Fantasy, Fiction, literary fiction, Mystery, thriller, Uncategorized, Young Adult

What I’ve Been Reading Lately: 4 Quick Fire Reviews

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It’s been so long since I did this. I’ve been reading so much during this pandemic and can’t wait to share some of the backlist books I’ve been reading. Anyway, here are four books that I’ve read lately that you might enjoy!

  1. Sea Wife by Amity Gaige:

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“Everyone is hard to love, if you do it for long enough.”

Michael convinces his wife, Juliet who is failing to juggle motherhood and her stalled-out dissertation, to up and go sailing for a whole year with their two kids—Sybil, age 7 and George, age 2. This book opens up with a promise of a mystery but ultimately fizzles out. On the very first chapter of this book, we are told that they’re back from their sailing trip and Michael is dead.

Told from dual perspectives – Juliet’s first person narration and Michael’s Captain’s log, that sometimes doubled as his diary. I found Michael’s Captain log narration to be a bit ridiculous towards the end because there were things he couldn’t possibly have written down that the author took liberties with. We see how strained their marriage is, how different their political opinions are and how the sailing trip affected all these things including their children.

I thought this one was okay and gave it 2 stars on Goodreads. If you like literary fiction that’s very atmospheric and well written, you should give this one a try.

 

2. Cradle Series by Will Wight:

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“When a traveler cannot find a path, sometimes he must make his own.”

I’ve been reading through the Cradle series during this pandemic. It’s an escapist read for me. There are currently 7 books in this universe and I’m currently on number 4. This series revolves around Lindon. Lindon is an unsouled which means forbidden to learn the sacred arts of his clan. He is treated like a pariah and forced to compete against people half his age bringing shame to his family until a horrible event takes place in his village and he meets an immortal who shows him the paths his life could possibly go. The story focuses on Lindon’s determination to be the best sacred arts wielder the world has ever seen. I really enjoy these books and totally recommend them. I haven’t given any of the books less than 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

3. Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker:

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“I like to let them talk things out, but fact isn’t a democratic process; if a thing isn’t true it isn’t true, even if everybody votes that it is.”

Orhan is an engineer who has more experience building bridges than fighting wars but he is his city’s only hope. A siege is coming. The army has left the city to fight an unknown enemy, leaving the city unguarded and open for the taking. The people have no food and very little weapon and the enemy has sworn to slaughter them all. It will take a miracle to save this city and Orhan who is a liar, cheater and enjoys history and engineering, is the perfect man for the job.

This book is the kind of fantasy I call competent porn – this is where the characters are extremely good at what they do. I really enjoyed watching Orhan come up with very interesting ways to defend a city and also stop the citizens from tearing it down from within. I gave this book 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

4. Skullduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy:

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“There’s no such thing as winning or losing. There is won and there is lost, there is victory and defeat. There are absolutes. Everything in between is still left to fight for. Serpine will have won only when there is no one left to stand against him. Until then, there is only the struggle, because tides do what tides do–they turn.”

Stephanie Edgley’s weird but rich and famous uncle just died and left her his entire estate to the chagrin of her other relatives. She’s just 12, what is she going to do with all that money and house? Due to some circumstances beyond her parents’ control, Stephanie is forced to spend the night alone in her uncle’s house. At first, she is excited to spend her first night all alone, until there is a break in and she is thrust into a world of magic and excitement and danger. She joins forces with her uncle’s friend, the weird and completely skeletal, Skulduggery Pleasant to solve the mystery of her uncle’s death.

This book is the first book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series. I was quite excited to read this but I didn’t enjoy it as much. I thought 12 was way too young for some of the things they got up to. There was actual danger involved in a lot of these. I also think if she was doing all these with kids her own age (like Harry Potter), I’d be more likely to overlook a lot but she’s completely running around with adults and I found it disconcerting. I gave this one 2 stars on Goodreads but I’m sure younger audiences wouldn’t have the same reservations I did.

These are some of what I have read lately and I hope you enjoyed these quick fire reviews. Let me know if you’ve read or intend to read any of these books in the comments. Have a great reading week everyone!

 

Leggy

Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

Book Review – Arc of a Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Arc of a Scythe is a young adult dystopian trilogy – Scythe, Thunderhead and The Toll. I read the final book last week and decided to review all three books on the blog this week.

Scythe:

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“My greatest wish for humanity is not for peace or comfort or joy. It is that we all still die a little inside every time we witness the death of another. For only the pain of empathy will keep us human. There’s no version of God that can help us if we ever lose that.”

Humanity has finally conquered death, nobody can die completely except by fire. Humans are living for hundreds of years while still having the ability to remain as young as they please. There are no governments, the entire world is controlled and catered to by an AI called The Thunderhead. To curtail the world’s population, a group of people called the Scythes are appointed. These are people who are legally mandated to permanently end life. Citra and Rowan are chosen by Scythe Faraday to apprentice under him, an opportunity neither of them wants but must learn to take life efficiently or risk losing theirs. I gave this 3 stars on good reads.

 

Thunderhead:

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2)

“How ironic, then, and how poetic, that humankind may have created the Creator out of want for one. Man creates God, who then creates man. Is that not the perfect circle of life? But then, if that turns out to be the case, who is created in whose image?”

The Scythedom has finally made a decision between Rowan and Citra and one of them has gone rogue, determined to put the scythedom through a trial of fire. The old guards -who see being a scythe as a great calling, to be treated with respect and dignity and the new guards – who actually enjoy killing and see being scythes as being above the entire human population are at an impasse. The thunderhead is forced to watch as things come to a head in the scythedom while being banned from interfering with scythe business. I gave this 3 stars on Goodreads.

 

The Toll:

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“We never know what choices will lead to defining moments in our lives. A glance to the left instead of right could define who we meet and who passes us by. Our life path can be determined by a single phone call we make, or neglect to make.”

Rowan and Citra have disappeared for three years, the new guard is completely in charge and rules against bias killings and killing quotas have been abolished. The scythes are now legally allowed to kill as many people as they please. An old guard scythe searches the world for the plan B option to the scythedom that the original scythes made just in case their scythedom experience failed. The World is at a loss and in fear, the thunderhead races against time to save humanity from itself. I gave this 2 stars on good reads.

 

I think this series has a brilliant concept but very poor execution. I also think it was dragged out too long to be completely enjoyable. The romance between the main characters was completely forced as there was literally no atom of chemistry between them. I do appreciate that a lot of the romance was kept to a minimum so we didn’t have to suffer through a significant amount of it.

I found the world building to be very fascinating but full of holes. There are so many things the author just neglected because it wasn’t convenient for him. For example – people can still die, it’s just that people aren’t allowed to permanently die. If you’re not killed by a scythe or by fire, you are immediately rushed to a center to be revived. If this is the case why are scythes even needed? Why not just let people die?!

Also, the morality in this book is very black and white. I really would have loved to see some moral grays because I think that’s exactly what most of life is made up of. The main villain in this book Scythe Goddard is so one dimensionally evil, he’s almost a caricature. I think this book brings up some very interesting philosophical questions but then fails to explore them.

I still finished this series so obviously there was always something that kept me wanting to find out more (plus my library just kept pushing out books so I had to!). I do recommend these books if you’re looking for something more young adult and easy to get through. Overall, I give this series 3 stars!

Have you read these books? Did you enjoy them? Let us know in the comments!

 

Leggy

 

Book Related Topics, Fiction, We Chit Chat, Young Adult

We Chit Chat -Trust Exercise by Susan Choi

Trust Exercise

“Thoughts are often false. A feeling’s always real. Not true, just real”

Plot: In an American suburb in the early 1980s, students at a highly competitive performing arts high school struggle and thrive, ambitiously pursuing music, movement, Shakespeare, and, particularly, their acting classes while dealing with teenage issues and predatory teachers. 12 years later, they look back on their lives in this performing arts high school and try to dissect what actually happened to them there.

Taynement: It’s been a while since we had a chitchat. We ended up with Trust Exercise because I was seeing it win so many awards

Leggy: You know, I went into this book without reading any description whatsoever because you picked it. I was like Taynement likes plot driven books so this will be good.

Taynement: Ah, is that a first for you? Going in blind, I mean.

Leggy: It’s not a first but I usually read plot blurbs before I pick a book to read, just to see if it’s my cup of tea.

Taynement: Ah okay. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I went in completely blind

Leggy: I kept reading it and when I got to the 20% mark on my kindle, I had to go see what the book was supposed to be about. I just wasn’t getting any consistent plot.

Taynement: I think this was my thought for the entire book. I see what the main theme was but man, it did NOT work for me.

Leggy: I truly thought I was going to give this book 1 star. The beginning just didn’t work for me at all. The middle I liked more when the voice switched to Karen’s. I thought Karen had a stronger voice and point of view than Sarah.

Taynement: So I did this on audio and with each switch I wondered what I missed. It took me a minute to get back into the groove and realize the story switched and it honestly confused me.

Leggy: Karen is the only voice that worked for me and the reason for my one additional star. I thought this book could have been so much more but it’s very obvious it was written for awards. This book was a freaking Pulitzer finalist.

Taynement: The thing is if this book had the main goal of highlighting sexual assault or predators I think it did a piss poor job. I think my issue with this book was it tried to be smarter than itself and ended up all over the place.

Leggy: That’s exactly what I mean by it was written for the awards.

Taynement: I was so confused by their teacher’s story line. I thought it was borderline abuse and predatory but it was so vague I couldn’t tell if it actually was or if it was normal in the theater world. I’m referring to when he made Sarah and David reenact their breakup.

Leggy: I guess the theme seems to be that no one knows what exactly “truth” is. We’re all locked into our own points of view. Everybody has a spin. Sarah and Karen and David all lived the same things but came out of it with completely different views. David became friends with his abuser. Sarah is mad when she sees Mr. Kingsley at David’s show and wonders how David can be friends with him. Sarah portrays Mr. Kingsley as gay but Claire portrays him as extremely straight and masculine.

Taynement: Oooh, that’s an angle I can see. I really do not think this book should be done on audio. I was so disinterested by the characters, I just went through the motions of finishing the book.

Leggy: I think it shows the effects of grooming. They were all being groomed by Mr. Kingsley. In her retelling, Sarah makes Kingsley gay and invents Manuel as a character he was molesting. But then in the second part, Karen tells us it was actually Sarah Mr. Kingsley was having a “special” relationship with. And then Martin grooming Sarah and getting her pregnant. It’s all rife with abuse, different points of view and the subjectivity of truth. But my thing with this book is okay, so what’s the point?

Taynement: Yeah it never really wrapped things up in a clear manner. So you feel like you’re taking this journey and taking in the scenery but you never get to any destination.

Leggy: For such a popular book it barely has 3 stars on good reads. Ordinarily, I enjoy unreliable narrators and narratives and I do think this will make a good book club pick to discuss the subjectivity of truth and what actually happened to those kids in high school but I don’t think it was executed well.

If I wasn’t reading this for a chitchat, I would have dropped it after the first 50 pages. I found the first part of this book overwritten with these huge emotions and I understand that those emotions seemed so huge because they were teenagers. But if you’re going to write from an omniscient point of view and not a first person, then it’s just over written.

Anyway, this book is more fun to discuss with your book people than it is to actually read. My advice? Skip this one. I gave this 2 stars on good reads.

Taynement: The execution was shoddy. I agree, skip it!

 

Leggy & Taynement

Book Related Topics, Fiction, Young Adult

Favorite Childhood Books

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I was a voracious reader as a child. The fourth of six kids,  I read so many things way earlier than I should have. I started reading Mills & Boons in Primary 4 (4th grade) because my older sisters had them lying around. I looooved romance novels. Growing up, I consumed so many of them which is why I’m surprised I grew up to be an adult who doesn’t love romance novels.

Anyway, in between all that debauchery, I actually read some age appropriate books and I want to share my favorites growing up. I hope when I have kids someday that they love these books too! Also, you’re never too grown up to reread these books to see if they stand the test of time or to read one of these for the very first time!

  • Mallory Towers by Enid Blyton – I read A LOT of Blyton growing up in Nigeria and these books were my absolute favorites. They were so funny, relatable and painted such a fun picture of boarding school that made me want to go to one so bad (my mother vehemently said no!). This was the first school series I ever read. The characters were all fully developed and even the antagonist (Gwendolyn! what a brat!) had a great arc through out the book. This is one I have never reread, I want to do this on audio soon, to see if it holds up but I remember it with such fondness and nostalgia for my childhood days.
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – I reread this book last year and it was just as fantastic as I remember it being. I was so glad that 7 year old Leggy had great taste in books. Claudia Kincaid is tired of being the older sister in her family so she decides to run away. Being the very resourceful and clever girl that she is and knowing her younger brother Jamie has money and thus can help her with a serious cash-flow problem, she invites him along. These two kids successfully run away in New York City to the MET! This is such a fun read and I think even adults who are looking for a palate cleanser would enjoy it.
  • Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene – I have read every Nancy Drew novel that has ever been written! My mom really liked these books, so she bought so many of them for us. There was always a Nancy Drew novel available to read and as soon as I could read, I devoured them. Carolyn Keene was so adept at keeping a young girl’s attention – there was just the right amount of mystery, very mild romance and innocent fun as Nancy and her pals sleuthed around solving not-so gruesome mysteries and murders. I would always beg my mom to let me read just one more chapter but would end up staying up all night to read the entire thing because every chapter pretty much ended on a cliffhanger and I just had to know what happened next! I have not read these books as an adult, I probably won’t get to them anytime soon but I adored them as a child. I’m just going to trust 7 year old me that they were good.
  • The Baby Sitter’s Club by Ann Martin – I loved these books growing up, I have tried to go through the series description to find one that I did not read and I couldn’t find any. My mom bought these books anywhere she could find them because she knew we were guaranteed to love them. This book is about a group of friends who decide to start a baby sitting business in their home town. We followed them through puberty, diabetes, parents getting divorced, moving away and of course, BOYS! These books were just such easy reads but I wonder if they’d really stand the test of time today. I somehow doubt it but they were great to 7 year old me.
  • Famous Five by Enid Blyton – The famous five included Julian, Dick, Anne, not forgetting tomboy George and her beloved dog, Timmy! These books made me feel like a grown up. There were actually high stakes involved unlike Nancy Drew, I actually felt like they were in actual danger of being hurt. After reading these books, I’d beg my older sister to play detective with me but she’d say no because sisters are horrible! I loved George, she was my favorite character. It’s so amazing how progressive her character is by today’s standards to balk at gender roles and expectations and just be herself.

Just as an aside and bonus hot take, you know a book that everybody loved but 6 year old me absolutely hated? Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I just did not see what the fuss was all about. Wow, I really was a young tough critic.

What are some of the books you enjoyed reading as a young ‘un? I want to know in the comments! Have your read them again recently? Did they stand the test of time? Sound off in the comments, we love reading them!

Leggy

Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult

We Chit Chat: Children of Blood and Bone

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“gods are nothing without fools to believe in them.” 

Taynement: Whew. It’s been a month and some, I think? But I finally got through Children of Blood and Bone. The struggle was real.

Leggy: lol, why do you think you had such a hard time with it? The genre or the book itself?

Taynement: I’ve been asking myself that question. It’s easy to say the genre because it’s all mystical and YA, things i’m not necessarily a fan of but I’ve read other books in that vein that I liked. I really liked it at first but at some point, I just got to a place where I just didn’t care what happened to anyone.

Leggy: I actually agree with you that it lags somewhere in the middle. I think it starts off fast and action packed but the middle brought in the YA love ridiculousness and it just lost its grit. I think it picked up towards the end though. I really wanted to read this book really bad because the premise intrigued me.

Taynement: When I think of this book, I think there was a lot going on. It was part Harry Potter, part Hunger Games. Zellie was basically Harry – Captain “I’m so fierce and I can save everybody”.

Leggy: All the annoying qualities of Harry without the “funness” of Ron to cut through it and make it more palatable. Every time she barged into trouble and made a split second stupid decision I just couldn’t deal.

Taynement: The love part was inevitable. It’s YA.

Leggy: I was annoyed by it though. Like they knew each other all of 5 seconds and were in love.

Taynement: I have to say I like how she led up to it. I liked how the intimacy was formed from his first reaction to her to when they could feel each other’s magic.

Leggy: Blehhhh. This is someone whose father killed your mother and a whole lot of people, someone who himself has chased you through multiple kingdoms and you just decide to trust him just like that because he makes your loins stir? There was nothing I enjoyed about the romance in this book.

Taynement: Now Amari’s I wasn’t so sure about because I honestly thought there was some romantic undertones on how she felt about Binta. And it was cliche to have them fall in love with each other’s siblings

Leggy: All the romance in this book was cliche to me

Taynement: Fair enough. Were you bothered by the no translations?

Leggy: No I wasn’t at all. It didn’t affect my understanding of the book. It’s magic incantations. I don’t care what they literally mean.

Taynement: I really feel bad because I really wanted to like this book. That being said,  expect a lot of Nigerians to like it because of the traditions, the language and being able to recognize the geography.

Leggy: Actually, this is one of the reasons this book fell flat for me. I couldn’t use my imagination because these are real places and her setting descriptions didn’t make any sense with the pictures I had in my mind about the real places. Snow in Ibadan? Also, there is so much to explore in Yoruba god mythology that I think she squandered the chance. I feel like she tried hard to use Nigerian settings and culture and put it into a stereotypical American fantasy trope which is probably why Americans will enjoy it more.

Taynement: Speaking of familiarity, I was a little peeved at some names. Not a big deal but why is a guy who lives in Warri called Kwame? What is Tzain and Zellie? Also, what happened to Amari’s mom? We just never heard from her again? I even did a search to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. And did we get an explanation to Inan’s secret?

Leggy: Nope, we never understood why that happened to him in the first place.

Taynement: I came in fully expecting an experience but was left empty.

Leggy: What did you like about this book?

Taynement: The acknowledgements when she said she wrote this to depict the injustices against minorities specifically black people in the US and how they are treated. I liked the metaphor and it made me understand what she was trying to achieve with this book. I really liked the message.

Leggy: I don’t think there was anything that I specifically liked. I’m really grateful to have a fantasy book with black characters, that’s something you rarely see in this genre and this is one of my favorite genres as everybody knows. I think the sequels will be better so I might check them out when they come out. Also, we have to mention that this was the author’s first book, so congratulations to her! Would you recommend this book to anyone?

Taynement: Yeah. I’m curious to see people’s different takes on it and what they liked about it. So, though it wasn’t for me personally, it’s also not a terrible book that I would tell people to stay away from. I gave this book 2 stars on Goodreads.

Leggy: I also gave it 2 stars on Goodreads but I would still definitely recommend this book to other people. I know a lot of people who have personally enjoyed this book and like you said, even though it wasn’t for me, it might be for someone else. Also, the cover of this book is gorgeous so if you want to splurge a little, buy the physical copy.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

“As it fades, I see the truth – in plain sight, yet hidden all along. We are all children of blood and bone. All instruments of vengeance and virtue. This truth holds me close, rocking me like a child in a mother’s arms. It binds me in its love as death swallows me in its grasp.” 

Leggy & Taynement