When I started this blog I was looking for a way to share my Goodreads book progress, and try to document what I was reading. For 2016, I decided to skip the Goodreads challenge because I am challenging myself to excel in different ways. My only dilemma is I love my blog. I enjoy being creative and having an outlet for my writing. I love sharing pictures and good books with the outside world, and I love creating a history that I can look back on years from now.
My only solution is to expand what The Book Carousel Blog is really about. Of course I will still review books (because reading has been my life since kindergarten), but I'll also expand beyond books into a little bit more of my new challenges for the year. So in sort of a belated New Year's Resolution Post, here are my goals for the year:
1. Learn a New Instrument
I've played the flute intermittently since I was in 6th grade, but I never mastered the instrument. I'd like to get really good at an instrument and maybe create some original music of my own.
2. Write a Novel
I started writing a novel during NaNoWriMo and I think 500 words is as much as I had written. This year, I want to make sure I at least get my first draft finished
3. Get into Shape
I want to be strong. I want to be flexible. I want to make an effort to be heart and mind healthy. Part of the way that I am reaching this goal is to doing Yoga. I'm still working on my full-wheel pose, but I enjoy challenging myself to go beyond my limits.
4. Read for a Reason
My 2015 Goodreads challenge left me moderately stressed and reading anything that I came across. While I'm happy that I set a goal and I matched it, I want to be deliberate in what I'm reading this year.
5. Do Something Good
I'm at the age where all of my goals are self oriented. This year I want to make a difference for someone else- even if that someone is a horse (because I am obsessed with horses). I hope that since I have this goal on my radar, the right thing will be obvious when it comes along.
So I hope you guys kick along with me during 2016. I don't know how my goals will translate to my blog, but it will be an adventure. And that is how I am approaching this year: open minded and ready for an adventure.
Completed Books for Goodreads 2015 Challenge
The Martian by Andy Weir
Not an intense thriller, more of a comedian in a challenging situation. Still loved it. Didn't seem too "out of this world" (is there a pun in there somewhere?). I really enjoyed reading this book. Not a lot of books can make me laugh out loud, but this one was one of them.
Pretty interesting concept. I found it a little difficult to feel emotionally involved with the characters, probably because they weren't very emotionally involved with themselves. I imagine living and dying perpetually can make a person pretty jaded. Overall I'm glad I read it.
This was a beautiful and sad story. I haven't read a lot on Chechnya or had any idea about the devastation in that region in modern history. It's incredible to realize that while the western world was recovering from the world wars, Eastern Europe was still fighting - is still fighting. This novel definitely changed my life for reading it.
I read this on the recommendation of other people that reviewed John Scalzi's "Lock In" as a prequel, and I am more excited to read "Lock In' after reading this novella.
This books gives what I assume to be a fairly immersive account of what it was like to live in the gilded era, but probably lacked any real dynamic. It had the tone of historical fiction, but it lacked the research to touch upon "real" historical events. I'm sure there were "American Heiresses" who went to Europe to find a husband with a title etc., but any sort of event in the book left the main characters basically unaffected. It was a moderate disappointment. It's only redeeming quality was that it was probably a pretty good reflection of how society was in that era.
Lock In (Lock In, #1) by John Scalzi
While the idea of using robots as avatars isn't a new one, the world that John Scalzi creates with his is, in a word, incredible. The effortless way that he incorporates futuristic civil rights, inevitable human nature, and a fantasy world that actually seems attainable, all while creating a story where the reader is invested and interested, is what makes Lock In so consumable. His in depth world of threeps, Hadens, integrators, and those unaffected by the flu and meningitis-like disease that affected a strong majority of the population has so much room for expansion, and it would be a crying shame if this was the only book in the series.
Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran
I am a super fan of Michelle Moran for Historical Fiction, and Rebel Queen definitely lived up to my expectations. She'll make you fall in love with a time period and setting, and get so emotionally attached to the characters, you feel like their problems are your problems. This book is based in India, and follows one of the Queen's guards while India was being "colonized" by England.
Pretty interesting story. A little bit slow to start but picks up towards the middle. I liked it enough to read the rest of the series.
I really enjoyed the suspense behind this book. You really feel what Rachel is going through trying to remember her black outs because you really have no idea what happened. It also touches on the human aspect of a break up and what varying degrees of heartache will do to a person.
While it took me a while to warm up to the first book of the series, I was definitely hooked on the second and am anxious to read the third.
The third installment of The Clifton Chronicles wasn't as good as the second, but was still a very enjoyable read. Jeffrey Archer does a good job of making the reader feel invested in the fate of the characters, who incidentally make enemies as easily as they do friends.
Lightning by Dean Koontz
How have I never read Dean Koontz before? I absolutely loved this book. The mystery behind Laura's "guardian", the plausible theory behind time travel, and yes, a love story. Koontz draws you in, throws you on tumble, and you come out changed. If this book was a reflection of the rest of his work, I'll be reading it all.
Just when I thought I was done with the post-apocalyptic teenage hero/love story, I read this book. Yes, Mare (Mare like the horse? Mare pronounced Marr-ay? I don't know) Barrow is a "special girl" and yes, the fate of the world lies in her hands, but Victoria Aveyard does an excellent job of weaving the story around, leading the reader in different and unexpected directions. Am definitely disappointed that I happened to catch this series at the very beginning, because otherwise I'd be binge reading all of the books. Can't wait for the next one.
I really enjoyed reading The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken. It mixed supernatural with apocalyptic without being too mystical and magical. The characters were likable and believable and you definitely feel connected to the four main characters, Ruby, Liam, Chubs, and Zu. Alexandra Bracken did a great job of maturing Ruby gradually and effectively without it feeling forced or unexpected. All in all, I am looking forward to watching the movie (if it exists?) and I have already in the last 3 days read through the sequels.
A good sequel to the first in the trilogy (The Darkest Minds), Never Fade shows Ruby in a new light - cold, disheartened, and full of self loathing. As I was reading, I was surprised to find how quickly Liam was put back in play. What I have started to notice is the author tends to telegraph her direction, so you kind of have an idea what is coming before it actually happens. She still does a good job of emotionally drawing you in to the drama of the characters and spinning a compelling story.
Okay that was an action-packed finale to an excellently written book series. In The Afterlight captures all of the loose ends and ties them up into a bow, leaving you satisfied with the story, but it's not a smooth ride along the way. Diving deeper into the world of secret ops, secret agendas, and secret friendships, there is a lot more emotionally charged dialog and explosive reactions than there were in the two previous books.
Incredible, fascinating, and heartbreaking. This book was an amazing read. I thoroughly enjoyed the development of characters, the imagery, and the situational intensity that keeps you turning the page. This novel definitely earned its Pulitzer Prize.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
It's difficult to put into words how amazing this book was. It's one of those books that can mean something different to the reader depending on which age you read it at. Not only is it an emotional love story, but it's a story of character strength and doing the right thing in a bad situation. Highly recommended.
The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
While I enjoyed the environment and the storyline, it wasn't my favorite Nicholas Sparks book. I loved Ira and Ruth's relationship; the ups and downs of a lifelong commitment, but I was not as impressed by Luke and Sophia.
Sophia came across as shallow and indecisive, where Luke just came off as an idiot, albeit one with a good heart and good intentions. Sure, each character had their redeeming moments, but I feel like when the major conflict of your heroine is her ex-boyfriend dates her best friend, it's difficult to buy into the outcome of her future.
All in all I enjoyed the novel as a whole. I appreciated that Ira showed the world his love for Ruth by giving away the art collection to the buyer of Daniel's painting. I would have preferred he reopen the college that he and Ruth visited during their honeymoon, or turn it into a museum to house their paintings, but that may not have been a grand enough gesture.
I was pretty excited about reading this one and Off the Page (the companion/sequel). I honestly had a hard time getting through the book, probably for the following reasons:
1. I maybe felt out of touch with the main character due to the age difference?
2. <spoiler>The book felt like it ended abruptly. You don't get to see how Oliver reacts in the real world etc. because the whole point of the book is to get him out of the fairy tale. He gets out, the end. I guess that's where the second book comes into play, but it really felt like the meat of the story was in him getting out to be with the girl?</spoiler>
3. I've had a bit of stress/hectic-ness going on and it could be I just read this book at the wrong time and didn't give it a chance.
All in all, although I was really looking forward to reading Off the Page, I probably won't buy it. If it wasn't $9.99 and I didn't have other books I wanted to read I would read it, but at this point even though I'm interested in what happens to Oliver when he goes to school, etc. it's not on my TBR list.
I actually really enjoyed this book! It was a good story with fresh ideas - not the typical alien comes to earth to destroy it kind of thing. I would have loved to see more character development. I think there would be a benefit to seeing Homer and May's adventure from when they first landed on Earth. That would be a book in itself I'm sure! All in all I really liked it and would recommend it to anyone that enjoys alien stories.
Paper Towns by John Green
Pretty excellent story about growing up, and prioritizing what is actually important and what you think is important in the grand scheme of things.
Really amazing read. This book focuses on the human aspect of what happens in a post-apocolyptic world in a practical sense. There's devastation and chaos, people fighting for their lives, and wayward violent leaders, but there are also regular people that do what they can for the sake of humanity. Definitely a realist's look at surviving after a cataclysmic event such as mass population loss.
While I'm generally apprehensive about starting a series that's so renowned, my curiosity got the better of me and I picked up Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. While it is somewhat mature content with the violence and intimate situations, it isn't 50 Shades of Gray to be sure. 1. If you let your kid watch the TV Show, then they're fine to read the book, and 2. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone that hasn't been in High School yet. All in all it's a compelling read. I'll definitely be finishing the entire series.
Good sequel to Game of Thrones. Very battle and strategy heavy so there was a lot of attention to detail that got a little slow for me. Definitely picked up at the end. Very nicely done. Now for Book 3.
It's difficult to put into words my feeling about this book. Definitely takes surprising turns, and is able to give you whiplash (in a good way), even when you know what is supposed to happen. Even characters you expect to be good are bad, and characters you expect to be bad are good. You can't make any presumptions to where the story is headed because it will throw you off every time.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
For the first time in as long as I can remember, I find myself faced with a book hangover. I finished reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee 3 days ago, and despite the fact that I am a quarter of the way through A Feast for Crows (I started reading it before GSaW came out and took a break from it), I cannot effectively recover enough to continue reading. People have asked me if Go Set a Watchman was "good", and I find myself unable to qualify an answer. It's easy to see why To Kill a Mockingbird was written and published instead of the original manuscript of Go Set a Watchman. The characters of GSaW are so rich and vibrant that you want to know their history. If you had never read TKaM, it would feel as if you were dropped into a passing chapter of Scout's life with no understanding of who she actually is and why she grew up to be that way. While GSaW does flash back to her childhood, it is a mere shadow of the relationship you develop with her by reading TKaM. That being said, the writing is brilliant.
I was immediately charmed by Jean Louise "Scout" Finch's narrative of riding the train from New York to Maycomb, Alabama. Despite being technologically challenged, she was fascinated by the novelty of the buttons and knobs in her roomette that revealed a sink, called the porter, or opened up her bed from the wall; that is until she found herself folded into the wall when she decided to go to bed the night before. She was at the mercy of the train porter to release her from her predicament, her embarrassment amplified by the fact she was only clad in her pajama top for bed.
The book continues, and I am consistently captivated by Jean Louise's sense of humor and nostalgia from her visit to her childhood home. Her raw honesty and integrity are give her a Holden Caulfield-esque presence, but Scout is able to deal with crisis in a more confrontational manner. Harper Lee is able to convey Scout's excitement to be home, her apprehension of the future, and her hollow sadness impending loss. With her brother Jem's sudden passing years before and Atticus' failing health, Scout's state of mind is both genuine and relatable.
The major conflict in the book is Scout finds out Atticus and her sometimes fiancé and childhood friend, Henry, are part of a pro-segregation council. This comes as a shock to Scout (and lets be honest, every reader who has ever admired Atticus Finch), because her entire life, she considered Atticus to be just like her; colorblind to the racial differences between black and white.
This book wasn't about debating the issue of segregation or pointing out the morality flaws of the southern states. It was ultimately about Scout's coming of age into adulthood. She had considered Atticus to be her conscience without actively realizing it, and when he participated in something she completely abhorred, she had a immediate self identity crisis. The turning point in the book is when she confronts Atticus with his hypocrisy, and determines that her home will never be in Maycomb, Alabama.
While there were so many quotes from the book that I enjoyed, my favorite quote is from when Scout discusses her impression of what Hell was when she was a kid.
"Hell was and would always be as far as she was concerned, a lake of fire exactly the size of Maycomb, Alabama, surrounded by a brick wall two hundred feet high. Sinners were pitchforked over this wall by Satan, and they simmered throughout eternity in a sort of broth of liquid sulfer."
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. I relished the ability to learn more about my favorite characters, as well as getting to know Scout as a girl that's (close) to the same age as myself. While Atticus doesn't behave in the same way we expect him to after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, it is reassuring to know that even our favorite fictional characters have flaws and that's okay. I think that I am not alone in wishing Harper Lee had another manuscript hiding in the attic because her ability to bring a character alive is nothing short of magical.
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
I was apprehensive about reading this book because it's about a woman who is having problems in her marriage, and I am not usually excited to read those kinds of books, but when its beautiful hot pink cover shouted out to me on the shelf, I had to give it a chance. Holy cow am I glad I did. This book isn't about a failing marriage, it's about two people that love each other and decide to make it through the rough patches in their relationship. It's a love story about people that have flaws, and is a realistic representation of what two people who love each other should aspire to. Rainbow Rowell can write a hell of a love story.
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
This is a story about a girl who decided it was up to her to be a champion despite the challenges she faced. I did have a difficult time getting through parts because of the amount of detail put into telling her story, but the life of Malala Yousafzai reads like a young adult novel complete with a miraculous ending and opportunity for sequels. Definitely a book that will make you appreciate what you have or inspire you to change the world you're living in.
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
I knew I was going to love this book when I read the phrase "crapping in their cornflakes." Ernest Cline writes an epic tale of futuristic gaming with a nostalgia for 80's pop culture. The world he builds is colorful with characters destined to appeal to geeks, gamers, and misfits with a positive message despite the bleak state of the world. This is a book I highly recommend reading for anyone that loves gaming, computers, technology, futuristic worlds, space travel, robots, cartoons, and anything with an 80's reference.
If you're having any doubts about starting this series, don't. I haven't been this excited about a book series since I read The Hunger Games trilogy in a weekend. Set in the distant future, this book is about living outside of the laws of society, even if it is outside of your comfort zone. Pierce Brown creates a cause and motivation for his characters that you can identify with. He creates a future that is exciting and super-human, all while maintaining the flaws and impulses that make up the human condition.
I am blown away at how much I am loving this series. If you like post-apocalyptic dystopian future novels, this is your new favorite series. The storyline will draw you in, and the characters will keep you hanging. Pierce Brown does a good job of foreshadowing without giving away any surprises. The only downside is the next book doesn't come out until February of 2016. I'll just be hiding in the corner rocking back and forth until then.
This book has a way of dropping surprise bombs on you at the most unexpected times. I picked up this book thinking it had an interesting premise, then as I started reading I thought about what could possibly happen if you put the combination of motive, opportunity, and means of experimental torture and I almost put it down. Luckily the author didn't get too crazy with the vindication bit. No experimental torture. I guess mostly what the book was about was girl that grew up in an orphanage in the early 1900's, and all the indications therein. It's also about being able to look at your history with the knowledge of injustices that were done to you, and still being able to move forward with your life.
Room by Emma Donoghue
Do you like psychology? Can you put up with a 5 year old narrating a book? Then you'll probably be at least entertained by this one. I had a combination of this is uncomfortable and fascinating going on at the same time. It's interesting seeing the victim's side of the story when you hear about people being kidnapped and hidden away from the world at the mercy of some psychopath's "charity", but it also is disturbing. If you're sensitive to that kind of thing, skip this one.
Paperweight by Meg Haston
This book was an emotional rollercoaster for me, bringing me to tears more than once. It brings to light how suffering from an eating disorder is different for everyone, and you don't necessarily need to experience a tragedy in your life to trigger a disorder. Everyone has their own varying degree of struggle, and if you notice someone you care about displaying symptoms of an eating disorder, talk to them about it. Sometimes the struggle is more than they can handle by themselves.
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
I was happily impressed by this book. The depth of Mary Kubica's characters leave you reeling, no relationship definite, no character perfect. Once you settle into how you feel about everyone, she sort of tugs the rug a little bit to keep you off kilter. Perfect if you love mystery/psychological thriller/crime novels.
Positive by David Wellington
I've been bouncing between 3 and 4 stars, so let's say 3 1/2. I really liked it, but there were some things that kept it from being incredible. That being said, I still highly recommend this book if you even think that you might like it.
The idea is second generation survivors from the zombie apocalypse are the foundation on building a new world. I haven't read a lot of zombie books, but this was a new premise for me that I found refreshing. I enjoyed the main character, felt like he had decent character growth, and appreciated his ability to prosper.
There were points where I had to put the book down for a while because I was dreading what was going to happen next. In that, I was thoroughly impressed. I was deeply connected to the characters at that point and I couldn't stand to see something bad happen to them.
But in other points I thought could have used more attention. Development of the supporting characters were a little sparse. The relationship development between Kylie and Finn could have been better enriched. There were points in the book where I thought, this is definitely written by a guy. On one hand, there were situations where the guy perspective was very enlightening. On the other hand, I felt the female characters were a little two dimensional and lacked a cultivated backstory. However, it did not take away from the entertainment value of the books, and I only mention it as an afterthought.
I still highly recommend this book if you like zombie/survival stories.
What can I say about this rollercoaster of a book? Sorry, spoilers ahead. I'll start with the main characters "love story." The relationship between these two were very "500 Days of Summer" <spoiler> without the I actually don't love you part... But you're still waiting for one of them (her) to say I actually don't love you THE ENTIRE TIME! </spoiler> Okay so they're soul mates or whatever, but then they go their separate ways after college and lose touch. <spoiler>He literally said wait here for me I'm going to be back on this specific day and then we'll spend our life together. Sorry I might not be able to call because I'm poor AF and can't afford long distance from South America to New York.</spoiler> Then terrible things happen when they're separated for YEARS. So terrible that there's a possibility that they might not end up together? Can you stop pulling the rug out from under me please?<br/>Technically the author did a great job of emotionally traumatizing her reader. I was very invested in the characters, but I also stayed invested after I was done reading to the point of not wanting to pick up another book because I was so depressed. Long story short, if you're looking to have your emotional world rocked, read this book.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This book had been on my TBR pile for a little while. I kept picking up other books instead of this one for whatever reason, and I wish I had read it earlier. This is a truly unconventional love story about loving someone for who they are, even if they had the capability of changing for the "better." This was a very cute book and I will be reading the sequel and watching the movie.
Felicia Day has a way of making you wish she was your best friend. She has an incredible story, and while she is a force of nature when it comes to getting what she wants, she's constantly inspiring others to follow their dreams despite of any challenges you may face.
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
This book was pretty cute in the way the two main characters sort of reacting to each other. It was a little difficult for me to connect with the whole love story aspect since you only get one point of view, but I wouldn't let that dissuade you from reading it. It's a quick read that will make you fall in love with falling in love.
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
Mary Kubica does an amazing job creating a world that gradually spirals into chaos. She has a way of building people up so that you expect them to act in a certain way, but then they do something that surprises you. Definitely one of my new favorite authors. Very suspenseful.
Cell by Stephen King
I definitely enjoyed reading this book. It wasn't as terrifying as I was expecting from Stephen King, but then again I'm thankful for the lack of accompanying nightmares.
Winter is gradually taking over the 7 kingdoms, and with every day that passes, the line between good and evil blurs, and fantasy becomes more than just a story you warn your kids about to keep them in line. This book had quite a bit of action, but it still felt pretty slow.
I had a difficult time getting into this book. I wasn't connecting with the story of the girl with a perfect life with punker parents etc, but that's not really the point. I kept reading and I'm so glad I did. After suspending my disbelief, I started to get very emotional about the situation that Mia was facing. There were parts where I rolled my eyes at how over the top, teenage relationship fantasy type interactions, but then there were parts where I was choking back tears. I will, however, be reading the sequel.
Put another mark in the win column for Robert Galbraith because this book had me hooked from the beginning. It reveals more about Robin and Cormoran's past and shows you motivations behind their characters. I really enjoyed how "real life" events were incorporated into the story to give it more of an engaging experience.
S. By J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst
5/5 Stars (Can I make it 6 stars?)
First impression: This book is so GORGEOUS. It's designed to look like an old library book that two people are passing back and forth, including bits of post cards, letters, and articles that all have to do with the mystery that is V.M. Straka.
Ship of Theseus: This is a story about a man that wakes up completely drenched with no memory of who he is, where he is, or where he is going. All he has in his pocket is a scrap of paper with a letter S on it. He finds himself caught up in a dangerous pursuit of good and evil, while trying to find a woman that he gradually falls in love with.
The Footnotes: V.M. Straka's manuscript translator published his final novel after the mysterious disappearance (and possible death) of V.M. Straka. Claiming to have a personal relationship with the author, F.X. Caldeira inputs personal thoughts, alternate explanations, and footnotes that are generally irrelevant.
Jen and Eric: Two people that have never met, that get to know each other in the margins of a book with a bigger mystery that is what just written by the author.
The Code: SO MUCH CODE! Everything is a code. You can try to figure it out with Jen and Eric, or you can read along as they figure it out, but there is still going to be more to figure out than what is laid out to you. There's research that you can do on your own- websites dedicated to the story where additional manuscripts are available, along with more pictures, notes, accounts, and mystery that is S.
My thoughts: I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves a good mystery, loves to immerse themselves in a story, and can live in a story even when you're done reading it. The book gets better the more you submerse yourself in the mystery. If you're looking at just reading the book and getting it over with, you're going to feel short-changed.
The Jubilee Express - Maureen Johnson
Do you ever read a book and continually say, "Hey, you're making kind a stupid decision!" over and over again? That was me with Jubilee. Get off the train? Dumb. Walk to a strange guy's house? Dumber. Stomp on the top of a frozen creek because you're kind of pissed... C'mon. However, things do work out for her in the end (no pneunomia or axe murders involved), and while it was simultaneously predictable and improbable, it is sort of heart warming and endearing.
A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle - John Green
This is why parents are terrified to leave their kids home alone. Going out into the worst snow storm of the century for no reason? Am I 40? This is crazy. Putting aside my "Oh my god you're gonna die at 17!" knee-jerk reaction, this was a pretty cute story. Being in the same vicinity as a bunch of cheerleaders is about how you would imagine (but are we really doing the cheerleaders are bad trope?), but it's sort of a sweet love story about being brave and falling in love with your best friend.
The Patron Saint of Pigs - Lauren Myracle
With this story, I feel like the main character, Addie, doesn't come off as self absorbed until her friend tells her she's being selfish and self absorbed. Then gradually throughout the story, everyone keeps telling her she's self absorbed, she starts to agree with them and turns into a "better person". My problem is her "revelation" is underwhelming. She didn't seem like she was acting extraordinarily callus to me, so when she made the character transition, there wasn't a huge change for me. And I wasn't sold on the whole "I got drunk and cheated on you, but I still love you so we should stay together" story line. Ugh, teenagers.
99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Holy roller coaster of a situation.
I liked this book because I've always been fascinated by the dynamic of two people that grow up together and fall in love. They're inevitably so intwined it ends up in disaster. It's a very quick read, but it's not easy in that you absolutely hate what the characters are doing to each other the whole time. Would be a great summer beach read.