I really hope to read the sequel soon because this book leaves us hanging with a lot of questions.

Three and half stars because it was more than a good book. But rounded down because it was just a quick, easy read that didn't require much thinking. It wasn't particularly heartrending or mindblowing. Just a presentation of a world and characters and a magic system that made me very appreciative of Brandon Sanderson all over again.
Recommended for people who love a good young adult fantasy book with a world that's different than you've ever seen before. Or if you like Brandon Sanderson, this book is a definitely a safe bet.
The Blinding Knife - Brent Weeks The story carries on where the first book left off. War is crashing into their lives and it's hard for Gavin Guile to keep saving his country and people when he's dying and his colors are disappearing. It's a game of deception and lies. Nothing is as it seems.

This was a fantastic sequel. The characters are still lovable as usual. Who doesn't like Gavin Guile? Inevitable in his will, charming, saving the world easily. But still flawed and completely in love. Kip is almost the stereotypical boy-into-a-man story. But it works.

I love the magic system. It's a world that makes you want to know more. It's fairly ingenious, this world. Only quibble is that Weeks sometimes has long paragraphs (e.g. monologues) of explanation of magic or strategies. People don't talk in paragraphs. But it didn't happen too often, just often enough for me to notice, so it's okay.

I was blown away by the deception from the book summary! It completely took me off guard when Gavin killed his brother because I was expecting the opposite. I loved it, to have lies within a summary to make me expect something and throw something else.

I think Weeks doesn't exactly know how to write women. This book is very much still a man's world. Even though the women are strong and influential, like Karris and the Third Eye, you start to notice that all of them don't really stand alone in their strength. They are all tied to a man. Okay, maybe except for the White, but that's because she's old and Weeks doesn't consider her for sex appeal. But whenever girls and women are mentioned, it's all about their femininity and how much the males would like to take them to bed. Meh. I don't think he does this intentionally and eh, the story is powerful enough to overlook this. It's just I don't think he knows how to write women who are just women. But of course, it's not something he's concerned about, what with his two main male characters. And regardless, he does better than a lot of other male writers (and some female writers, for that matter).

The story progresses extremely well. I was never bored or slogging through the pages. There was action, there was emotion, there was character interaction. The ending was made me curse the appendix. I was so sure that the boo was longer, and then it just ended with Gavin in that boat. Like, argh are you serious!! I need to know what happens next! But that's fantastic. I know I want to finish this series. Weeks is a great writer. I can already see him setting the scene for future books. I'm curious to see what will happen with paryl, the white luxin, the blinding knife, how the light will be balanced, and such. There are so many unanswered plot lines, but this book manages to tie up a lot from the last book. It's the perfect balance between revealing intentions and hidden mysteries. It's not confusing, it's foreshadowing. So many authors have a hard time with the difference between the two. Weeks nails it here.

A solid three and a half stars. I was tempted to round up to four because of how engaged I was throughout the book. However, at the end of the book, it's just a good read. I always need a little something more - something that changes my world, my preconceived notion of something, expands my horizon. It was a marvelous read, yes. But it doesn't leave me with anything else but "hmm it was a good read" when I close the book. So three and a half very good stars.
Highly recommended for anyone who loves fantasy with well-built characters and a fascinating magic system. But read the first book first, obviously.
A Face Like Glass - Frances Hardinge Grandible the True Cheesemaker is content staying in his side of the Caverna making cheese that are beyond imagination, a scowl almost permanently on his Face. But when one day he pulls a girl out of cheese curds, this strange cavern city will be turned upside down. Neverfell has a face like glass, and in this place where even infants are taught to lie with their Faces, nothing will be same after they lay eyes on her.

This book was beautiful. It turned the heart and made me yearn for the right words to describe something that settles in the throat like unshed tears. I stayed up all night for this book even after promising myself to fix my sleep schedule.

At first I was skeptical. The beginning starts off like a very young children's story, with the main character Neverfell seeming more like six years old than twelve. And she gets thrown around in events, survives on pure luck and intervening characters, and bubbles over with ridiculous amounts of naivety. I can't stand those types of characters.
But Hardinge does something amazing. She knows how to develop characters without a sudden 180 switch in personality. It's a slow, deep change from within. One that tugs a little at the corner of the lips to a frown. And then the slightest wrinkle between the brows. And then the clearness of the eyes that see beyond fake Faces and lies. Neverfell becomes a character that grows into someone that takes action, that moves people. It's so lovely.

I love Hardinge's diction. The style of writing and her the word choice makes it all so real.

This is a world that I have loved getting to know. I wish it were a little longer and I think that there are certain parts that could still be fleshed out. But overall, what a beautiful world to know.

Four and half stars. If I were ten years younger, this would be five stars. Heck, I almost gave it five stars now. But the ending wasn't strong enough. It wasn't exactly weak enough that I have quibbles with it, but the ending just didn't tie up everything. It came a little too quickly without enough development, which makes sense because it's a secret. But still. I wouldn't consider a powerful ending.
Recommended for anyone who loves fantasy and beautiful imagery.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers - Mary Roach Roach writes a droll account of the way human cadavers have been viewed throughout history and in our present day. Well, viewed, cut up, eaten, shot, dropped from hundred of feet, etc.

I don't have any problem with her book as a concept, writing about death in a humorous and curious slant. But I do have a few quibbles with the book.

One thing I found a little frustrating was that each chapter of the book could probably be it's own mini-book. The only overarching connection is that all of them will have human cadavers in them as the star (obviously, as the title suggests). But the topics completely alter. I could be bored of one subject and completely interested in another. And I just hate inconsistent books. I know it's no fault of the author, because hey, what else can you do? But that doesn't make me like the book even though I understand why she does this. Specifically, I thought the beginning chapters were fairly boring, probably because she had to go through the humdrum of explaining all the background of cadavers. But the chapters seemed to get more interesting as the book went on and a few topics that I've never considered appeared.

The beginning was boring because it was a detailed account of the history of human cadavers. And although she tries to lighten it up with her humor and commentary, it doesn't really get any more interesting. Especially because most of her commentary is speculation.

See? That's my main problem. My main problem is how she goes about finding and delivering the information in this book about human cadavers. I don't trust her ethos. I don't trust her sources and her very opinions-based source of information. She mentions Dr. Oz in the section about organ transplant (taken from brain-dead patients), and I know from other articles that the medical community is a little eh on him because of his fame in media and his physician-approval for some strange things that aren't scientifically proven. He also hasn't exactly been doing medical practice these days, if I recall correctly. So hum.

She treats her sources like an authority. I commend her for talking to all these experts and people in the industry of human cadavers. But I wish there were more hard facts, something more than a transcription of a conversation and inserted commentary.

I looked up a couple of these articles, a couple of the situations she mentions. I couldn't find anything on a couple of them. Perhaps she has wider sources out there, but ahh... The bit on Oscar Hernandez she writes about being sold to a medical school, she even mentions that she tried to contact him, but it didn't work. So yeah, it's in the footnotes, but not in the actual chapter that this story isn't confirmed. That website about eating the placenta as a placenta cocktail... it's the sketchiest site you can imagine. As if she's just fishing for material to use. As if you believe everything on the internet.
I don't doubt her dialogues. I believe that she talked to these people and this was what she got. I just don't quite believe everything she writes here. And I don't believe that I got the full story on each of the chapter's specific topic.

Perhaps it's because writing a book on cadavers is a difficult subject to find material, and therefore she has to use conversations as authority on the subject. But it doesn't help the fact that it feels like Roach is reaching for more topics to cover as the book goes on.

I do applaud the author for personally travelling to so many different places and talking to so many different people about and for this book. It's like investigative journalism almost. Unfortunately, I was hoping for more hard-core facts.

Two and a half star because it was somewhere in between "it was okay" and "I liked it". It was mostly interesting. But I just can't trust most of it.
Not really recommended to anyone unless you feel like reading an easy "medical" book for a med school interview or something like that. But there are definitely better "medical books" to read.
Heart's Blood - Juliet Marillier Caitrin is a scribe running away from her past when she stumbles into a strange, enchanted city. At the heart of this place filled with whispering townspeople and strangle ghosts in the woods is Whistling Tor - the home of Anluan, master and cripple. He hires her for a summer, but when war seems to be on the horizon, Caitrin must be able to overcome her fears in order to help save this place she starts to call home.

I love this book. Marillier is such a talented writer for these re-imagined fairy tales. This story pays a near-perfect homage to Beauty and the Beast. It is absolutely beautiful because it takes the story but makes it completely new. I don't say that lightly. We can see the shell of the original fairy tale, but these characters, the situation, the struggles are all new. Beautiful.

The characters are written so well. I love how Caitrin is a strong woman. Not through physical strength, but through her convictions.
Marillier does such a wonderful job writing a woman who can be strong without punching idiots left and right. Usually strong women in books end up as a stereotypical "kick-ass" heroine who asserts her strength by actual muscle and playing ball with the big boys. Here, Marillier accomplishes it by letting Caitrin face her fears and stick to her convictions. She doesn't run away when the chips fall, she doesn't shirk her duty even though she bone-scared. And she presses on forward. Strength in the subtlety. A rare find in books these days.

I love how Anluan is not the stereotypical beast, but rather a cripple. A homage to the true story of a man who is no longer a man, reduced to something else. I love the way the relationship develops. Not the ridiculous insta-attraction, but something slow and sweet from care to friendship to love. It is so real, so raw.

And though these two are the main characters, I loved every single character in this book. Fleshed out, important side characters.

I loved how the two main characters were given time to face their fears alone on their two feet before the war begins. Their strength isn't goopy, sappy, imagined strength from the ohmigahd power of love! (sarcastic). Rather, it's found within themselves first. They fix themselves first before falling into something so deep and committed as a relationship. It's a relationship done right..

Perhaps the only weakness in the story is the amount of history that was thrown at us in the beginning - but that is also fairly necessary for reader understanding, so it's fine. But I had a little trouble sifting through what was important and what was extraneous. Ah well, that's history for you.

Four and a half stars because it was so, so lovely. I haven't read a beautiful fairy-tale adaptation like this is a while. I rounded down (and didn't give it that last 0.5 star) because even thought it was beautiful and I have pretty much nothing but compliments and declarations of love for this book.... it didn't give me the shivers, if that makes sense. It didn't make my heart ache as much as I hoped. Despite the brilliant story and wonderful characters, I wish there were more parts that made me gasp and hurt and love and hate. But that isn't something that one can just prescribe to an author. But it is a requirement for that last 0.5 star for me.
Very highly recommended for anyone who loves a slow, beautiful romance with a bit of a fairy tale twist.
Elfland (Aetherial Tales) - Freda Warrington Rosie is typical girl. Wondering about love, trying to figure out her place in life, cavorting with brothers and friends, and oh yeah, trying to figure out how to be Aetherian in this mortal word. But the gates between their world and "Elfland" has been closed permanently because of a great danger - or so says the Gatekeeper. As Rosie and her friends grow up, exploring into their lost heritage, they will find themselves in the midst of breaking this mystery.

This is the first book with decent grammar and writing that I've had the displeasure of finishing. The characters are complete imbeciles. All of them. All of them!! How is this possible? It's as if they're stuck at a hormonal age of 16, making idiotic decisions and irrational statements. Ummm marriage for 4 months and then realizing you can't stand the dude because you didn't face up to your real emotions? Ridiculous. It's like they're playing with life, and when a wave of lust comes across them, they treat it like real love and change their entire life. Argh, love - this pisses me off! As if any of them show real emotional attachment. All they have connecting them (Rosie and Jon; Faith and Matt; Jessica and Lawrence, and Sam and Rosie, especially) is just pure lust. And ugh, gratutious sex scenes. I'd rather have a scene that shows me that there's a true connection besides longing for their hot bod. And the worst part is that all of these characters grow up into their late twenties and they are still incapable of making rational decisions. Sure, emotions can make someone a little wonky, but their dumb decisions happen over and over again. Please. Excuse me as I roll my eyes.

The characters have utterly no depth except for what we are spoon-fed from the narrator. For example, Jon is supposed to be someone with whom everyone falls in love. But from his characteristics and actual dialogue, he's a bit of a stupid idiot. Rosie is supposed to be generous and kind and forgiving with a bit of spunk. But her actions and words just make her seem like a selfish, love-sick fool who can't do anything. Honestly, does she do anything at all in this story? Sam is supposed to be a violent, rude person that later is revealed to be actually a good guy who helps out his brother - but his words say that he's just a creepy, obsessed dude who has issues. The author wants us to believe these characters are a certain type of person by telling us exactly who they are, but all the dialogue and actions point to the contrary. That is poor writing.

There is absolutely no plot. My summary in the first paragraph sucks because I feel like it's a little impossible to summarize this convoluted, no-directional story. It's basically about Rosie and Sam hooking up and getting together and opening the gates. With a ton of teenage drama. Oh there's an affair. Here's a marriage. There's a hookup. There's a stepmom. There's unrequited love. Etc. That's the bulk of this book. It's more like a television high school soap drama with the amount of dumb relationship problems hidden between two families. And the closed gate is more like a subplot thrown in to make this drama possible. Shakes head.

Thus, the resolution of the "main" (in quotes because obviously the real emphasis is on the dysfunctional relationships. "Main" can probably be replaced by "fake") plot, is incredibly weak. The ending was a cop-out and the villain was too easily defeated.

You would think that having faeries in the real world would be a little bit interesting. I love learning about new magic systems and delving into new worlds. But this book.... manages to make faeries mundane. How is this possible? They're basically like humans with shiny skin and one more dimension. Rosie manages to reveal her status as a faerie to every single human she meets - and they're supposed to keep it quiet. What the heck? There is no magic in this world. There is no discovery. It's completely boring. Instead of new lore and a beautiful world where senses are incapable of describing the new dimension, Warrington just dumps the entire history of these Aetherians in long, unreadable, completely boring paragraphs. Information dumps. Horrible way to reveal a potentially beautiful world.

And one thing that I noticed and that I can't believe with a bit of outrage is that there are no humans in this story who are remotely portrayed in a positive light. In contrast, the main characters (all Aetherians) can do no wrong. Even Rosie when she commits adultery to her poor husband seems to be in the right at the end of the day when Alastair turns out to be a complete scumbag despite the initial courtship. Arghhh! Stupid girl!! Lawrence, for all his horrible, almost inexcusable mistakes, is still portrayed as a swell guy with courage to face his fears by the end of the book. Jon gets a free pass for his bastardly actions when he's all redeemed at the end as well. What the heck? How can these main characters (all Aetherian) do no wrong? And Sapphire, someone who could potentially defeat the stereotypical wicked step-mother turns into a caricature of that exact stereotype. The only humans in this book (besides maybe Mel, who isn't really a character), are all horribly in the wrong. Is it just me, or is that kind of weird? Especially since they're living in the mortal world and choose to stay here. Even besides that, it also points to the fact that this is a pretty empty world. Despite them going to college and getting married and whatever goes on in their drama-filled daily lives, they only interact with other Aetherians. It's poor world-building and poor characterization.

I hate how Warrington portrays the women in this book. These women all have stupid affairs and romantic relations and do absolutely nothing. They flip their waterfall of hair and let their hair swish around. They just get married and plant gardens. Do they have no ambition or any purpose in life besides swooning over boys??? Rahhh!!! Feeling angry. I am disappointed in Warrington for creating a female protagonist that can't do anything at all.

So. After all these rants, why did I finish the book? All 500 pages. Ha.. I'm not sure. Because I wanted to know how it ended, even though I hated so many parts of it, I guess. Maybe because it's a fairly easy read as well. But ugh. I don't think it was worth my time at all.

One star. This is incredibly low, even for me. But it's because even though sentence structure, grammar, and perhaps even basic story construction is okay, I really did not like it. At all. It's basically a teen angst romance story with multiple love plots. That is not what it sells itself as, though, and therefore extremely disappointing.
Would not recommend to anyone at all. Unless you like stupid girl stories about romance with a hint of magic.
I won't judge if you actually do like those stories. Okay. Maybe a little. Read at your own caution.
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini A Thousand Splendid Suns is a four part story that revolves around two Afghan women: Mariam and Leila. As political events begin turning Afghanistan into a war zone and a place of fearful uncertainty, we see through these eyes of these two women of how all these things their daily lives. Mariam is a bastard child, sold off as an early bride to an old shoemaker. Leila is brought up to believe that there is worth in education for women. But when circumstance brings these two women together... perhaps both will find what they are looking for.

I thought the book was beautifully written. Just like The Kite Runner, Hosseini has a talent for letting us feel the emotions of all the characters. We smile when they are given a present, we hurt when they hurt, and we love them. It is really beautifully written. And the way Hosseini incorporates true events into this book just makes it deeper. More real.

But, like The Kite Runner, I find myself forgetting what actually happens in the book. Probably because ultimately this is a "slice of life" book and most of life is finding meaning in the mundane. It isn't big and showy action that carries us through this book, but the subtle emotions and the ways the characters react to the world and people around them.

One thing I have to mention is the amount of utter anger and frustration I kept feeling reading through this book. The amount of misogyny and double standards for women, their lack of freedom absolutely makes me furious. And that these women have to deal with it daily - argh ah I hate it. I hate it. That it's so easily incorporated into their lives, that the idea a man's accusing finger always points at a woman, it makes me so mad for these women and, as a woman, makes me so very, very grateful for the freedom I have right now. I wonder what male readers thought after reading this book.

The way the story ends, it is a very hopeful ending. But it doesn't resolve this issue of women's rights at all, and it frustrates me. Obviously Hosseini couldn't resolve it because it hasn't even been changed in the present world, but argh. How can we easily stand by when things like this happen?

Four stars because it was beautifully written and really makes a person think. I can't say that I liked it in the traditional sense because of how much churning frustration it made me feel. But any book that can open my eyes to bigger struggles and make me feel this amount of urgency is deserving of four stars, maybe even higher.
Highly recommended for everyone.
My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult Beloved child, youngest of three, cherished sister, and of course, a product of genetic manipulation. Anna was born to save her sister. A perfect match since she was born, Anna has helped keep her sister Kate alive from the grips of leukemia. But this time, they need a kidney and Anna is ready to sue her own family for medical emancipation.

My summary doesn't really do the book justice because the books is less about the plot and more about the emotions of the characters. This book has been sitting on the edge of my reading horizon for a while, but I didn't really pick it up because it's fiction writing (not genre writing like scifi or fantasy or paranormal, etc). Fiction literature completely depends on the characters, which is a gamble because most writers can't seem to get it just right.

I hesitate to say that Picoult gets it "just right" in My Sister's Keeper, but it's pretty close.

There are many moments that feel untrue to the story - as if Picoult sets up the scene just for a character to say something particularly cutting or deep and poignant (e.g. What is four letter word for vessel?)
Plot lines don't feel completely resolved either. Characters seem to change without much impetus, to be honest. Her mother changes from someone who doesn't even seem to notice Anna at the beginning to someone who appears to care, even in the past from how she talked about how much she loved Anna in her 13 years. But... huh? Evidence obvious contradicts that.
Jesse changes with a single gesture from his father. That whole firefighting plotline just disappeared without a single impact on the greater scheme of things - as if Picoult just wanted to make sure the middle child wasn't left out. And to give the father more screen time.
Campbell felt a little fake. There isn't enough interaction to tell us how he and Anna got close enough that he would praise her and accept the end result of the trial.
The biggest reveal of the whole trial and Anna's motivation was... very much like oh here's the climax, of course. Rather than a big gasp that made me go holy goodness what the freaking heck? It felt contrived.
That's the thing that makes me pause from seriously giving this a high rating. Situations and scenes feel contrived. Obviously it's fiction, so of course it's contrived. But I shouldn't be able to notice it so many times as a reader.

All of that being said... I actually cried during this book. Although I nitpick about contrived situations, Picoult does have a gift for making these characters very sympathetic, very real. The changes in point of view weren't jarring at all, which is surprising because most writers can't handle switching between characters. But instead, they lead to greater insight and even more sympathy for all characters.

You just sympathize with all of their struggles. However small or large, the characters seriously grow on you. You can picture these people, feel like you know them. And cry with them.

Three and a half stars rounded up to four because it made me cry. It was definitely above average, had beautiful characterization, and was just overall lovely. A lovely surprise from outside my usual genres. It's not higher because I won't reread it - and also it doesn't leave me with anything different or new. Does my understanding of decisions and family problems change? Hm, not really. It just leaves me with a sense of ah, I'm glad I read this book. It was lovely like a scent you close your eyes to smell because it reminds you of something beautiful.
Highly recommended for those who want a book to make you feel a little emotional.
Elemental Magic - Sharon Shinn, Rebecca York, Carol Berg, Jean Johnson This book is an anthology containing four stories from various authors. I picked this book up on a whim at the library because I've read a couple of books from Sharon Shinn and she has pretty good stories. I didn't recognize the other authors, but it looked like an easy read, so why not?

The first story by Sharon Shinn is called Bargain with the Wind. It's a play on the classic Cinderella story with a twist. I thought it was rather charming the way the characters developed. I loved the narrator, that sort of maid in the background point of view. The elemental magic could have used a little more development, but for a short story, I think it was good. 3 stars. Sharon Shinn is a consistently good writer for fantasy and magic while building a world and community for this magic. She's probably not the best writer for innovation, but a lovely writer for what she does.

The other three really aren't that worth reading. Birthright by Jean Johnson was crap. I would have dropped that story in the first twenty pages if I didn't know it was a short and easy read. Arasa is going on a pilgrimage to see if she is the firstborn and the true heir. Elrik is a wandering mage that happens to join her party along the way. Plot twist: she's the princess. Oh, they fall in love. And look, there are enemies. Whoop-de-doo. Nothing new at all. But even beyond a cliche story-line, the writing is just not good at all. The dialogue is unwieldy and fake. Nobody talks like that. The romance is completely unbelievable - especially the way the two main characters go about telling the other person about their mutual attraction to each other (dialogue problems, see?). The entire plot seems very contrived and pretty much worthless. Honestly, motivations behind every action is unrealistic. And the main character's pilgrimage is a major event for the country - so why aren't other people researching what to do?
1 star. I probably won't read anything by this author unless a friend seriously recommends something to me emphatically. This is the worst one of the four.

The third story is Unmasking by Carol Berg. I also haven't heard of this author, but that's okay. Joelle is a Searcher - a partner that uses magic to protect the world against demons that corrupt people. Well, actually she's just a student right now trying to be a Searcher. But when Joelle stumbles across a suspicious man in the sanctified waters, she is unknowingly drawn into a battle bigger than she could imagine. For her to succeed, she'll have to work with this man to trick a spy from their enemies.
I thought it was okay. I think it was a disservice that it was only a short story because it had potential. But because of the word count limitation, I don't think the reader can fully understand the magnitude of their task - which makes a lot of their actions kind of pointless. I thought the magic system also wasn't developed as well as it should have been. But hey, I get it - it's a short story. But it does have some major plot holes and the conclusion was weak. The premise for task isn't really sound and the reason for why she keeps failing isn't resolved, even though it seems to be at the end. But Berg never explain exactly what changed. It doesn't make sense. But it wasn't bad. 2 stars because it was okay. I might pick something up from this author if I came across it.

The last story is Huntress moon by Rebecca York. Zarah is the daughter of a supposedly traitorous noble. She is sold into slavery. As a spy. But when she gets into contact with Griffin, her target, she falls in love. What's a girl to do?
Ugh, it's not a bad book. But it's just really gives off a tween romance. Well.... with the amount of explicit love-making... maybe not tween. But it still feels juvenile even despite those scenes. I felt like those scenes were also a bit of fan-service rather than helpful to the story. Rather, it felt a little trashy. Especially since the main characters call their emotions love after all of that forced (or what they call seduced) love-making. Please.
Griffin's secret and the resolution was basically a subplot to their romance, which is ridiculous since it touts itself as an adventure. Ha. The ending was bland and the romance worth an eye-roll. But I still read it, so ugh, it's not a bad book. I don't really have problems with York's writing, but I do have problems also with her world. She makes it a parallel universe to Earth, but with magic. However, the slang and speech patters seem way too similar to modern day times. It feels wrong because the story seems to be set in a much older time period with nobles and kings. And yet... we have slang. That's a problem.
2 stars because it was okay. Maybe 1.5 stars. I probably wouldn't pick up this author's books unless recommended. Or it had an extremely gorgeous cover haha.

Overall rating for the book: 2 stars. One story worth reading, the other three mediocre or bad.
Recommended for those who need a quick read of magic and fantasy. And aren't too picky about the quality of writing. Soooo... not really that recommended, to be honest.