We Never Asked for Wings

Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of The Language of Flowers has a new book coming out in August. We Never Asked for Wings tells the story of two Mexican families living in California, trying to make ends meet and help their teenaged children live successful lives.

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Letty’s mom raised her kids, but now she’s gone back to Mexico. On her own for the first time, Letty feels helpless and frustrated–what does she know about these two strange humans living in her house? But, she has to do this, so she does. Her son, Alex, is one heck of a smart kid–brilliant, really–so she does everything she can to get him into a better school. His girlfriend, though, is in trouble and he is bound and determined to save her.

We Never Asked for Wings is a gorgeous story–just the kind of thing I love–about finding yourself, strength and love and discovering your passion…with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. And it’s from a different cultural perspective, so that is always interesting for me. Terrifying, too. You’ll want some tissues for comfort towards the end. Or maybe a punching bag…however you handle anxiety.

Diffenbaugh’s second book needs to go on your TBR for sure! It comes out August 18, so mark it on your calendars!

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review.

Les Miserables

One Thousand Four Hundred and Sixty-Three.

That’s how many pages are in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.

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I started this beast on Sunday. It has been a long time since I have conquered a book like this and it was almost as big a battle as the battle Hugo as writing about.

Ok…maybe not that big. But at times it felt like it. Like when we get through the biggest fight scene in the book–the big drama throw down at the barricade–and then we get a dissertation on Paris’ sewers.

No one kills a climax like Victor Hugo. WOMP.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. It’s impossible to read something this massive without having super strong feelings about it. This book is powerful, no way around it. And because I saw the movie musical first, it’s really hard to separate the two in my head. The entire time I was reading it, I was singing the songs. The main characters were their cast, of course. And I was pleased to find out how well the play actually did follow the main plot of the book…

…when we actually got to see the actual main plot of the book.

Here’s the thing about Hugo (or at least Les Mis, as this is my first Hugo):  he is the KING of context. For every 2 books/volumes of plot, there is at least one of scene setting or character building. For instance, before we even get to the storyline, we have to know every single itty bitty detail about the household of the bishop who redeems Jean ValJean. He’s an important character, sure, but a minor one. One we see him, he’s gone from the story. So why do we need to know Old Testament-level detail about his life? And we get that for nearly every single person who is introduced into the book.

You would think this would be a helpful feature in remembering who everyone is. But it’s actually just the opposite. All of the overcharacterization actually made it harder to keep track of the people in my head. It was just too much information. I didn’t realize until the end that Gavroche was the little boy until he took the note from Marius to Jean ValJean during the battle, or that Enjolras was the leader of the rebels. I actually had those two people backwards. Of course, I knew the main people–Jean ValJean, Javert, Cosette, and Marius–because, helloooo, I will never ever forget an Eddie Redmayne character, ever. But the rest is curtained by Hugo’s overwriting.

On the flipside, some of the extra stuff, even if it gets in the way of the story is interesting. Les Mis is as much philosophy as it is fiction. (Great historical fiction–but fiction nonetheless.) Sewer rant aside, there is quite a bit to be gained from diving into Hugo’s studies, even if it does sound like he’s standing on a soap box preaching at the top of his lungs. I also felt like I got much of the French history that I was missing. I want to go back and read parts of it from yesterday because I was not in the mindset to absorb it all and there was so much there that I have been wanting to learn about.

Les Miserables is a hell of a beast, but extremely worthy of my time and effort. I would suggest that if you’re going to try it, clear the other projects off your list.  This isn’t a book that you are going to be able share your reading schedule with, as I learned the hard way. Hugo requires too much focus for that. It’ll go in my reread pile…but not for quite some time.

 

Fulfills PopSugar #47:  A play

Fulfills Boxall #92

The Queen of the Tearling

I’ve mentioned #adultbooklr on this blog before. There are no restrictions, other than you must be over 18, and you must love books. That’s it! We are just a giant book club, really, and there were way more adults on Tumblr than I realized! The idea isn’t to be exclusive–quite the opposite, actually. We have a constant chat on GroupMe, which is fantastic. There’s also a Goodreads group. Check out the Tumblr tag to learn more about it.

Every month we are going to have a club book to read. This was the first, and the choice was The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. I had already read it, but it was back before I started the blog (or right at the beginning), so it didn’t get a review. Perfect opportunity to do another readalong!

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Kelsea grows up isolated in the woods with a pair of surrogate parents in a house full of books and learning. But one day she is torn from that quiet life by a group of soldiers claiming she is the heir to the Tearling throne and they whisk her off to her new kingdom. Suddenly she is supposed to save a whole people from the tyranny of a witch queen!

QOTT is setting up for a series, and I think it does that very well. There is a lot of character development in this first book, so you get the expectation that there will be a lot of action in the upcoming additions. Kelsea is not the usual femme fatale that you see in these heroine roles–she describes herself as plain, short, and out of shape. But when it comes to doing what needs to be done to save her people, she has the guts and inner strength to go the distance. She makes a fantastic role model for young women, in my opinion–she’s an extremely relatable fantasy character.

I’m looking forward to The Invasion of the Tearling, which was just released last month. It’s on my library’s hold list, so as soon as they will give it to me, I’ll let you know what I think!

The Library at Mount Char

Ever since I started interacting on Tumblr, I wished for a better mode of communication with my fellow Booklrs. Tumblr is great for sharing our obsessions, but it really sucks when it comes to actually getting to know people. However, I recently started chatting with a bunch of fellow adult booklrs on GroupMe, and it has been the best platform for all of us to get together. I’ve really gotten to know some great people through the near constant conversations we have every day.

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One of the books that was recommended on the GroupMe chat was The Library at Mount Char. One of the members went on and on about how good it was, so it immediately went to the top of my list. And it just happened to be a Blogging for Books selection this month, so EVEN BETTER!

Library at Mount Char goes immediately to the top of my “weirdest books” list. Goodreads calls it “Neil Gaiman meets Joe Hill,” which is EXACTLY what I was going to call it in my review. Great minds think alike. It’s basically a creation story and a dystopian fell into a mixing bowl together with a dash of horror gore, and then someone mashed it all up.

I’m not even really sure how to summarize it for you. Even the Goodreads description doesn’t really fit. It’s just a really freaking crazy book–one I couldn’t put down, even when I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. More just “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!” There are lions and atomic bombs and a guy who uses blood as shampoo.

I think my head is in a permanent sideways position, and my dreams have been pretty weird the past two nights. This isn’t a book for everyone, you’re either going to love it or hate it. Probably if you’re a big Neil Gaiman fan, you’ll love it. Just….read it at your own risk, that’s all I’m going to say.

 

Blogging for Books provided this book for an unbiased review.

 

One more thing, guys! I am now an Amazon Affiliate, which means if you use my link to make purchases on Amazon, I get a piece of the pie. Doesn’t cost you anything more, but helps me out a bit. Click on the book below to use my link! I’ll be doing this from now on 🙂

The Guilty One

PHEW! Guys, we are safe. The mediocre book thing didn’t turn into a streak. Everything is OK!

*wipes forehead in relief*

It always seems that the best way to break a slump is something uncomplicated. The Guilty One was just the right kind of book for this. Goodreads puts it in the Mystery genre, but I don’t really think it was that mysterious. Mostly it’s just the story of a woman recovering in grief, and moving on from a life where she no longer fits.

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Two families have been through hell and back–the Vacantis, who lost their daughter, and the Isherwoods, whose son is the reason Calla is dead. The trial is over. The boy is in jail.

Ron Isherwood is so ashamed. His wife wants to ramp up another appeal, but his son just wants to wait out his sentence. Ron just wants to bury his head. Or jump off a bridge. He just wants all the attention to go away.

Maris Vacanti just has to get away. She is supposed to visit her sister but never quite makes it that far. Instead, she ends up in Oakland, but it’s just temporary. It’s just a few days, to clear her head. What are her next steps?

The Guilty One is a story about finding yourself after you’ve lost everything. It’s ok to hide and let yourself be broken, but it’s also ok to build yourself back up again. And when you come to, you’re going to be a completely different person.

The way this is listed as a mystery, the title, and the backstory, makes me wonder if this isn’t the story the author set out to write. I wonder if maybe it was supposed to be more about the murder, more about Calla and Kyle, and then the author fell in love with Maris and her struggle instead. I don’t know. I fell in love with Maris too, so I am completely ok with how the story went. However, reading some of the reviews that are out there, I think that those looking for the mystery plotline are going to be disappointed. That’s really my only criticism, I’d change the genre and description. Otherwise, great book!

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Will be released August 11.

 

Fear Nothing

Wow I am just on a roll here, aren’t I? My friends from the Adult Booklr Chat have been talking about book slumps and how they can’t find anything interesting to read…and I sure hope they aren’t rubbing off on me!

Another mediocre book, dammit. This was one that we had on our shelves. I’m not sure who’s collection it came from, but it’s one we’ve had since we got together. I’ve not read much from Dean Koontz–I think one of his Odd Thomas collection, but that was years and years ago. People have told me I’d like him, due to my love affair with the edge of my seat.

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Fear Nothing just didn’t do much for me. I felt like it was a story I had heard before–genetics experiment gone wrong and ruins town. Scientists destroy themselves and try to cover up the evidence.

I did like the main character, Chris Snow, or Snowman, a young man with a rare genetic disorder who recently lost both of his parents and is stuck living in the dark. However, I feel that the backstory is insufficiently built. I think we need a prologue maybe–something where his other introduces Orson, his beloved, but slightly extraordinary, black lab. Or perhaps the day she has her accident. SOMETHING to lead up to what is happening in the down. I just feel that is severely lacking and may help to provide some OOMPH to the plot.

Hopefully I can find something interesting in the next one. Please don’t let this be a slump! Not during Readathon Week!

The Heart of the Matter

Some reviews just seem to write themselves. Those are the fun one, both for me to write, and hopefully for you to read.

And then there are reviews like this one, where I just stare at the blinking cursor for what seems like hours. Sigh…

This happens when I neither liked nor disliked the book. Strong feelings make for great reviews. But mediocre books make for mediocre reviews–what in the world do I say about books I have no emotion for?

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The Heart of the Matter is one such book. It was next up on the Boxall’s list, so it hit my TBR this weekend. And really, it wasn’t awful. I just don’t have any real emotion about it.

It’s about a police officer, Scobie, in a small West African town, torn apart by war. His wife is ashamed when he is passed over for a commission, so she whines until he sends her to South Africa–with money borrowed from a skeezy diamond mogul. While she’s gone he has an affair with a shipwrecked widow.

It’s very 1950 dramatic. Which is to say…bland for today’s audience. The officers are all white men who have “boys” as servants, and drink pink gin and scotch. Again, it’s just one of those “literatures” that has probably been on a must read list for decades and it’s just not really relevant anymore. *meh*

 

Fulfills Boxall #91

Trust No One

The key ingredient in any thriller is the psychopath. The dark, twisted pathways of his brain drive the plot and keep us up at night.

Normally the thrills in a thriller are deliberate. That instinct that forces the monster to plan his next move and torture his victims is what makes the book so exciting to us (because let’s face it, we are pretty twisted gluttons ourselves, aren’t we?). My favorite part is trying to figure out what the heck is going on inside his head, trying to guess his next move.

But what happens when the killer doesn’t remember killing?

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Paul Cleave plots out one of the most thrilling thrillers I’ve ever read with just that situation, in Trust No One.

Successful crime novelist Jerry Grey’s career is cut short by early-onset Alzheimer’s. He keeps escaping from the nursing home and losing time. When his daughter picks him up, she acts very strange about her mother, something just isn’t right. In fact, no one is acting right towards Jerry. Apparently a woman was found dead at the same time Jerry was gone and he is suspected of the murder. Why? He’s just an sick old man! Because, Jerry, you shot your wife. She’s dead. That’s why you are in a nursing home. You were out of your mind, and you have no memory of it.

Thus is the basis of one of the craziest thrillers I have ever read. It is an emotional roller coaster! Three women, besides Jerry’s wife, are dead. Who killed them? Jerry insists that he did not. He would remember, right? But all the evidence points to him. And he is a crime writer with very elaborate plans and getaways laid out in his books. He cannot account for hours of time, and he has been disappearing. His pseudonym has become almost a split personality, a devil on his shoulder that he can’t get away from.

Cleave has written one hell of a creative novel. It doesn’t come out until August 4, so mark your calendars. This one isn’t necessarily a scary or bloody thriller. It’s more about the utter mindfuck that is going on. Where do you put your sympathy? Who do you trust?

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Released Aug. 4.

Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Brace yourselves. A hate review is coming.

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I’m not kidding. I hated Tess of the d’Urbervilles. But it’s the kind of hate that makes me want to finish the book just so I can continue to loathe everything the characters do just that much longer.

This is no superficial hate either. Gah, I can hardly write this summary with out getting angry:

Tess is a beautiful young girl in a rural English family, but due to their financial situation she must visit their rich kin for help. While there, she meets a predator of a cousin who becomes obsessed with her. Long story short, he rapes her while taking her home. She gets pregnant, the baby gets sick, dies. This woman cannot catch a break at all, so she leaves town and gets a job as a milk maid, falls in love and gets married. Happy ending right? You’d think that. WRONG. When the husband finds out about her past (because while she had tried over and over to tell him, he refused to her about her “faults” until after the wedding) he runs away to Brazil because he is so disgusted.

I. WANT. TO. SLAP. EVERYONE. IN. THIS. DAMN. BOOK.

Except maybe Tess. There are times when I’d get frustrated with her for not standing up for herself, but who knows how I would handle her situation?

Look up SKEEZY in the dictionary and Tess of the d’Urbervilles is the definition. Seriously. Alec d’Urberville gets to just go his merry little way and become a priest and be absolved. He even comes back later in the book and resumes torturing Tess AND blames her for his evil perversions because she’s so goddamn gorgeous he can’t help himself. BOOFUCKINGHOO. He tells her to put her veil back on because her lips are too red, her something like that. He stalks her at work, begs her to go away with him even though she’s already married, and he’s a pastor! Meanwhile, her employer encourages her to run away with this creepy bastard, and her friends, who know she’s already married look on.

Look up VICTIM BLAMING in the dictionary, and Tess of d’Urbervilles is there too. Her mother is the biggest culprit. She all but shames Tess out of town. Telling her to keep quiet about what happened, because she got herself into this mess. Meanwhile, Tess is flabbergasted as to why no one ever told her that men could be that way, that she had to watch out for evil bastards like Alec. The guilt follows her all her life, so much so that when she meets her husband, she constantly feels the need to tell him about her past, but knows as soon as she does the relationship will be over. Right up until the wedding she tries to tell him, and then he starts telling her “No, I want to hear nothing until after we are married that will ruin my ideal of the beautiful you.” And then, when she finally does, what does he do but FREAK THE HELL OUT. Of course he does. He freaks the hell out all the way to Brazil, even so much as to invite one of her best friends to go with him. See also, above, where predator Alec blames her for her own rape. Just, GROSS.

The other thing that really bothered me is that the book doesn’t even TELL us what happened to her, or the conversation with her husband. It’s censored. It skipped from Alec coming up on her asleep in the woods to Tess having a sick baby. The only clue was the chapter titles, one about her being a maiden, and the next was “Maiden No More.” I had to wiki it just to find out if I was right! And we don’t actually know what she told Angel Clare (husband) so Tess could have completely blamed herself (it would have been in her character’s guilty conscience profile to do so), but since we have no context…who knows?

And then the ending. Well. Of course I hated it. It’s not that I thought it should have ended happily (although it kind of does in a twisted way) but it was just exactly the wrong kind of ending.

OH! One last thing. Alec KNOWS Angel’s father! Mr. Clare is an extremely religious man. The entire damn time Alec is ranting about how he converted to priesthood, he’s talking about Mr. Clare and how he brought him to God and made him see the errors of his ways. I’m over here jumping and waving like heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey! At some point, the connection has to be made, right? Alec is going to talk to his friend Mr. Clare about Tess, and he’s going to realize this gigantic rapist he helped save is the one who ruined his daughter-in-law, right? And he’ll tell his son? NOPE. What a waste of a Kevin Bacon 7 degrees connection. What was the point of it? If you’re going to throw in something like that, USE IT.

SIGHHHHHHHHHHHH.

Ok. Rant over. I think I’ve exhausted everything I can from this book. That was fun though. What’s next?

 

Fulfills Boxall’s #90

Trollhunters

Trolls get a pretty bad rep in the fantasy world. They are dumb, slow, dirty, mean. Really the only likeable trolls I have ever seen have been in Frozen…I’ve yet to see Boxtrolls, so maybe those are ok too. But for the most part, trolls are pretty foul creatures.

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The mind of Guillermo del Toro is a wild and crazy place, so when I saw he had a new book coming out, I jumped at the chance to read it. I was not disappointed.

There’s something afoot in San Bernadino. It begins in 1967 when hundreds of kids go missing suddenly. Then, just as soon as it began, it stopped. Now, it’s starting again. Jim, whose dad has always been afraid of his own shadow, is starting to wonder about those bumps in the night. But when those “bumps” come for him, he finds out they are actually recruiting him to help save the town from the real problem–the Voldemort of the troll world. He had been defeated in 1967, but now he’s back, and seriously pissed off.

Trollhunters is no sophisticated novel, my friends, but the kids are going to love it. It’s akin to Goosebumps and Gremlins, and everything wonderful about middle school horror from the 80s and 90s. Deliciously ridiculous and just enough cheese and slime. Put this in the hands of a 10 year old and they will not come out of their room until it is finished. It’s one of those books that you just expect to find on a library shelf in worn paperback–I mean, did the Goosebumps books ever actually look pristine, or did they just come off the printer torn and dirty?

I’m not sure if del Toro has plans for a movie on this one. 2015 is almost too high quality for it. It needs to be on a fuzzy VHS tape. You’ll know what I mean when you read it.

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Published June 30.