Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

For months I’ve been seeing this beautiful blue starry cover across Tumblr, and a gazillion Booklrs raving about (what I thought) was a pair of philosophers falling in love. I rarely read Goodreads reviews before adding a book to my TBR–I tend to just jump in to the story, preferring to discover along the way. My library never had it available, but they finally released the audiobook to me, and I am so glad they did. I think it was almost better in that format probably!

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I quickly learned that this wasn’t about the two ancient philosophers at all, but two teenage Mexican boys living in the desert city of El Paso. I generally can only read audiobooks while doing something–chores or walking–so falling in love with this story motivated me to walk more often! Except guys, it damned near broke my heart! Do you know how hard it is to keep pace while crying? I’m sure I got some weird looks on the trail.

Ari and Dante’s friendship is completely beautiful. For those of you who haven’t heard of this book before–it isn’t just a coming of age story, it’s also a coming out story. It’s powerful, sad, happy, scary. About every emotion you can have, you will have it while reading this book. A must read this year, absolutely.

And if you like audiobooks, definitely listen to this one. The narration is extremely well done!

 

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.

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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.

Ready Player One

My husband and I are both geeks in our own rights, but we don’t geek in the same way. I am books, he is movies. I grew up in the 90s, and he is all 80s. Needless to say, our references just do not match up most of the time. We do a lot of side cocked glances at each other.

Every other day there is another movie he is referencing, then despairing because I have not seen it. Not only was I not born for most of his favorites–I also grew up in an all girl house, so even the 90s movies I really didn’t watch. We watched Disney movies and chick flicks, instead of the cult/geek classics.

However, my love of all things geek pushes me to absorb as much pop culture as possible. And so, the longer we are together, the more of his movies I am taking in. I watched the Ghostbusters a few weeks ago, that was interesting. Jurassic Park happened for obvious reasons (mmmm Jeff Goldblum). Jaws is next on the list. The references are coming!

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I need to get him to read Ready Player One. This is exactly the kind of book R would love. It has every single 80s reference imaginable–movies, music, games–ESPECIALLY games. The whole thing is set in a futuristic MMO world. I didn’t get most of the references made, but the way everything was set up, I just loved the geek. I understand why this book is making the rounds!

It’s a little Big Brotherish, with the IOI swooping in to take over everything. However, I really liked some of the concepts–especially the online school set up. The enthusiasm of the teachers, and the technology-based curriculum just sounded really amazing. One thing I do want to question here though–Parzival’s schooling just kind of drops off. At the beginning he’s worried about the consequences of being expelled, and then after the game starts ramping up, he just stops showing up. There are no repercussions, and no one from school seems to miss him. We just forget that he left in the middle of the school year.

This isn’t the first book I’ve read in this type of MMO situation. I read James Dashner’s The Eye of Minds and was not impressed at all. It had a similar concept–teenage boy hacking/moving around in a computer simulation and trying to beat the evil corporation. Ready Player One, published two years previous, is definitely the stronger book. Maybe it is just more fun, with the gaming concept and geek references. It’s a bit more lighthearted of a YA novel, than Dashner’s conspiracy dystopia. There is definitely a comparison to be drawn though.

Have you read them both? Do you have a preference?

WWW Wednesday 7/1/2015

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What are you currently reading?

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

For Study:  The Ramayana by Ramesh Menon

 

What did you just finish reading?

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Review up tomorrow)

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E Reichert

The Flying Circus by Susan Crandall

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Trust No One by Paul Cleave

Tess of the D’Urbevilles by Thomas Hardy

 

Goldengrove

I like thrillers, right? I like to be creeped out.

But there is scary horror psychological thriller creepy…

…and then there is legit sexual predator “all my hair standing on end because this person is just not right” creepy. Sometimes it’s a fine line, but there is a difference. One gives me goosebumps. The other makes me want to puke.

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At first, Goldengrove is just sad. It’s a book about grieving and healing. The oldest daughter in a family of four has a heart condition, and dies suddenly, leaving her younger sister and parents to mourn.

Pretty simple premise for a book, really. The dad buries himself in his work, mom finds solace in pain medication for her arthritis. Unfortunately, that leaves the 13 year old daughter without much of a support system, and so the only other friend she has is her sister’s boyfriend, Aaron, who is also grieving.

The problem is that Nico looks so much like her sister that Aaron’s grief becomes very confusing. He starts asking of Nico some pretty creepy things. Small requests at first, but they get bigger and bigger.

As an adult, looking in from the outside, I was screaming at her to stop. But it was like that frog in a pot of slowly heating water. She didn’t realize what was happening until it was boiling over. To be honest, I’m not sure Aaron did either (although his response does make me hesitate on that), but it was still just…creepy. *shudder*

The book itself wasn’t bad. The writing was great, to be honest–and obviously I had a very real emotional response to it. It’s one of those books that I don’t know how I feel about it. I can’t say it’s a “good” book, because the emotional response I’m having is not a good feeling. But it is a well written one. It’s a book that probably should be read, for awareness and emotion, something like reading All the Rage, just go into it knowing that it’s not going to be entertainment or relaxing.

Fangirl

Ever since Rainbow Rowell came onto my radar, I have been dying to read Fangirl. The very title screams HALEY YOU MUST READ ME!

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But, for one reason or another, this book has eluded me. The library holds are always astronomical, no surprise there. And of course it is NEVER on a used book store shelf. I mean, who in their right mind would ever give this one up?

No, my only option was to buy new. So when Rowell announced the Special Edition preorders 6 months ago…oh yes. I am pretty sure I ordered my copy that same day.

And a few weeks ago, I received my very own bubblegum pink copy. This was one of those moments when my husband just looked at me like “Why the hell is she screaming?”

This is the same man who gets excited over socks.

But I digress.

WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THIS WAS DRARRY FANFICTION?!?!?!

I mean, I should have expected it. I do follow Rainbow Rowell on Twitter. But, YES. Now I understand why everyone is so excited for Carry On to come out!

If you can’t tell by all the capitals in this post…I loved this book. You know…just in case. I figured I’d tell ya. Cath–she’s me, circa 2005. Completely introverted, no social skills outside of my small town universe, and a new roommate. I am not sure I was never not anxious in the dorm diners, and parties? Those were terrifying. So yep, I get Cath 100%. I’m pretty sure she even looks like me, with her glasses and her hair always pulled up.

When I write these reviews I’m always overanalyzing the plots and characters…but there’s nothing for me to criticize here really. I am going to have a major book hangover after this one. It’s the kind of book that you’re rereading in your head while you’re cutting melon in the kitchen. I know that, because that happened earlier this evening. I was CRAVING this story after my walk, but I had to get the melon breakdown out of the way first. (Damn dieting.)

I’m sure this is considered New Adult Romance, maybe Young Adult Romance, something along those lines. But it also deals with bipolar disorder, depression, alcoholism, divorce, anxiety. I’m sure I’m missing some important theme on the list. My point is, this is not fluff, though it is a book that is “easy” to read. By that I mean you will be immediately transported into Nebraska and Cath’s world, and you’ll forget about everything else.

Yes yes, yes yes, yes yes yes.

Under the Lights

As promised, I HAD to continue the Daylight Falls saga. There was just no way I could continue with anything else knowing I had that book sitting on my Kindle waiting to be read.

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8 hours later, done. Like I told you yesterday, these are quick, fun reads. For me, I consider them brain candy. However, this second book had a fantastic twist that I definitely didn’t see coming–and I wish more books had.

In Behind the Scenes, there are basically four main characters:  Ally, her best friend Vanessa, Vanessa’s co-star Liam, and his best friend Josh. Ally and Liam hook up in that book, so it would make logical sense that the second book would be the other two getting together right? And, at first, it totally seems like that. To be honest, I was rolling my eyes a bit, and settling in for a boring book. I really didn’t like them together–I though they were pretty shallow characters in the first one.

But, oh nay nay!

I won’t go into a whole lot of detail here about the plot, because I want you to go pick this series up (Under the Lights is due out June 30, so you have a month to read Behind the Scenes!). However, I will tell you that this one includes not only POC characters, but also Gay and Bi characters as well. It talks a lot about how important representation is in the media and on screen, and how hard it is to come out to friends and family.

I was expecting just another New Adult romance novel, but I got so much more than that. I hope Dahlia Adler continues to write these kinds of characters and stories, because they are so important! Go get your hands on book #1, so you can read #2 at the end of the month!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review.

WWW Wednesday 6/3/2015

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What are you currently reading?

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

The Ramayana by Ramesh Menon

 

 

 

What did you just finish reading?

The Turn of the Screw/The Aspern Papers by Henry James

 Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler (Review Tomorrow!)

 

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Shore by Sara Taylor

Paula by Isabel Allende

The Last Templar by Raymond Khoury

Behind the Scenes

When I look for ARCs to request, I usually look for new authors or first books in a series. Sometimes it is painful–because I often get hooked on a run that won’t release the second book for a long time! But, it is worth it to discover the next big thing that I wouldn’t ordinarily pick up, or be way behind in a trend (which I always seem to be).

But…guys, I goofed. I accidentally picked one that was the second in a series. OOPS! Easy fix though–my library had the first book in stock, so I picked it up and took it to town. (Oh darn, I had to read just one more book, right? LOL!)

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Behind the Scenes was a quick read, too. This New Adult fiction novel was instantly addictive, just like the gossip columns that Ally so desperately tries to avoid. She just wants a “normal” life. Go to prom, graduate, fulfill her dream of a Columbia education. But that is impossible with a best friend who just got a leading role in the next big TV drama, and a dad with terminal cancer. Not only that, but the very HOT male co-star is paying a lot of attention to her off camera.

This book is so fun. It’s definitely not something I would normally pick up, but honestly, I loved it. I will say that some parts did frustrate me about Ally’s character. She would be hurting, upset jealous. She’d be thinking about her dying father–and then Liam would say “Come take your pants off,” and she’d come running, no matter what was going on at home or what he’d done to upset her. It made me what to scream at her to stand up for herself and trust her gut.

So, my Mama Bear instincts came out a bit, but that just means I really got sucked in. I am super looking forward to book #2, so I may jump right in to that next! Watch for the review soon!

 

The Hogwarts Library

I touched a bit on my excitement for expanded series when I reviewed Four recently. JK Rowling is the master of pleasing her fandom with Pottermore. She also put out The Hogwarts Library, as a nod to Hermoine. These three short books raise proceeds for Comic Relief and Lumos. None of the books take long to read, but are a marvelous edition to the original series. For us die hard fans–they definitely tickle our need for everything magical.

Quidditch Through the Ages

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To be honest…Quidditch was my least favorite part of Harry Potter. I think it is mostly because no matter what happened Griffindor ALWAYS won (or almost always). Kind of takes the fun out of the sport, doesn’t it? I mean, high school sports are always full of drama, but there was always so much nastiness in it.

Still, reading about the history of Quidditch was pretty interesting. I have a better grasp on the teams now, when they go to the big cup game, and I am firmly against baskets! My favorite part was reading about the cranky old witch who wrote the first game down in her diary. Damn idiot boys throwing leather balls into her garden!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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The middle book in the set is pretty much just an encyclopedia of the different creatures in the wizarding world. While the descriptions of some of the beasts are interesting, there’s really not much to it. (Although someone’s been up to some mischief with a quill…) I am curious to see how they will turn this A-Z reference guide into a movie, and how many of the critters will make it!

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

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Being the great lover of fairy tales that I am, this book was my favorite of the three. How amusing to read stories where the witches are the protagonist, instead of the evil ones like in the fable we grew up with! Of course, The Tale of the Three Brothers was familiar, but The Fountain of Fair Fortune was the one I loved the most. It was such an uplifting story.

The commentary by Dumbledore added so much more to the book too. Like all the others in The Hogwarts Library–it’s sometimes easy to forget that these aren’t genuine nonfiction. More than once, out of habit, I started to add one of the notated books to my Goodreads, only to blink into reality and facepalm myself. Those aren’t real reference books! For hardcore Harry Potter fans like myself, the Library only extends our world just a bit further…and our madness too. It just can’t be helped.

I would encourage any fan of the original series to pick these up. They are cute, look great on a shelf, and support great charities for kids in need. And that’s something Dumbledore would have been pretty proud of.