It's officially halfway through the year and I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be for my Goodreads 2015 Challenge. The whole reason I started this blog was to interact better with the material I was reading. Now that the blog is 2 1/2 months old I'm starting to feel like it's less of a whirlwind and more of a companion as I settle into a new routine. (Except now that I'm reading the GOT books, they're consuming my life until I FINISH THEM! ::Cue Street Fighter Gif::)
Here is a quick rundown of my 25 most recently read books.
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.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North - 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.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra - 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.
Unlocked: An Oral History of Haden's Syndrome by John Scalzi - 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.
The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin - 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.
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.
Lock In 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.
Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer - Pretty interesting story. A talented young boy from a difficult and poor family situation is chosen to go to school on a choral scholarship. A little bit slow to start but picks up towards the middle. I liked it enough to read the rest of the series.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - 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.
The Sins of the Father (The Clifton Chronicles, #2) by Jeffrey Archer - 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.
Best Kept Secret (The Clifton Chronicles, #3) by Jeffrey Archer - 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.
Red Queen (Red Queen Trilogy, #1) by Victoria Aveyard - 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.
The Darkest Minds (The Darkest Minds, #1) by Alexandra Bracken - 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.
Never Fade (The Darkest Minds, #2) by Alexandra Bracken - 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.
In The After Light (The Darkest Minds, #3) by Alexandra Bracken - Okay that was an action-packed finale to an excellently written book series. In The After Light 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.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr - 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.
Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult - 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.
Route 66 to the Milky Way by Janet Rendall - 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.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - 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.
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1) by George R.R. Martin - 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.
A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2) by George R.R. Martin - 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.
Disclosure: I do receive compensation for the links provided, but it does not influence my reviews, or the books I choose to read. All thoughts and opinions are my own.