Saturday, January 30, 2016

REVIEW: It's Only Rock 'n Roll

It's Only Rock 'n Roll: 30 Years Married to a Rolling Stone by Jo Wood
Completed 1/28/16
Fulfills 2016 Popsugar Challenge #35: An autobiography
Rating: 3 out of 5

I didn't have particularly high expectations for this book, but I did enjoy it to a certain extent. On a personal level, I had some issues with the author's behavior, but I'm trying not to judge that here in this review. I do admire that she didn't hold back on details that didn't necessarily paint her in the best light, and some of her anecdotes were pretty hilarious. On a writing level, the book would have benefited from better editing/proofreading. 

I'm only a casual fan of the Rolling Stones, but I liked reading about them and their entourage and chaotic lifestyle. I didn't know anything about the author's husband, Ronnie Wood (guitarist), prior to reading the book. I like Keith Richards better now. Mick Jagger didn't really figure in the book much. I also think a UK audience might like the book better than I did since they might have more knowledge of the author firsthand (she was a contestant on the UK equivalent of Dancing with the Stars). 

What mainly irritated me, besides grammatical issues and personal things, was that she had a habit of ending chapters with very heavy-handed foreshadowing. I suppose this was to make the reader excited to keep reading to find out the juicy details to come, but it had the opposite effect on me. I could have simply chalked it up to novice writing and forgiven it if it only happened once or twice, but it happened SEVERAL times. A good editor should have done something about this. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tuesday Talks: Upcoming Releases

The Tuesday Talks topic for this week is new releases!

In chronological order, here's the top 5 books I'm eagerly anticipating for 2016:

The Witches of Cambridge by Menna Van Praag
Expected Publication Date: 2/9/16
What It's About: A group of professors, who all happen to be witches, and their misadventures in romance
Why I'm Excited:  She had me at "Cambridge University Society of Literature and Witchcraft."  I love a good witchy tale, and magical realism in general is fun!

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Expected Publication Date: 3/1/16
What It's About: YA mystery focusing on the contemporary descendants of Holmes and Watson (first in a trilogy)
Why I'm Excited:  Such a cool concept and early reviews look great!  And I love female sleuths.

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
Expected Publication Date: 3/1/16
What It's About: Psychological thriller about women on the run
Why I'm Excited:  I love the light-hearted Spellman Files mystery series from this author, and I'm interested to see what she will do with darker material.  This also looks like it will fulfill the "road trip" prompt in the Popsugar Reading Challenge.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
Expected Publication Date: 5/24/16
What It's About: A coming of age story about a young woman working in a renowned New York restaurant
Why I'm Excited:  This is described as Kitchen Confidential meets The Devil Wears Prada.  In other words, it should be juicy, and I always like a good coming of age story.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Expected Publication Date: 11/8/16
What It's About: Alice in Wonderland prequel that tells the story of the Queen of Hearts before she became the Queen of Hearts
Why I'm Excited:  Cath, a.k.a. the Queen of Hearts, looks like a fun, strong heroine, and I know the pages will turn quickly.

Friday, January 22, 2016

REVIEW: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy #1)
Completed 1/21/16
Fulfills 2016 Popsugar Challenge #26: A book and its prequel (along with The Demon in the Wood)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Shadow and Bone may be my favorite book of January. I love the "world" of this novel! It manages to be both unique and familiar (based on Russia), and the magic system is really fun and intriguing.

I'm not quite as drawn to Alina as, say, Katniss or Tris, but I do like her as heroine/narrator. She's kind of a girl-next-door with magical powers. I'm hoping to see some more character development for her in the rest of the series.

The mesmerizing quality of the Darkling is what really made the book interesting for me. He seems quite complex even though we only see him through Alina's eyes. (The Demon in the Wood provides a short, interesting back-story to this character.) 

I liked that Shadow and Bone does not end on a huge cliff-hanger. Even in a series, I think there should be a conclusion to a novel, and the author has just enough wrap-up to be satisfying while leaving me eager to read the next book and find out how the conflicts play out. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tuesday Talks: 2016 Challenges

This week's Tuesday Talks topic is the challenges you plan to participate in this year.

  • My main challenge, like last year, is the Popsugar Reading Challenge which lasts the full year.  This year, it has been shortened to 40 prompts with a total of 41 books.  Download a printable checklist!

    The full list of what I plan to read for each category is here.  I may switch out some of the books depending on my mood.  So far, I have read 4 already!
  • I will probably participate in R.I.P. Challenge XI this fall.  I participated in this challenge a couple times several years back and am excited to return to it.  This challenge runs through September and October and focuses on scary/creepy reads.  (It used to be hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings, but it appears that The Estella Society is now hosting.)
Just these two will probably keep me busy enough, but I'm definitely open to others!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

REVIEW: Postcards from the Edge (spoiler)

Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
Completed 1/15/16
Fulfills 2016 Popsugar Challenge #15: A book written by a celebrity
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


I picked up this book in honor of the new Star Wars release since it's written by none other than Princess Leia herself.

I've heard of the movie of the same title but haven't seen it. I was under the impression that the book would be mostly about the drug use of the main character (Suzanne) and her conflicted relationship with her mother. The book actually takes place after Suzanne has stopped doing drugs and, to my pleasant surprise, she does not relapse. Her mother is barely in the book at all. Indeed she is pretty much on her own in the world. 

The first third of the book is actually set primarily in the drug rehab and alternates points-of-view between Suzanne and another patient, Alex, who does relapse. If you ever watched Celebrity Rehab on VH1, you will probably enjoy this part of the book. I've never used drugs and after this book I certainly don't want to, but I feel the descriptions were excellent and really put the reader in the mindset of an addict.

The remaining two-thirds of the book follow Suzanne as she attempts to function sober and navigate the world of dating and finding work as a an actress. It really surprised me how much I identified with Suzanne even though her situation is totally different than anything I've experienced. I feel that I would have similar reactions if I were put in her situation, and I struggle with similar feelings. I loved the sarcastic humor too. 

The only reason I'm deducting a half-star for the book is for the ending. Even though I was rooting for Suzanne to get her life together all the way along, I felt everything was tied up a little too neatly. For instance, of the five or so characters who were introduced at the rehab, all but one were given glowing happy endings, which I didn't feel was necessarily realistic. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tuesday Talks: Bookish Resolutions!

I'm happy to be participating in the Tuesday Talks meme for the first time!  Check out the group on Goodreads for more information.

This week's topic is bookish resolutions for 2016.

  • Become active in the Internet book community.  I hope to post regularly on this blog and venture into the world of Booktube.  I'd like to shoot for at least 2 blog posts and/or videos a week.  I also want to reach out to others and hopefully make some new friends.  This will be the most difficult part for me since I struggle with shyness.
  • Attain my Goodreads reading goal for the first time since 2011.  I tend to have reading bursts then reading slumps, and I'd like to find some more consistency.  This year my reading goal is 41 which coincides with the 2016 Popsugar Reading Challenge.
  • Read more new releases.  I want to be able to participate in the discussion of the popular books that everyone seems to be talking about.
  • Renew my library card.  It's been an embarrassingly long time since I've been in a physical library.  
  • Let go of books that are just clogging up space.  Sometimes I buy a book with every intention of reading it, but after the initial excitement of buying it passes, it ends up sitting on my shelf for years.  I also want to donate/sell/lend out books that I've already read and don't plan to re-read.  Also, I won't accept books from friends or relatives unless I'm genuinely interested in reading them in the immediate future.    
  • Participate in at least one read-a-thon!

MINI-REVIEW: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine's #1)
Completed 1/11/16
Fulfills 2016 Popsugar Reading Challenge #11: A book that's becoming a movie this year
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This book was a pleasant surprise. I didn't know much about it before I started (I deliberately didn't read the back cover), and I'm glad I didn't. I'm also glad I read it in physical form instead of as an ebook since the pictures in it were intriguing.

I was extremely impressed with the writing in this book. Jacob was an engaging narrator, the atmosphere of the book was pleasantly creepy, plot points were not predictable. 

I do wish it were a stand-alone where the conflict could be resolved on the island during this book and not dragged out into a trilogy. The setting of the book was my favorite part, and it appears that the two subsequent books will be located elsewhere. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

REVIEW: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Completed 1/7/16
Fulfills 2016 Popsugar Challenge #6: A book translated to English
Rating: 3 out of 5

I'm really conflicted about this book. My expectations were high, and I wanted to love it and find it extremely useful. I wanted to.

I do feel this book has *some* decent advice, most of which could be summed up in about one chapter of approximately 10 pages. The rest of the book is primarily filler and repetition when I wanted more practical examples, exercises, checklists, etc. 

The author spends entirely too much time making sweeping generalizations about what works for her real-life, in-person clients. By saying things similar to "this works for everyone" and "it never results in rebound," it actually makes her methods less credible, at least to me, and gives the effect of being an extended sales pitch to a passive audience (the readers). 

In addition, she ascribes human emotions/thoughts/feelings to inanimate objects. This came as quite a surprise to me (I didn't read reviews before picking up this book). Perhaps this a cultural difference or something was altered in translation, but I can see how it makes the book slightly difficult to take seriously. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Cinder by Marissa Meyer (The Lunar Chronicles #1)
Completed 1/5/16
Fulfills 2016 Popsugar Challenge #7: A romance set in the future
Rating: 4 out of 5

Why did I wait so long to read this book? The description was completely unappealing to me. Cinderella as a cyborg mechanic? No thanks!

Well, I finally caved in to all the positive buzz I've heard for this series, and I have to say that I'm glad I did.

Even though I saw the twist coming a mile (or two) away, the writing was still engaging enough to keep me glued to the book. Cinder is a well fleshed-out character (no pun intended), and the "world" of the novel is unique but easy to understand. I especially loved the moments of Cinder's sarcastic humor, and the chemistry between Cinder and Prince Kai is cute. Adri (stepmother) and Pearl (stepsister) are pretty flat characters, but then again, they are pretty flat in the original fairy tale as well. 

I was a little disappointed to discover that this book really won't stand alone; I was under the impression that each book in the series was only loosely connected (each re-telling a different fairy tale but set in the same "world"). However, I guess now I'm committed to reading the full series to find out what's going to happen.