So many books, so little times

My name is Lia and I'm a twenty-something lover of books. I'm a picky reader and pretty hard to please, good books are the passion and love of my life. Bad books are the bane of my existence. I'm one of those readers that can't seem to stick with a particular genre or age range. I love everything from YA, fantasy to sci-fi. When I'm not reading, or not reviewing on this blog. I'm probably making edit or gif on tumblr or just hanging out with my sister.

The Serpent King - Jeff Zentner

Honestly, I didn't plan on writing this review. My feeling and thoughts for this book are all over the place.

 

I have to admit that I probably wouldn't have picked this book up on my own based on the description. I've lost interest in contemporary books (especially YA) that aren't mysteries, thrillers or have some element of magical realism, so don’t take my criticism seriously if contemporaries are your thing.

 

The story centers on three main characters, Dill, Lydia, and Travis. Dill is living under the shadow of his snake-handling preacher father who has been in jail for several years now after a conviction on possession of sexual images of minors. In his small, Tennessee town apparently, the sins of the father are visited on the son, as Dill must deal with an angry, judgmental community. He also struggles with the weight of his own conflicted feelings on faith and his desire to escape the small town and so something more with his life without abandoning his mother. Of course, there are also Dill’s feelings for Lydia that must be managed. Beyond that, I can’t really say much about him as a person. He’s not very well described.

 

Travis is an outcast because he's a rabid fan of a fantasy series and carries a staff everyone. Lydia is unpopular because... actually, I don't know why. She's also an internet-famous fashion blogger which somehow equates to uncool in her small town, but that reads so unrealistically to me. But whatever, as Lydia applies to NYU and Travis meets a fellow fan outline, Dill deals with the guilt of what his father did and his fear that all his friends are leaving him.

 

Out of the three characters, Travis was by far, my favorite. An unabashed fantasy nerd, Travis does not hesitate to wear a dragon necklace and carry around a wizardry stick. Travis dives into the pages of his favorite fantasy series to escape the verbal and physical abuse from his father, and the awful grief from his older brother’s death. Sadly, the story centers much more on Dill and Lydia, with Travis often feeling like a plot device.

 

The writing is okay. I did feel a certain sense of atmosphere. Zentner describes the landscape in such a way that his love for it is palpable. There were occasional moments where it was particularly obvious this is a debut. I think that the use of the third person also contributed to my sense of detachment from the characters. I usually prefer the third person, so it’s strange that the book didn’t work for me here.

 

I wasn't a fan of the romance angle between Lydia and Dill, their friendship is troubled enough. Lydia’s privileged background and dismissive/superior attitude toward her friends are disappointing. Dill cannot stand the thought that, unlike him, Lydia gets to escape. He is constantly trying to keep her tied to the town, tied to him. It’s tremendously problematic. This isn’t to say it doesn’t get resolved, but these issues pervade the vast majority of the novel.

 

Another thing, the serpent king want to be realistic, with a contemporary element, but there so many unrealistic elements. Yes, there a girl who are like Lydia a super internet-famous teen fashion blogger. Those exist. But Dill was so unreality with him being a super talented singer and guitarist whose YouTube videos rack up tens of thousands of hits in days. Might there even be the hint of a record contract at the end of the book? And obviously, super famous and rich fantasy authors are perfectly reachable and amenable to suddenly make arrangements to hang out with three random fans during a hours-long layover in their city.

 

Overall, I thought this was a really okay debut novel. I just felt like the few things that I didn't enjoy impacted me pretty strongly. If you are on the lookout for a contemporary that has a very different setting and focuses on some heavy issues, I do recommend picking this up. The things that I pointed out are very much my things and I don't think that it will warrant the same feelings for most people.

 

This review can also be found onDW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Year of the Runaways - Sunjeev Sahota

This another hardest reviews that I have ever written and just because my feeling and thoughts are all over the place. I have a hard time between giving this three or two stars.

 

The Year of the Runaways is a bleak book, it tells account of the lives of young Indian men trying to make a life for themselves in Britain, working illegally in the guise of students, contracting fake marriages to qualify for a visa, being exploited by employers without a conscience, and living in conditions that would break anyone's spirit. There’s no doubt that it’s a realistic picture of the lives of illegal Indian immigrants to Britain, and we do sympathy with the young men who are its subject.

 

I can only appreciate the way that two of the four central characters are developed. The parallel drawn between Tochi's mistreatment as a chamaar in Bihar and an immigrant in London was painful but essential to see developed. As Tochi journey to see something valuable in himself, torn between two worlds that think him worthless, a very clear spoken call to action is cried out. The fact that any nation inevitably produces Tochis of its own is appalling. As is the fact for that matter, that the world produces versions of Narinder. As a woman, she's been told time and again that her life is not her own. As she progresses to claim something for herself, I again found something so real in her struggle. Both she and Tochi are unfairly tangled up in their struggles because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the injustice of their circumstances is impossible to miss.

 

There are many characters in the book to keep track of initially and sometimes with going back and forth between present and the past, I had a hard time distinguishing them apart. There are also so many, and I mean many, times Punjabi words or phrases are in the book and usually I did not know what it meant. I hard a hard time getting into this at first but then the story picks up.

 

 

In the end, the narrative reel out of series of events that earnestly demonstrate different angels of the illegal immigrant problem. Sahota is not a bad writer, and his story is a strong one in terms of human interest. The year of the runaways is a good read.

 

My only opinion is that novel shouldn't be more than a group of moving stories, relevant to the problems of our time. I want more than that.

 

Would I recommend this novel to anyone? It depends if they want to read a realist of being in the shoes of illegal immigrant then yes, you should read it. But if you don't want to read the lives of illegal immigrant then you shouldn't read it.

 

 

This review can also be found on DW

 

 

Ashley Bell: A Novel - Dean Koontz

I have truly never read a book by Dean Koontz and if this book is any indication of what his writing style is like that I don't think I'll be reading another soon.

 

The premise of this book sounds extraordinary. I mean the reading the summary got me interesting that I eagerly dove into the book.

 

The book starts off by dropping a big emotional bomb on the reader, by having Bibi, a young woman with a promising career as a writer, diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. But, quickly pulls us out of that emotional pit when Bibi makes a miraculous recovery. Needing answers to why she was spared, Bibi chooses to meet with a medium and is told that her survival has a purpose… to save a girl named Ashley Bell.

 

Mr. Koontz then spends a lot of time on Bibi's childhood which I also found interesting even though I felt that the writing could have been briefer and less rambling. We learn some pretty strange facts about her parents and start to question all that Bibi thought she knew about her life.

 

After getting through another quarter of the book, I lost all interest. I did finish the book, though, and when I finally got to the end, I was ticked off beyond words. I hated the ending which made struggling for nearly two days with this book feel like a complete waste of time.

 

The actual writing and language in the book are very good, obviously, Koontz is a very skilled writer. This is why I gave it 2 stars and also for the imaginative story line. Maybe he just needs a new editor? This book was incredibly long and serious in needs of editing, not to mention the annoying two or three-page chapters.

 

Sadly I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone unless they are such fans that they want to read everything by Dean Koontz.

 

 This review can also be found on: DW

20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill, Christopher Golden

Really wanted to like this more than I did. I have already read two of his other novels (Horns, NOS4A2), so I was really excited to read this collection. I thought with his short stories, will be amazing without the pressure of having to sustain the excitement throughout an entire novel.

Sadly, I was wrong. First of all, Ninety percent of the stories were great ideas but it wasn't execute well. It felt bulk and it end up being abruptly, and in a way doesn't make no sense. Some of the stories were weird for being the sake of being weird, which I don't mind but the bulk of the endings just end, it get frustrating. A few stand out, but most of them you get to the last page and go "...what?", then move on.

In the end, this book just let down for my taste. If you are a huge fan of Joe Hill, this book may be your liken if you are interest in short stories.

The Shining - Stephen King

It been a long times, that I have read the shining by Stephen King. The last times, I read this book was my junior years in high school. I don't remember if I was in love with it or not.

I can see why the shining is well liken even today. I believe is because people fear of becoming Jack Torrance. There are no monsters here. There's no aliens or ghosts or things that go bump in the night. There's only a man. One man that tries to murder everyone he loves.

Jack is an alcoholic. There are times where he gets angry and bitter toward not just strangers, but his own family. BUT, there are also times where there is so much love between him and his wife and son. You can tell he cares about them and that he loves them. Metal deterioration comes into play along with a severe case of cabin fever which causes a bloody catastrophe for the Torrance family.

Very slow build-up, very specific world building, and very very realistic... which makes it scarier for the common person, especially one who has a family. Not only that, but his son Danny is five years old who doesn't fully understand what's happening to his family. And Wendy, a woman who has been abuse since childhood is stuck in cycle of abuse who stay with Jack due to her love for him and her son Danny.

Either way, these characters are easy to relate to and though the story may be long and uneventful until the end – it is sound. And I understood it better as I got older. This book is not for everyone especially, if people had bad experience with alcoholic and abuse.

Don't Stay Up Late: A Fear Street Novel - R.L. Stine

This will be the last times, I will ever read R.L. Stine Fear Street Relaunch. I was a huge fan of his since childhood. I used to have his books but sadly I no longer have any copy due to house fire long times ago.

My biggest problem with the book was not the story itself but the writing style.

The writing style just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t even that it was childish, it was just that it never seemed to flow. I never felt like I was reading a story, it was more like something that was just a summary of what actually happened. I never felt like I was ‘in’ the moment. I always felt like I was an observer, merely seeing what happened instead of feeling it or experiencing it.

The story line was also a little awkward but given that I continue to read it instead of abandoning it, I didn’t mind it as much. It was also addictive because even though I didn't really like the writing style, my eyes were still glued the pages. It still kind of reminded me of a cheesy old horror movie. It was entertaining and actually kind of amusing (not sure if it was meant to be amusing).

I will not say that I hated the book, because I didn’t, it just seemed incomplete to me and I wish there was more substance to it, and the writing so I didn’t feel like I was just reading a summary of what was happening.

If you are a fan of the author, I would definitely say to give the book a shot. But for me, I will look for somewhere else.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology - Rebecca Paley, Leah Remini
To tell you the truth, I didn't plan to read Troublemaker because of all the juicy details of Scientology, but because I genuinely desired to gain more knowledge of Remini as a person, and of her journey through the many pumps of Hollywood and entertaining business.

Be still my heart, I did not need to face a disappointment.

Troublemaker is an excellent example of an autobiography that drags the reader inside with a warm and easygoing voice, a voice that doesn't place one above the other, a voice that let's the real person be touchable and felt. This is not always easy to achieve but Remini and Paley did make it run and work perfectly, building up an autobiography that chronicles Remini's life in an entertaining way.

I have a new respect for Leah Remini. I’m so very glad to have read this and so very glad she was able to extricate herself from such madness. Teach your children critical thinking skills, people! I think that’s the real takeaway. If you want a detailed account of Scientology, you might want to pick up a well researched text book, but if you drive from individual experiences, Troublemaker is your book, all the way from the start to the end.
Bone Gap - Laura Ruby

 I haven’t read a lot of magical-realism books. I don’t even have a bookshelf for that but this absolutely enchanting read made me want to read more in the future. Bone Gap surely lived up to the name of its genre because it’s completely magical and perfectly real at the same time that it didn’t cease to fascinate me from beginning to end.

This in short, is Bone Gap, a page turner with an unexampled & touching story.
The characters are vividly drawn and each one has potential to snake into your heart with all their complexities and beliefs. They feel like people from our own world.

The fast-paced plot is a curtain-raiser over several things in the past and the present simultaneously. It unveils the brothers' lives and ambitions, Finn's magical love story brewing with the ugly bee-keeper of Bone Gap, Petey, Roza's plight, peeks into the Roza's past and glimpses of her life with the O' Sullivan brothers.

There are lots of bitter truths of our real lives portrayed through the characters such as the ugly face of beauty, the impact of peoples' opinions on our lives, how people prefer to judge others by just surveying the outer shell of skin. Many times I found myself nodding in agreement with the writer. Such as here: A pretty face is just a lucky accident. Pretty can’t feed you. And you’ll never be pretty enough for some people.

Funny how you notice how beautiful things are just when you're about to leave them.

The story is very unique and even though the author drops hints still the 'big truth' hits like a lightning bolt. The best thing about this novel is the lucid writing, though. It's undeniably beautiful and mesmerizing. It gives life to everything it describes... but that evening- the evening that changed his life and Sean's- was chilly and gray, the lightest rain falling like glitter, the whole sky hanging low enough to drape the cornfields in gauzy gray fog.

 

I wanted to read slowly and devour each word, each phrase and expression (so perfectly chosen and put together). At the same time, I was so caught up in the story that I couldn't put down the book!

Bone Gap is a book about perspective. About the difference between looking and seeing. About fairy-tales, self-image, the heavy burden that beauty can be and the pernicious ways we look at and treat women. It’s awfully tense and there is this feeling of anxious momentum that runs through this novel. It’s also very romantic where it matters, empowering where it counts and beautiful in its telling.

After Alice: A Novel - Gregory Maguire

As much as I love Alice in Wonderland, I must say that this book was a hot mess. It seem that Maguire couldn't decide wheter it was a retelling of the original or a commentary on Victorian life in the 1860's. Ada inadvertently follows Alice down the rabbit hole and spends the rest of the story in pursuit of her friend in Wonderland, encountering many of the characters that Alice has already come across. One redeeming quality was seeing a few familiar characters. The adventure narrative alternates with what’s going on in the real world: Alice’s sister and Ada’s governess searching for the girls. The parallel narratives are so disconnected, it’s tedious, not to mention the two aforementioned characters are hardly likeable.

 

I got the impression that Maguire was trying to be clever than what he achieved. It’s as if he couldn’t just settle on channeling Carroll to recreate Wonderland in his own way, so he also used this as a platform. Piggybacking on a classic and giving it a dark, Dante-esque spin just was not successful

Prey - Michael Crichton

I love Michael Chrichto (Juraissic Park) but Prey was poorly written and it kept me from loving it. I don't know whether this is because his writing has gone downhill or my standards have just changed.

The premise is exciting enough (nano-robots gone rogue) but Chrichton keeps breaking the action to give either wooden details about the stay-at-home Dad's domestic life, or long-winded descriptions of nano-technology. A good sci-fi writer should be able to work the latter into the story without paragraphs of exposition.

Career of Evil - Robert Galbraith

Robin and Strike investigate a serial killer whose past is linked to Strike. Due to the fact that there are only four real suspects that provide by Strike and that the killer get his own point of view section in which you see some of the murders happen – this mystery isn't particular interesting nor fun to solve. The Strike/Robin relationship is further developed in this book, which is good because otherwise this would have been 400 pages of stakeouts interspersed with scenes of horrific assaults. In short, it's boring. J.K. Rowling can still propel me through a story, but I'm amazed that this particular story took so many pages to tell.

My least favorite part about this book was the use of rape as a back-story. When a female character needs a life-altering turning point in her past that explains her decisions and current trajectory, rape gets slotted in as the most traumatic event possible. [It really, really bothered me that Robin was saddled with this back-story. On one hand, this is a book about the prevalence of violent assault, but on the other hand, this gives a weird tinge to Robin's desire to become a detective. Rowling takes care to explicitly say that Robin wanted to be an investigator before the rape, but I wholeheartedly wish that that wasn't even in the mix.

It felt like a cheap way to explain why Robin and Matthew are still together. Relationship are complicated and messy. They don't always make logical sense to an external viewer, and they sometimes don't even make sense to the people in them. The rape back-story reduces Robin and Matthew to a comfort-level relationship where Robin holds on to him only because of her past. In a way, it would be more interesting for inertia to play a bigger role, without the linchpin of Robin's trauma. Matthew gets written as an even bigger asshole (excuse me, "wanker") in this book, which felt like an excuse for the Robin/Strike relationship to develop rather than a true picture of the nine-year Robin/Matthew relationship.

It's even harder to understand why Robin and Matthew get back together, outside of that inertia and nine years, when you don't see any of the good parts that must exist. And the fact that the book ends on Robin's "I do" felt cheap. On one hand, yes, the Robin/Strike relationship is what keeps me going through these books. On the other hand, are these mystery novels or not? Shouldn't the mysteries be good enough that I don't have to be distracted overly by the other drama?

After reading this, I can't see myself continue with this series. I adore The Cuckoo's Calling and eh The Silkworm was okay, I prefer Silkworm over Career of Evil. If you like this book, power to you.

— feeling booklikes
Emma: A Modern Retelling (Austen Project) - Alexander McCall Smith

I have confession to make; I never read Jane Austen Emma. I know, it sad is not it, especially since I have read her Pride and Prejudice multiple time. When I saw this in the library, I decide to read it and along with original version of Emma.

How I feel about this book, it well written but not a very good book. For starters, I like the first half of the book, the second half of the book I was disgusted with it; I was committed and wanted to see how it turned
out.

And Emma. What is she? Austen's Emma is young, and has been spoiled, but has a good heart. Here, Emma is older and college-educated, but none-the-wiser (and no more self-aware), selfish, sneaky, unrelentingly manipulative even in a tale about that very thing, and apparently asexual. The only erotic interest she shows is in Harriet, and she isn't even sure of herself in that regard.

That being said, this story is one of my least favorite retelling classics. It was definitely enjoyable throughout, but overall I felt like the storyline was rather weak and uninspiring. I needed more complex problems and I needed to really feel for and root for the characters.

Alexander McCall Smith is a good writer was not enough to save this update, and his lack of awareness of modernity actually hurt it. Technology barely appears in this book. Texting, apps, smart phones, computers -- there is scant reference to something that has taken over the lives of teens, 20-somethings and the other people populating this book.

In short, I want to love this book, I liked the first half well enough, but by the time we join the "present" time, and Emma as an adult, the book ceases to be enjoyable. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone unless they are a big fan of Alexander McCall Smith.

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl: Book One - Paige McKenzie, Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Really bland, predictable and silly. Obviously I have high standards for horror, and this book doesn't meet any of them. Overall, there were a variety of problems that I had with this story; not just the fear factor (or lack thereof.) The dialogue seemed dated when this story is set in modern day, which often led to a very cheesy, inappropriate comical effect. None of the characters seemed to have much development, even our main character, who goes through quite a challenging ordeal. What could have been the start of a very interesting series failed due to very poor execution. Needless to say, I will not be continuing on with this series.

The Japanese Lover: A Novel - Isabel Allende

The Japanese lover, is a love story that span decades, but it is about so much more. It about surviving, aging, forbidden love, the depth of caring, and friendship that allows loved ones to seek their own happiness without reproach. It told in unfolding story of an elderly woman coming to terms with and reliving her past. But in the present she is instrumental in helping a young woman who bears the emotional scars of a horrible childhood that keep her from moving forward with her life.

Life in the Lark house, a home for retiree is both funny and sad with it unconventional residents. This is where we introduction to Alma Balasco at eighty years old has chosen to live even though she is a woman of means with a large beautiful estate. It is here that she meets Irina.

The story alternates between the present with Alma working on the Belasco family history with her grandson Seth and Irina, whom she has hired as her assistant and Alma's earlier life when she is first sent to America from Poland. As a young girl she meets Ichimei Fukuda, the son of her aunt's gardener and her life is forever changed. The novel also contains sections covering the Fukuda family's experience in a Japanese internment camp reflecting on this difficult time in our history for Japanese immigrants and their American born children. These are interspersed with letters from Ichimei to Alma through the years.

 

This might easily have been 5 stars for me. Even though I cared about the characters from the beginning, the sparse dialog between the characters made it difficult for me at first to feel their connections with each other. It took a while for that to happen, but it eventually did. I know it not for everyone but I recommend this to any one who want to read a good romance novel.

The Silent Boy - Andrew Taylor

After witnessing the murder of his mother Charles is struck dumb (or rather takes dumb) after the assailant tells him to “Say nothing. Not ever.” He is quickly whisked away to England by the Count de Quillion, one of the men potentially his father, to escape the Revolution, only for the specter of his mother’s murder to follow him to the quiet countryside of Charnwood House. Savill, Charles’ mother estranged husband, is sent to collect him only for the boy to go missing, what first seemed like a runaway turns out to be an abduction. But is this a fight for paternity or is someone out to ensure the Silent Boy remains silent.

I really wanted to enjoy this book as it is exactly my sort of read but I did not. This is quite a long book, 440 pages and I did not think much happened in it, when I was at 340 pages or so I realized that I could not think of much plot, there is not much to the plot and Taylor seems to drag it out and turns what could be an exciting read into a slow read. The first hundred pages or so are also a very slow and dull read.

Taylor does recreate the atmosphere very well, it does feel like you are there with the characters which is a bonus to the book. However I did not think there was much character development, none of them had much going for them and I did not find it enjoyable to read about their lives in this book. Having said that thee last 150 pages are quite exciting and this is when the plot picks up a bit and everything is resolved, I found this to be quite enjoyable and if only the book was a bit shorter then I feel that the whole book would have been a much better read.

The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation - Melissa Rivers

The comedy world lost a real treasure when Joan Rivers died last fall. One of the hardest working women in show business, Rivers was apologetically her own person, telling it like it is, but rarely with malicious intentions. She often said what everyone was thinking but would never say, and there were many instances where she was the only one who could get away with saying certain things about certain people.

Through all of her appearances and all of her insults, one thing about Rivers was ultimately clear: she loved her daughter Melissa more than anything, and their relationship was something she truly treasured. And the feeling was definitely mutual, as Melissa makes clear in her book, The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation. This is a collection of essays that look at Joan's childhood, what motivated her to succeed, her habits, foibles, fears, and pet peeves, and especially her interactions with Melissa and her grandson, Cooper.

This is a sweet, funny book that provides some interesting insight into Rivers' persona outside the spotlight, and it chronicles a mother-daughter bond that was truly special. I laughed from time to time and unsurprisingly, I even got choked up a little bit. It's a tremendously engaging book, but I wish that Melissa didn't try to be as funny as her mother throughout the book, as sometimes her jokes undercut the stories she was trying to tell. (She even provided her own rim-shots occasionally). I recommend this to anyone who has a fond of Joan Rivers.