The Invasion of the Tearling

I’ve committed the ultimate blogging sin. The one, huge habit that I have had to stop doing since starting I Lay Reading.

My number one rule:  DO NOT FINISH THE BOOK RIGHT BEFORE BED.

Crap.

Why is this so terrible? I used to do this all the time–the finality of it meant I could fall instantly to sleep. Ahhh but therein lies the problem. When I finish a book, I blog it immediately (or, if I cannot get to a computer, then I at least write down a pretty detailed outline), so that my thoughts and feelings are fresh and vibrant.

Going to sleep between finishing and blogging basically smothers those feels with my pillow. My brain is sluggish and sleepy. No matter how much I loved the book (or hated it), I just never feel as good about what I have to say.

In fact…all of this is just procrastination because I didn’t know how to get started…

22698568

We recently read The Queen of the Tearling for the #adultbooklr Book Club in July, and I was so looking forward to the second book. It seemed like everyone jumped right into The Invasion of the Tearling and loved it even more than the QOTT, so I was dying for the library to catch up to me on the hold queue.

My coreaders were not wrong. I really enjoyed QOTT, and IOTT just builds upon the series. Book 1’s setting is a little mysterious–is it medieval fantasy? Is it the future? What is The Crossing? We know there was America, and they are in something called New Europe, but where are they really?

In Book 2, Kelsea’s character and magic really develop, as does the whole background of the dystopian set up. Through Kelsea’s fugues, we get to see what happened pre-Crossing–who the Tear characters are, what happened to America, what the Crossing was. There’s also quite a lot of character development among the other main and secondary characters as well.

I really liked QOTT for what it was, but I know some people thought the writing not complex enough, or that it spends too much time building up to nothing. IOTT builds on everything that QOTT lays out. Don’t give up on Kelsea just yet, I encourage you to read the second book. It’s worth it.

 

Buy Here:

Armada

There’s no getting around it. I am a HUGE geek. We all know this. Ready Player One appealed to that part of me 100%. It was such a fantastic first book for Ernest Cline that everyone I know has been talking nonstop about the release of his second book, Armada. It’s been one of the loudest releases I’ve seen in recent history–maybe because it not only spanned Booklr, but also most of Nerddom.

16278318

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to wait to get my hands on this one. No way. And, as luck would have it, I didn’t even have to buy it. The wonderful folks at Blogging for Books put it on their list of availables. Thank you BfB! This is certainly one of the most beautiful books I will have in my collection this year (the only one beating it is the Bloomsbury UK Harry Potter Collection, and well…nothing is going to top that). I couldn’t wait to tear into this thing.

And then I started seeing the reviews. The very lackluster, unenthusiastic reviews.

Oh no.

Oh…no…

Maybe it’ll be ok. Maybe it’s just because Ready Player One was just SO good, this sophomore book isn’t quite living up to that standard. I’ll try to keep an open mind and go into it not comparing it to the first.

I quickly learned that 1) It’s impossible to not compare it to Ready Player One. and 2)…

…I really want to just post this as my review and walk away:

But, I owe you more than that. So brace yourselves.

The key difference between the two books, is that in RP1, you’re actually in the game, you’re living the action. It’s extremely dynamic and you can almost feel the bright color and warmth of the digital world. But Armada isn’t like that. It’s just a sad, ambitionless, video game obsessed high school kid stuck in front of a screen. It’s not dynamic. There’s no action. Picture yourself on a hot, summer Saturday, laid out on your buddy’s bed eating Cheetos while he plays XBOX for hours…and you watch with nothing to do. That’s about what this book is like compared to RP1.

Sounds fun, right? Yeah, I almost didn’t make it past the first 40 pages because of that. To be honest, the only reason I kept going, was because on page 45, Ernest Cline made a Leeroy Jenkins reference that finally made me laugh.

The good news–the plot does strengthen after awhile. A bit. There’s a super secret government agency tasked to save the world from an alien invasion, and has been training the world’s teenagers to fight via video games. It’s now finally time for the war to begin.

(What I found really amusing in all this is that I’m pretty sure I had a few of these exact conspiracy conversations with my ex and his friends. Even more amusing…that’s where my love of the Leeroy Jenkins meme came from.)

Maybe it’s just too soon after RP1, or maybe RP1 was just that great–but Armada just seems forced. My head was ready to explode from all the space game references that were packed in like Skywalker twins in a trash compactor. It reads like a publisher said, “Quick! We need another book!” And Cline ran off with all of this geeky obsessionness and just threw together every space reference he had. It was that first, plot second, character development last. Don’t get me wrong, I love geeky obsessions, but we need more plot points and sentence structure, before being bombarded by lasers.

I had a conversation with a new friend of mine the other night about books with unlikely characters, or unbelievable plots, and how they will ruin a book. Now, I read a lot of fantasy and some science fiction. My mind is stretchable, I have quite a big imagination. Whether I believe in aliens or not, it is the author’s job to MAKE me believe in his aliens for the span of 300 pages. In RP1, Ernest Cline made me believe that I was inside of a computerized AI system. Unfortunately, his sophomore book fell way short of that. In his epilogue, his narrator says, “This human understands enough to know when he’s being messed with.” And that is exactly how I felt the entire time I was reading Armada. I could not suspend my disbelief, and so the book never resonated with me. And when the end hit, well, it’s just a good thing the book is so pretty, or there would be a dent in the wall.

Also…understand that I’m sitting here cringing because this is probably one of my most brutal reviews given to someone still living. I’m not sure I could have done it if he wouldn’t have written such a strong first book. I’m just so disappointed in this second book…and I don’t think I’m the only one. Ernest Cline, if you’re out there…keep writing. Keep being your damn geeky self, and bring us more! We will wait!

Blogging for Books provided a copy of this book for an unbiased review.

In a Dark, Dark Wood

Bachelorette Parties.

Everyone has a story about one, don’t we? There’s even movies about them now. That one last weekend of drunken madness before the wedding.

Usually those stories are laughable–who kissed the most random guys at the bar, or who drank a few too many shots and ended up with their skirt outside of their panties. Oops!

But every once in awhile…Bachelorette Parties–or Hen Nights–can turn quite ugly.

23346377

Ruth Ware writes about one such Hen Night way out In a Dark, Dark Wood. Nora finds out her high school best friend is getting married, and while she isn’t invited to the wedding (strange), she is invited to the party (stranger). She’s curious enough to join in, mostly to find out what exactly is going on with Clare and why she suddenly wants to get back in touch. Instead of the fun, girly weekend she expects, however, it turns into a horrific nightmare.

From the beginning, Ware sets up the suspense by making Nora out to be slightly unstable. We don’t know exactly what happened in her past until the end, so she comes across as more than a little neurotic. The tension between the two ex-friends builds layer upon layer, and she also uses flash-forward plot separations to really beef up the upcoming thrill.

When you get drunk on Hen Night, secrets come out. And bad things can happen when they do. Lucky for us…those bad things make great books. It’s released today, so go check it out!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases on July 30.

WWW Wednesday 7/29/2015

IMG_1384-0

 

 

What are you currently reading?

Armada by Ernest Cline

For Study:  The Ramayana by Ramesh Menon

 

What did you just finish reading?

 

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (Review Tomorrow)

The Good Earth by Pearl Buck

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

A Room with a View by EM Forster

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

 

The Good Earth

Today we are shooting across the globe to China and reading about yet another culture I haven’t spent much time in. I’m so glad to be opening my world up beyond the normal White America that is so prevalent in publishing.

I’m thinking about doing an Around the World challenge–reading a book from every country. Does anyone know of any “Map My Books” apps or websites? I have what I want in my head but I’m not sure if they are out there. I’d really like a way to track the books I’ve read from outside of the US in certain places, and maybe look up books in countries I’ve not read yet. Not sure if anything like that exists.

Just brainstorming. May be a challenge I’ll put together for 2016–and that’s still a ways away. Hmmmmm…..

Aaaaannnyyyywayyyyy….Back to China.

1078

The Good Earth takes place in the late 1800s-mid 1900s in mostly northern China. Wang Lung starts his adult life as a poverty-stricken farmer living with his old, grumpy father. He wants a wife, so he skimps a few coins to buy an ugly (but not pock-marked) slave from a rich family in town. She becomes his life-long friend and companion, not only giving him many children, but because of her help in the fields, they are able to grow the farm to success–with a few struggles along the way, of course.

I loved the first half of this book. It’s almost a Fiddler on the Roof kind of love story (OK, so I MAY have watched that episode of Gilmore Girls last night where Kirk is in an elementary play.). They don’t start by loving each other, but they work next to each other in the fields, hardly talking, gaining mutual respect, and it’s a marriage. It’s a hard life, but a seemingly happy one. O-lan supports his constant yearning for landownership and never pushes him towards material things. It’s a simple life that they both want.

But, something breaks in Wang Lung after the first famine, when they have to go south, I think. After they get back, he immediately starts gaining new land and capital, and is never the same. When he realizes how rich he is, and above the Old Lord, his ego overcomes him and his life just goes downhill from there. The more “successful” he is, the less fulfilled he becomes.

I did have to remind myself a few times that this is a different culture, and so things like concubines and sons getting education over working in the fields were normal. But I was so frustrated for O-lan. And I did not always understand the dynamic between Wang Lung and his uncle.

Really, I think my main takeaway is just that you don’t always need to be rich in order to have a full life. Oh, and Chinese farm wives are badass. That too. O-lan, you’re pretty much my hero right now. “Just bring me a sharp reed, and stay out.”

Ok, O-lan, whatever you say, O-lan.

 

Fulfills PopSugar #18:  A Pulitzer Prize-winning book

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Ever since high school,  I have avoided Shakespeare like the plague. I think everyone reads Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet in school–it’s pretty much a requirement worldwide. Some unwritten teacher rule. We also did a huge poetry segment in my AP English class, so of course the sonnets were in there. *shudder* I HATE the sonnets. All that Iambic Pentameter and rhyming and perfect structure. I am much more of a free verse poet.

But, EVERYONE knows William Shakespeare. He’s just the Greatest, capital G. And I’m using a lot of heavy sarcasm here, because frankly…I just never really understood why he was so Great, capital G. Ok, he wrote a lot of stuff, and it was all really fancy. But mostly it’s just really hard to read, and that means it’s all terribly interpreted. (Hello, guys, Romeo & Juliet is NOT the world’s gift to love stories.)

Now, though, it’s time to start opening myself up to the things I have been putting off. And that means, yes, even Shakespeare. grumblegrumblegrumble.

1622

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually didn’t hate A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It also wasn’t as difficult to understand and follow as I expected. If you don’t know the premise, essentially there are four young people in Athens. Hermia is supposed to marry Demetrius but is in love with Lysander. They decide to run away together, and tell Helena. They think she’ll keep their secret, because she’s been scorned by Demetrius, who she loves. But, she tells him, trying to win his affection. Demetrius follows, with Helena at his tail. The forest fairies intervene, and chaos ensues.

I liked all of that plot. The fae were funny and obnoxious, as they should be. The lovers predictably ridiculous. What I didn’t understand was the whole second plot–the playmakers. What the heck was that all about? Bottom is an ass (ok I get the joke there, William), but I just did not get it. Was it just to make dirty/satirical jokes at the end?

I haven’t looked up Sparknotes to try and figure this stuff out yet. It’s late as I’m writing this up, so maybe I’ll look into it more tomorrow. However, I definitely have more of an open mind about Shakespeare’s plays now, and may have to go back and reread Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet now. Perhaps I’ll be able to follow them more easily. I still hate the sonnets though. Those are not Great, capital G.

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.

24041443

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.