Sunday, January 17, 2021

Review: THE LUCY VARIATIONS by Sara Zarr


Rating: 2.5/5 stars

I picked this book up because I’ve been playing piano my whole life but I’ve yet to read a book about a pianist. The Lucy Variations is a coming-of-age story about Lucy, who was a world-renowned pianist at the ripe age of 16, but then something happened that caused her to quit playing completely, and eight months later, she still hasn’t touched the piano.

I like feeling a sense of connection to the protagonists in the books I read, and while I play piano, I was never in any competitions or upscale performances or anything of the like. I also don’t come from a performance family or have overbearing parents like Lucy does either. So I didn’t really feel like I could relate to her that much. 

Lucy’s brother, Gus, also plays piano, and he takes up the mantle of responsibility when Lucy decides to quit. The book begins with Gus’s piano teacher falling over dead during one of his lessons (this isn’t a spoiler; it happens on page one). A new teacher, Will enters their lives, and the story follows Lucy as she unofficially becomes Will’s student as he teaches her about life and the piano, even though she still refuses to play. We also get flashback scenes to the day eight months ago when Lucy played the piano for the last time. 

This book definitely has the themes of children growing up doing what’s expected of them to please their parents even though they don’t like it and then discovering they have their own dreams and ambitions and rebelling because of that. This is a common theme I’ve seen in many books, so there’s nothing new about it here. Lucy felt pressured to become an award-winning pianist, even though she didn’t really love to play.

You can kind of see where it’s going—Lucy goes through some trials and has to learn what makes her happy and learn to love piano for herself and not only because her parents tell her to. There’s also an attractive guy that helps her to see the truth and learn what she’d been missing. It’s a fine story, but again, it’s nothing new. 

I was a little uncomfortable with the fact that Lucy had a thing for older men. Not just Will but one of her high school teachers also, and that was really weird and creepy to me. 

I liked The Lucy Variations, but it wasn’t a standout book to me. It was enjoyable at the time but also forgettable if I’m being honest. I don’t tend to read young adult contemporary novels anymore because I struggle to relate to the protagonists now that I’m past that age. I thought this book might be different because of the piano aspect, but it still felt very much like the average YA contemporary. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not my taste anymore. 

I would like to comment on the audiobook though: Sara Zarr narrates the book herself and she does a great job at it. The audiobook also has music in the background. During scenes when Lucy or someone else was playing the piano or listening to music, we could hear music, and it enhanced the listening experience. I’m not classically versed so I don’t know if the music being played corresponded to the classical movements the characters were talking about, but it was really cool nonetheless. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Review: TEN ARGUMENTS FOR DELETING YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS RIGHT NOW by Jaron Lanier


 Rating: 1.5/5 stars

“Awareness is the first step to freedom.”

I’ve never been a big fan of social media and I rarely use it, so when I heard about this book, I thought it would be something I’d enjoy. Unfortunately, however, that was not the case. 

The book actually started out pretty good, in my opinion. The author communicated his first couple of arguments in an interesting and engaging way, and I had high hopes for the rest of the book. But then he started straying from valid arguments and started talking about his own beliefs, and his arguments became more subjective than objective. 

At one point he talks about how parents who don’t vaccinate their kids are buying into lies put out by bot accounts online, and he wraps up that section by telling us to vaccinate our kids and then literally says, “Save children. Delete your accounts.” Like if that argument isn’t trying to appeal to readers’ emotions rather than use hard facts and logic then I don’t even know. That is neither good writing nor a good argument nor a logical connection to make, and I cannot believe that phrase was allowed to be published in this book. 

The overarching arguments the author makes are actually valid. Among those arguments are that advertisements are manipulating us; social media is addictive, which gives us less free will over ourselves; and social media is undermining truth. I agree with all those statements, and the data he did share with us was rather alarming regarding technology nowadays and what it can do and what kind of information major companies like Google and Facebook are tracking when you’re on their websites. I definitely learned some information here that I didn’t know, but the positives of this book were severely overshadowed by the negatives. 

I’m already someone who doesn’t use social media and thinks it’s a huge waste of time. The only account I have is Facebook, but I haven’t posted on that in over five years, and I almost never log on. I don’t read articles on it, I don’t follow links on it, I barely use it. The only reason I still keep my account open is because it’s the only connection I have to some people in my life from many years ago, and I don’t want to lose touch with them completely. Not that I message anyone with any regularity, but I know the option is there just in case. I definitely do not intend to ever increase my social media usage though.

I felt like this book was more subjective than objective, filled with the author’s personal thoughts and opinions, and it needed to rely more on empirical evidence and data. His arguments were valid, but the way he was going about explaining why just wasn’t sitting right with me. The author is also VERY vocal about his political views and his anti-religion views, which I didn’t like. Those types of opinions shouldn’t have included been in this book about social media. Expressing how social media influences politics and religion is one thing, but it didn’t seem appropriate for him to give us his own views in such a heavy-handed way. 

Another problem I had was that the author constantly degrades people who use social media. He writes about it in a way to make the reader think they’re not included in that category of “people,” but it's clear he means anyone who uses social media in any facet. He constantly calls people who use social media a--holes, and I was just tired of hearing that language throughout the entire book. 

I think the majority of social media is really toxic and a waste of time (it’s not all bad but the benefits don’t outweigh the detriments, in my opinion), but there are other sources out there than this book that I think would better explain its effects in an objective manner, and I would much rather read an unbiased article about why social media is harmful than a book like this one. 

Overall, I really disliked this book. I didn’t even disagree with what he was saying in the majority of the book, but I hated the way he explained it all and his arrogant attitude that came across while I was reading. This read like an unprofessional opinion piece rather than a legitimate book. I will say, though, that the narrator did a great job; I enjoyed his voice even though I didn’t enjoy the book. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Review: ALL SYSTEMS RED (Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells

 

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

I liked this novella. It’s a sci-fi story about a robotic android whose main purpose is to protect people (by way of murdering enemies), but all it wants to do is be alone and watch the entertainment feed.

Murderbot, it calls itself, is not really a robot, although that’s what it wants the humans to believe. It is made up of half organic and half inorganic materials, like a person inside an armored suit it never takes off. I’m curious to know, as it was never stated, if Murderbot is a different species or if it is entirely manmade. Like is its organic matter human-like, or what does it look like inside its armor?

This story was a little confusing to me, and I sometimes honestly think I’m just too dumb to read science fiction because I have yet to read a story in this genre that really clicks with me or that I fully understand. There was a lot about the world and technology in this book that wasn’t explained, and there’s even information in the synopsis that wasn’t blatantly explained in the story (either that or I just missed it), which is a problem because I shouldn’t have to read the synopsis to learn stuff that the book itself didn’t cover. I’ve always had a hard time reading novellas because of the lack of worldbuilding and information present in the narrative, but this story is, at its core, about the character of Murderbot, so maybe there doesn’t need to be more information for me as a reader to still connect with its character.

This book was pretty funny but also emotionally relatable. I liked All Systems Red enough that I’m interested in reading the other novellas in this series. I don’t know if they will follow the same crew that Murderbot works with in this book or if each book will follow different side characters, but I feel like, regardless, I will enjoy the series more the further I read.

Review: BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore (reread)

 

Rating: 5/5 stars

I love this book so much. It truly is one of the most well-written and satisfying books I have ever read.

I reread Bitterblue in preparation for Winterkeep coming out next week, which is my most anticipated book of 2021. I remember when I originally read this series that I liked Graceling and I didn’t like Fire, but part of me now wishes I had reread those two books also. I’m especially interested in rereading Fire to see if I might like it more now; I forgot just how many references to that book are in Bitterblue, and it’s actually quite important. In my original review, I said that you could skip both the first books and read Bitterblue as a standalone. While that statement remains true as you would not be confused about the story in any way, you would still be missing out on so much world-building and history and character development found in the first two books, so my new stance is to read the whole trilogy in order without skipping ahead. 

I can’t believe how much I forgot about this story though. I remembered there were a ton of ciphers and a ton of betrayals, and that’s still true, but I forgot most of the plot and the minor characters, including Hava, who I believe becomes a POV character in Winterkeep. I’m so so glad I reread this book to refresh my mind before starting the fourth installment. The ending leaves it open for new birth and regrowth of Bitterblue’s kingdom, and I cannot wait to see how she has developed as a queen and also to see what she has done with her kingdom. The end of Bitterblue talks about what she would like to see done in the future, so it’ll be interesting to see how much she followed through on. I really really hope that Cashore does not let us down in tying threads of the new book back to the stories in the original trilogy.

In my original review, I mentioned that the book is left open-ended about Bitterblue’s romantic future, but upon reread, it almost seems obvious what the outcome could be (we’ll see if I’m right when I read Winterkeep). I obviously wanted it to go a certain way during my initial read, so I was refusing to see the signs that were right in front of me during the last third of the story, my now my opinion has changed. (Leaving it vague to avoid spoilers.) 

I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this book. Bitterblue is one of the best young adult books out there, and it has THE BEST political intrigue I’ve ever read in a fantasy novel ever, adult or young adult. There is just so much in here that I don’t see in other books. Cashore does not pull her punches one bit, and I love it. I love her writing and her character work and her twisty threads that all tie together. I will reread this book every few years until I die; it will always be one of my favorite stories.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Review: LORE by Alexandra Bracken

 

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

“It’s not always the truth that survives, but the stories we wish to believe. The legends lie.”

I was rather skeptical starting this book—I’ve always had a tenuous relationship with Greek mythology. Ever since we had to read Edith Hamilton’s Greek Mythology in ninth grade, I hated it. That book ruined mythology for me, and unfortunately, it has tainted my view of any type of mythology since. But I desperately do want to like mythology. It is obviously so influential in our culture, probably way more than I even realize. I want to like it, and the only way to do that is to embrace the stories that talk about it and actually bother to learn what the myths are even about.

Enter this book, Lore. I received an advanced copy of it, and at first I was just like meh? But then I showed it to my husband and he thought I would really like it. It’s described as if The Hunger Games were written by Madeleine Miller, who’s known for her Greek mythology retellings. I thought, “Okay, why not?” and I decided to give it a try. I’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

In this book, for seven days every seven years, the Agon occurs. During that week, the Greek gods become mortal and are hunted by the descendants of ancient Greek heroes, who will gain the power of the god they slay and become immortal until the next Agon.

Lore Perseous is the last one left of her bloodline, and she chooses to no longer participate in the hunt, not wanting the responsibility and danger that come with attaining godly power. But this year, she’s offered the chance at an alliance that may allow her to escape the Agon forever, but it may come at too high a cost for her to bear. Is it worth it?

“An oath was, after all, a curse you placed on yourself.”

This book was pretty good, better than I expected it to be, at least. It was fast-paced with lots of action scenes. I don’t tend to like action scenes in books (or movies), but I think they served this story well.

My favorite character was Miles, the human friend who got roped into the whole adventure simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I do appreciate that he had some answers that neither Lore nor the gods nor the other hunters had, though. Like he was still useful even though he wasn’t supposed to be involved in the Agon.

I will say that not knowing hardly anything about Greek mythology had me a bit of a disadvantage with this book, but I slowly learned some of the facts along the way. If you are a fan of the Greek myths, I think you will really enjoy Lore. I did learn some facts about Greek mythology that I didn’t previously know, but I still don’t consider myself a fan. 

Because I don’t know much about Greek mythology, I did have to refer to the glossary in the back to see which god had control of what. I’m very glad a cast of characters was included because it was very helpful to me.

There were flashbacks in this book from seven years ago during the previous Agon, when Lore would have been ten. While those were interesting moments in the book, I did have a hard time believing some of the stuff she was doing because no ten-year-old is that smart. I do think Lore would make a great movie, though. Almost every chapter ends on a suspenseful note, leaving the reader wanting to keep reading to find out what happens next, and the book has a fast-moving plot. 

Overall, Lore was a fun urban fantasy that fans of Greek mythology will love. It has feminist undertones, a great cast of characters, and a quick pace with lots of action. 

Friday, January 1, 2021

2021 Reading Goals

My main goal this year is to read books that I own. I have WAY too many books on my TBR, and despite reading more books in 2020 than I ever have in any year prior, my TBR pile was somehow larger at the end of the year than it was at the beginning of the year at 388 books. (I bought a lot of books last year. . . .) So my primary focus this year is to decrease my TBR pile as much as possible. To help me do this, I have decided that I will not buy a book unless I read two books that I own first. Obviously, this rule does not apply to gifts, since I can't control what presents I receive or when, and I'm not counting the ARCs I get from work either. So read two TBR books to purchase one. We'll see if I can follow that rule all year long. (I may already have my doubts. . . .)

I also have set a Goodreads goal of 100 books. I hope I can reach that. We'll see as the year progresses how I'm doing and if I need to adjust that, but for now, it's at 100. 

I also have a list of specific series I would like to read in 2021. These are the books that are at the top of my list that I'm currently the most enthusiastic about, and the good news is I own all of them already. 
1. The Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden
2. The Themis Files by Sylvain Neuvel
3. The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer
4. The Nine Realms Series by Sarah Kozloff
5. The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness
6. The Blood and Ash Trilogy by Jennifer L. Armentrout
7. Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians Series by Brandon Sanderson
8. The Mara Dyer Trilogy by Michelle Hodkin

Besides the above series, I have five standalone titles I hope to read as well.
1. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
2. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christoper Paolini
3. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
4. Steel Crow Saga by Paul Kreuger 
5. Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore

There are, of course, other books I have my eye on, but the series and titles listed above are the ones I am currently the most excited about reading next year. Once again though, my main goal is to read books I already own, so even if I read none of these titles but still have over 80% of my books read be from my TBR list, I would call that a success. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

2020 Reading Goals Review & Yearly Stats

Reading Challenges Review

My first goal was to read 70 books, but I later upped that to 100 books. I'm proud to say that I managed to read 135 books, my best reading year ever!! 

View my Goodreads Year in Books here to see all the books I read in 2020!

My next goal was to read five completed series and finish three series I was currently reading at the start of the year. I managed to far surpass this goal, reading 12 full series and completing 4 currently-reading series, listed below in completion order. 

1. Magisterium series by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare (finished)
2. Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver
3. The Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black
4. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
5. The Girl from Everywhere duology by Heidi Heilig
6. The Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown
7. The Dragonriders of Pern trilogy by Anne McCaffrey
8. Arc of a Scythe trilogy by Neal Shusterman (finished)
9. Uglies trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
10. The Blood of Stars duology by Elizabeth Lim
11. The Carls duology by Hank Green (finished)
12. The Poppy War trilogy by R. F. Kuang
13. The Hallowed Ones duology by Laura Bickle
14. A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas
15. A Conspiracy of Magic trilogy by Megan Crewe (finished)
16. Forward Collection by Various Authors

My next goal was to read as many books as possible from my TBR and have at least 70% of the books I read be from my TBR because I own sooo many unread books. Unfortunately, I did not complete this goal. Only 71 of 135 books (53%) were from my TBR. My list of owned and unread books was at 350 on January 1, 2020, and I wanted to reduce that as much as possible, but now my TBR is at 388 books! Obviously, I have a book buying problem. . . . I had 16 books that I've owned since high school that I really hoped to get to this year, but I read only 6 of them. This goal will carry over into my reading goals for 2021. 


Yearly Statistics

Number of books I read in 2020: 135
Number of those books that I listened to on audio: 61
Number of books I read from my TBR: 71
Number of books I read that were published this year: 27
Number of series I started: 26
Number of series I completed: 16
Number of books I DNFed: 9
Number of books I reread: 3
Number of books I acquired this year: 135
Number of books I unhauled this year: 31
Number of books on my TBR at the beginning of 2020: 350
Number of books on my TBR at the end of 2020: 388

Books I read that were . . .
Middle Grade: 17 (12.6%)
Young Adult: 39 (28.9%)
Adult: 79 (58.5%)
*Note that I categorize anything not specifically labeled as middle grade or young adult as an adult title, such as nonfiction, humor, graphic novels, or religious books that could be enjoyed by any age group.


Graphic Novels: 9 books
Short Stories or Novellas: 19 books
Nonfiction Titles: 21 books
ARCs I read before the publication date: 5 books

Star Ratings:
1 star: 14 books (10.4%)
2 stars: 26 books (19.3%)
3 stars: 37 books (27.4%)
4 stars: 35 books (25.9%) 
5 stars: 23 books (17.0%)


Reading Survey

Favorite book of the year: Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
Least favorite book of the year: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
Most surprising book of the year: Most Likely by Sarah Watson
Most disappointing book of the year: Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Longest book of the year: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (1,001 pages)
Shortest book of the year: Randomize by Andy Weir (28 pages) 
Book that was on my TBR the longest that I read: Delirium by Lauren Oliver (9 years)
Biggest accomplishment: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson 
Most read genre: Fantasy (63 books) 


Reading Reflections

Well, this was certainly an interesting and unprecedented year. I read more than I've ever read before in one year, but I also gave out more low ratings this year than any previous year. Quantity does not equal quality. I hoped to read a lot of my TBR books, and I was doing pretty well on that goal for about six months, but then I veered away to non-owned books over the summer and never got back on track. I'm not mad about it though, because one of the main reasons I read books I didn't own was because I wanted to read some books relating to the Black Lives Matter movement and further my education as a white ally. I own an extremely small amount of nonfiction, so all of these were titles I read from the library, and there were a lot of them. 

Another contributor to my outrageous number of non-TBR books I read was that there were tons of novellas and short stories relating to series I own that were available only as ebooks, and of course I read them all. Plus I had a handful of books I wanted to read that I only had access to via ebook, and I had another set of books I wanted to read before I purchased them because I wasn't sure if I would like them enough to purchase them in the first place. Lots of contributing factors, but overall I'm happy with my reading this year, especially because while only slightly more than half of the books I read were from my TBR list, that was still 71 books! Some years I don't read that many books in the whole year, so while the number of books I read from my TBR was low percentage-wise, it was still high quantity-wise. 

I read some books this year that I had hoped to get to for years. I read new books by some of my favorite authors, and I read some disappointing books that I had hoped to love. I don't think I can ever beat 135 books in a year, but I still can't wait to see what books lie in store for me to discover next year. 

Review: FORWARD COLLECTION (Amazon Original Stories)

 


This collection of stories is about looking forward in some way, usually involving futuristic technology or scientific discoveries. The stories fall into the science fiction, fantasy, or dystopian genres, and each author has a different take on the idea, producing an eclectic mix of stories. I don't tend to read or enjoy short stories very often, but I wanted to give these ones a try because I recognize all these authors and I do enjoy the general concept behind this collection. 


"ARK" by Veronica Roth3.5/5 stars  

I have come to realize that I really enjoy apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories. This one follows Samantha, one of the last humans left on Earth. Most humans have already escaped to Earth the Sequel to avoid the imminent collision of an asteroid that will wipe out all life on Earth, but Samantha and a group of scientists are the last ones to leave because they must catalogue all the flora and fauna species possible so they can take the data with them to their new planet. There is a lot of talk about plants in this story, and I really enjoyed it; plants are fascinating to me. This story also talks about the value of life and what's worth living for. This was one of the stronger stories included in this collection.


"EMERGENCY SKIN" by N. K. Jemisin4.5/5 stars

This story was so fascinating, but I also don't know how to explain what it's about. It's told in second-person POV from the voice of your commander that's inside your head. You don't say anything or have any thoughts on-page in this story, but it can be inferred what you are thinking based on what the commander's responses are to you. You are from a new Earth, coming back to this, the original Earth, now called Tellus, on a mission to acquire HeLa cell cultures to keep the population on your home planet alive. But when you arrive, the people on Tellus are not the uncultured savages you expected to find. I'm not doing a very good job of explaining this story, but it's amazing; go read it. It's the best in the collection. N. K. Jemisin knows how to write impactful and timely stories, touching on social topics that are relevant to our current society. Her stories have such a unique concept and a distinct voice, and "Emergency Skin" was no different. 


"RANDOMIZE" by Andy Weir1.5/5 stars  

This story was rather confusing, to be honest. Basically, it follows an IT guy setting up a quantum computer at a casino to stop hackers from winning megabucks in futuristic Las Vegas. Not science-fictiony enough for me because it seemed like it took place in the current world and I expected something more. While I love reading about futuristic technology, the stuff in this story went right over my head. I’m not a physicist, and it almost feels like that’s what you need to be to understand the details going on here. I got the gist of the plot, but I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more had it not been full of technical jargon that would be more suited to someone actually in IT. While I normally don’t mind new terminology if it benefits the story, it did nothing for the plot here. I think this same story could have been told using language more suited to us plebeians and it would have been just as impactful. Not to mention the characters are flat, the conversations are stilted and unrealistic, and the story was lackluster, albeit slightly unpredictable. I still want to check out The Martian by Andy Weir, but I sure hope it’s not as technical as this story or I know I won’t enjoy it. "Randomize" is by far the weakest story in the Forward Collection in my opinion. 


"THE LAST CONVERSATION" by Paul Tremblay4/5 stars

Wow, that was a trip! I definitely want to read more from Paul Tremblay after this story. He’s known for horror but this story wasn’t scary, more unsettling because of a constant feeling of not knowing something. This story starts out with you waking up, and you don’t know how long you’ve been asleep or where you are or what’s going on. Slowly throughout the story, you start to become aware of your surroundings and you start to regain your memories. And yes, I mean you. This story is told in second-person POV, which I always love! It’s so rare and unique, and it really fitted the story here. I won’t say anymore because the feeling of being in the dark, both literally and metaphorically, was so compelling for me. I flew through this story and I want more; this is a story that has me wanting it to be part of a full-length novel because I want to know more details about the world. "The Last Conversation" is definitely one of the more engaging stories in the Forward Collection.


"YOU HAVE ARRIVED AT YOUR DESTINATION" by Amor Towles3.5/5 stars

This was the most interesting story in this collection. The concept was very intriguing, and Amor Towles sure knows how to craft a fascinating story.

Sam and Annie go to Vitek for an IVF, but the company is unlike any other fertility business out there: they give you the option to customize the personality of your child. Using genetic data from many generations of people in similar socioeconomic backgrounds and with similar nurturing, Vitek is able to hypothesize about what your child will be like. Sam and Annie watch three videos about three options of a future child they could have, videos that show the highs and lows of each model’s entire life. What would it be like to see your child’s life before they were even conceived? The parents get to decide what kind of child they want to raise. This concept was very interesting because it seemed so realistic, like this technology could actually happen within the next five to ten years.

I didn’t really understand the ending though. I tried to find an explanation online of what the implications meant, but it seems like a lot of other people struggled with the ending as well. The story was really strong and thought-provoking up until the last couple of pages where things just went downhill.

I definitely want to check out more from Amor Towles now though because the writing in this book was impeccable and the story was imaginative.


"SUMMER FROST" by Blake Crouch3/5 stars

This story was kind of hard for me to wrap my head around at first, but it’s about Riley, a human, and Max, the AI NPC that Riley created for a video game who ends up becoming self-aware and gaining autonomy through a human body. There is a lot of great characterization in this story with both Riley and Max, especially for it not being a full-length novel. This story talks about what it means to be a human and what the limitations of humanity are. It talks about the relationships between humans and technology. I love stories about video games that go beyond the current boundaries of gameplay, so I enjoyed this story.

There is a lot of philosophical debate in here as well, which I found really interesting. Crouch talks about humanity and consciousness and what happens when artificial intelligence becomes all-knowing—are they more like God or like Satan?

This is the longest story in the collection, and it definitely feels more like a novella than a short story, but the length only benefitted the story and its outcome.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Review: A DECLARATION OF THE RIGHTS OF MAGICIANS by H. G. Parry


 Rating: 2/5 stars

Unfortunately, I did not finish this book because I wasn’t connecting to the characters or the story at all, and I began to dread the moments I would press play on the audiobook. I debated for two whole weeks if I should push myself through or not, but ultimately I decided to just quit because of my lack of enjoyment. Although this book was not for me, I feel that this would be the perfect book for the right audience.

A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a historical fantasy, and fans of that genre will likely enjoy this book. While I love fantasy, I struggle with historical narratives, and this book was much more historical than I expected it to be; it’s very rich in both history and culture. It almost feels like it could be a nonfiction story if only magic had been real.

Set in the late 1700s, this book tackles civil rights and revolution. The story starts out following a common man who uses magic and is put on trial and jailed for using magic since commoners are not allowed to use magic, and this is the basis for the story. Magicians want different rights for the use of their magic, thus the title.

There are a few perspectives here. The main story follows a vampire and his friend in England, but we also have the POV of a slave girl from Jamaica. I didn’t read far enough to hear much about the girl, but her story goes hand in hand with the main storyline as some magicians are working to abolish slavery while they fight for the rules regarding the use of magic to be changed.

I thought the discussion about magic in this book was actually pretty cool. The commoners are forced to wear bracelets that prevent them from using magic, but of course some higher class magicians think this is wrong and want change. There are a few different types of magicians in this book too, and my favorite part was that that blood magician was actually a vampire. Because consuming blood is how he got his magic to work. 

If heavily historical novels with lots of politics and moral discussions and magic are your cup of tea, then I encourage you to give this book a go. 

I feel like I could potentially enjoy A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians at a different time in my life, and I hope eventually I will be willing to pick it up again and finish it. I do know, however, that I would get a lot more out of it and feel more connected to it reading it with my eyes, so I can say with certainty that if I were to come back to this story, I would not be continuing the audiobook. The narrator had a nice voice and I feel that he adequately portrayed the characters and the story, but something about either him or this book just wasn’t letting me grasp what was going on while listening to it. So maybe if you want to give it a shot try reading it instead? Even though this book wasn’t exactly my thing, I still want to read The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H. G. Parry, and I would definitely consider reading other novels from her in the future too. 

I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Review: WE MET IN DECEMBER by Rosie Curtis

 

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

I’ve been trying to read one Christmas romance every December, and We Met in December was my pick for this year. 

I really wanted this book to be similar to One Day in December by Josie Silver, which is one of my favorite books, but this wasn’t as deep or exciting as I expected it to be. There’s nothing wrong with We Met in December—it’s a fun holiday romance—but I was also hoping it would be more than that.

Unfortunately, I just wasn’t able to connect to the characters in this book or care about their relationship as much as I should have. Plus I kept getting the other flatmates and various side characters confused with each other. No one was very dynamic, in my opinion. I blame my feelings partially on my mental state this time of the year; working in retail has completely fried my brain right now. But also I blame it partially on my expectations being too high going into this story.

Jess and Alex (and some other people) share a flat and their friend/flatmate/flat owner put forth one rule: no dating. But Jess finds herself falling for nice guy Alex, who gave up his job as a lawyer to retrain as a nurse. The story follows them in dual POVs during the following year as we learn about their feelings and escapades while they avoid dating but still have “feelings” for each other.

This book was alright, one I’d recommend if all you’re looking for is a cute holiday romance story to bring some light to the bleak days of winter, but it’s not overly original. It plays on some cliches and stereotypes I frequently see in romance stories, including the “let’s not communicate and let the other person get the completely wrong idea about what’s going on” trope, which frustrated me a bit. And this book’s definitely not memorable like the poignant, surprising, and emotional One Day in December either, which I suspect no Christmas romance will ever live up to. I shouldn’t compare one book to the other, but with the books’ similar titles and themes, I guess I just wanted them to be more alike than they were. That’s my own fault, not the book’s fault.

I was debating during the whole time reading this book if I should give it 2 or 3 stars. I like it but it’s just okay. Not as bad as some other 2-star books I’ve read, but not as enjoyable as some other 3-star books I’ve read; my feelings are right in the middle. There’s nothing wrong with We Met in December, but nothing really standout either. A predictable, cute, fun, and mostly clean holiday romance that I’ll probably forget about in a month.