Random Ramblings: Book Slumps

I mentioned on my On Why I’ve Been MIA that I have been in a rather lengthy book slump. I went months without reading. This particular slump had more to do with my general unhappiness at my new job (I’m out now, but I had a a truly horrible and verbally abusive boss).

But this particular book slump made me realize just how ridiculously picky I can be with books. This happens especially when I’m in the mood for something like YA Fantasy. I want a strong female protagonist (I very rarely read from a guy’s perspective, especially with YA), but she can’t be “super tough” (aka a stereotypical strong girl who has had a tough past, can be a little mean, and insanely loyal to her family). I like a romance, but not one that’s central to the plot. Still gotta have it though. I love magic, but I don’t like changelings or werewolves or that sort of thing. Definitely no talking animals. I mean honestly, the list goes on.

And when I get into these “moods”, that’s literally all I want to read. I won’t touch a classic or a thriller or a mystery. It’s that “perfect book” or nothing.

Anyway, I’m trying not to be like that anymore. I still have things I don’t really like reading (YA contemporary romance, science fiction similar to The Martian, nonfiction), but I’m going to try to ignore my lengthy list of “wants” in a book and just find something I enjoy.

Anyway, let me know if you’re in a slump now, have a book you think I should read, or can relate to my post in the comments below!

WWW Wednesday, #1

Hosted by Taking on a World of Words

Currently Reading:

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.

For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

From GoodReads.com

So here’s the thing. The Haunting of Hill House ruined television for me. Not because it was bad, but because nothing has measured up since. Netflix recently announced season 2 of the show (which is going to be more of anthology series like American Horror Story). Anyway, the title of season two is The Haunting of Bly Manor which is apparently from this novella. So yeah, that’s why I’m reading it. Does anybody else have this on their list because of Hill House?

Recently Read:

Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon // My Review

Olivia Brownlow is no damsel in distress. Born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, she is as tough and cunning as they come. When she is taken in by her uncle after a caper gone wrong, her life goes from fighting and stealing on the streets to lavish dinners and soirees as a debutante in high society. But she can’t seem to escape her past … or forget the teeming slums where children just like her still scrabble to survive.

Jack MacCarron rose from his place in London’s East End to become the adopted “nephew” of a society matron. Little does society know that MacCarron is a false name for a boy once known among London gangs as the Artful Dodger, and that he and his “aunt” are robbing them blind every chance they get. When Jack encounters Olivia Brownlow in places he least expects, his curiosity is piqued. Why is a society girl helping a bunch of homeless orphan thieves? Even more intriguing, why does she remind him so much of someone he once knew? Jack finds himself wondering if going legit and risking it all might be worth it for love.

Olivia Twist is an innovative reimagining of Charles Dickens’ classic tale Oliver Twist, in which Olivia was forced to live as a boy for her own safety until she was rescued from the streets. Now eighteen, Olivia finds herself at a crossroads: revealed secrets threaten to destroy the “proper” life she has built for her herself, while newfound feelings for an arrogant young man she shouldn’t like could derail her carefully laid plans for the future.

From GoodReads.com

I love Dickens, so I thought I’d read this for obvious reasons. However, I HATED the book. I mean, I wrote a whole post where I ranted about two sentences– you can read it here if you’re interested.

Reading Next:

The Hangman’s Daugther by Oliver Potzch

Magdalena, the clever and headstrong daughter of Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl, lives with her father outside the village walls and is destined to be married off to another hangman’s son—except that the town physician’s son is hopelessly in love with her. And her father’s wisdom and empathy are as unusual as his despised profession. It is 1659, the Thirty Years’ War has finally ended, and there hasn’t been a witchcraft mania in decades. But now, a drowning and gruesomely injured boy, tattooed with the mark of a witch, is pulled from a river and the villagers suspect the local midwife, Martha Stechlin.

Jakob Kuisl is charged with extracting a confession from her and torturing her until he gets one. Convinced she is innocent, he, Magdalena, and her would-be suitor race against the clock to find the true killer. Approaching Walpurgisnacht, when witches are believed to dance in the forest and mate with the devil, another tattooed orphan is found dead and the town becomes frenzied. More than one person has spotted what looks like the devil—a man with a hand made only of bones. The hangman, his daughter, and the doctor’s son face a terrifying and very real enemy.

GoodReads.com

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back.

Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

GoodReads.Com

Honestly, I don’t know which of the two I’ll read next or if I’ll actually read either one of them. I don’t do well with TBRs. However, I recently purchased The Hangman’s Daughter because the plot sounded interested. As for Crazy Rich Asians, I’ve been on the hold list for awhile now at my local library and I finally got the book. The problem is that I got a little impatient so I watched the movie while I was waiting, and now I honestly have little motivation to read it.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these in the comments below. Did you like them? Hate them? Think I should read something else?

Eight Places Books Have Made Me Want To Go

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Did any of these make your list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway- Paris, France:

Obviously, I’ve always wanted to go to Paris, but this book really solidified that desire. Besides, so many famous writers have lived there, so I’d love to see it.

The Shining by Stephen King- The Stanley Hotel:

I love Stephen King, and I love ghost stories. The Shining is such an iconic book, and this hotel was the inspiration for The Overlook. Why wouldn’t I want to see it?

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles- Hotel Metropol Moscow: 

This is a grand and historic hotel in central Moscow. It looks so beautiful and luxurious.

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux– Palais Garnier: 

Yes, I know the Phantom isn’t real, but I’ve been obsessed with this story since I was a tween.

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling- King’s Cross Station:

I obvious can’t use a flying car to get to Hogwarts.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte- The Yorkshire Moors

Not only is this a great book, but the setting sounded so beautiful. This is definitely “on the list”.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee- Monroeville, Alabama:

I actually hated this book when I first read it in 9th grade. As an adult, I love it. Anyway, it would be cool to see where Harper Lee grew up.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare- Kronborg:

Or rather, Elsinore in the play. Honestly, this is my favorite of his plays, so I naturally would love to visit it.

When Flat Characters Fall In Love: Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon

olivia twist

Title: Olivia Twist

Author: Lorie Langdon

Genre: Fiction, Romance

Pages: 336

Format: eBook

Other: Amazon, GoodReads

Grade:   F(1/5)

Description (from GoodReads):

Olivia Brownlow is no damsel in distress. Born in a workhouse and raised as a boy among thieving London street gangs, she is as tough and cunning as they come. When she is taken in by her uncle after a caper gone wrong, her life goes from fighting and stealing on the streets to lavish dinners and soirees as a debutante in high society. But she can’t seem to escape her past … or forget the teeming slums where children just like her still scrabble to survive.

Jack MacCarron rose from his place in London’s East End to become the adopted “nephew” of a society matron. Little does society know that MacCarron is a false name for a boy once known among London gangs as the Artful Dodger, and that he and his “aunt” are robbing them blind every chance they get. When Jack encounters Olivia Brownlow in places he least expects, his curiosity is piqued. Why is a society girl helping a bunch of homeless orphan thieves? Even more intriguing, why does she remind him so much of someone he once knew? Jack finds himself wondering if going legit and risking it all might be worth it for love.

Olivia Twist is an innovative reimagining of Charles Dickens’ classic tale Oliver Twist, in which Olivia was forced to live as a boy for her own safety until she was rescued from the streets. Now eighteen, Olivia finds herself at a crossroads: revealed secrets threaten to destroy the “proper” life she has built for her herself, while newfound feelings for an arrogant young man she shouldn’t like could derail her carefully laid plans for the future.

Quick Review

  • Flowery and underdeveloped writing (see rant post here)
  • Super perfect characters with no personality
  • Predictable and gross instalove story

Detailed Review

As a child, Olivia Brownlow masqueraded as a thief named Oliver. Now, Olivia lives a high-society life with her uncle. But when a young man from her past reappears, her future  is threatened.

Would it be cruel to say that this is one of the worst books I have ever read? Because it’s rather unfortunate that I don’t really have anything positive to say about this book. I suppose if I had to, I would mention that this was an incredibly easy read, but only because there isn’t any complexity to the story, characters, or writing.

Ultimately,this book is riddled with undeveloped writing. At best, it’s cheesy, overly descriptive, and full of cliches. I mean, the author wrote this lovely number:

“Whiskey, govnah?” A serving girl leaned into Jack’s face, her ample bosom blurring as it threatened to spill out of its laces. His gaze flicked from her chest to her face, and he reared back in his seat (106).

And honestly, that’s one of the less cringy excerpts from the novel. In essence, this felt like something I would have read on fictionpress in the early 2000s. Those were some dark times (just kidding– it was a great place to grow as a young writer).

But even though I hated the writing from the first page, I decided to keep reading. Surely, this book would have something redeeming about it. After all, I hate Sarah J. Maas’ writing, but I love A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find something redeeming. Instead, I was confronted with flat characters and a predictable plot.

The two main characters, Jack and Olivia, are essentially Gary and Mary Sues. Olivia was supposedly an independent and tough lady who grew up on the streets, yet she manages to act like a fragile little lady who faints after eating one too many tarts (seriously. Is this a thing?). So she’s essentially strong, feisty, and incredibly beautiful. But even better–she has an oh-so-tragic past that she has to keep secret. This makes her simply irresistible. And then there’s Jack. The dashing bad-boy who also has a tragic past, but is really just gentle, romantic, and loyal.

Naturally, the two characters fall in love instantly. There’s some danger, of course, but it’s all cheesy and predictable. If it isn’t predictable, it’s just incredibly ridiculous. It’s all just gross.

But the biggest problem isn’t found in Olivia Twist’s writing, characters, or plot. It’s that this book didn’t feel even remotely like young adult literature. Instead, I felt like the author was writing under the assumption that a teenager can’t handle complex language, ideas, or plots. Everything felt fluffy and watered down. At best, I would say this felt like middle grade fiction (and even for that, I would still give this book a bad rating).

In the end, the only thing I liked about this book was that I didn’t have to spend too much time reading the damned thing.

P.S. I created an instagram. See the sidebar on the right if you’d like to follow me. 🙂

Tempting New Releases, #14

Are any of these on your list? Let me know in the comments below :).

A SERIAL KILLER’S DAUGHTER BY KERRI RAWSON

Description (Amazon):

In 2005, Kerri Rawson heard a knock on the door of her apartment. When she opened it, an FBI agent informed her that her father had been arrested for murdering ten people, including two children. It was then that she learned her father was the notorious serial killer known as BTK, a name he’d given himself that described the horrific way he committed his crimes: bind, torture, kill. As news of his capture spread, Wichitacelebrated the end of a thirty-one-year nightmare.

For Kerri Rawson, another was just beginning. She was plunged into a black hole of horror and disbelief. The same man who had been a loving father, a devoted husband, church president, Boy Scout leader, and a public servant had been using their family as a cover for his heinous crimes since before she was born. Everything she had believed about her life had been a lie.

Written with candor and extraordinary courage, A Serial Killer’s Daughter is an unflinching exploration of life with one of America’s most infamous killers and an astonishing tale of personal and spiritual transformation. For all who suffer from unhealed wounds or the crippling effects of violence, betrayal, and anger, Kerri Rawson’s story offers the hope of reclaiming sanity in the midst of madness, rebuilding a life in the shadow of death, and learning to forgive the unforgivable.

Why I want to read it: Like so many people, I have a sick fascination with murderers. I want to know what they were like and why they committed such horrific crimes. But I’m always curious about what it would be like to find out a person you loved was a serial killer. I think it will be interesting to read about Kerri Rawson, especially since shes the daughter of such a notorious serial killer.

THE CITY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT BY CHARLIE JANE ANDERS

Description (Amazon):

“If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams… And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.”

January is a dying planet–divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk.

But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.

Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal.

But fate has other plans–and Sophie’s ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.

Why I want to read it:  For one, the world sounds interesting. I feel like I hardly read stories anymore where the main characters live somewhere that is uninhabitable. Plus, Sophie’s story sounds thrilling. Also, what are these enigmatic beasts?

THE SILENT PATIENT BY ALEX MICHAELIDES

Description (Amazon): 

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations―a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

Why I want to read it: I love a good mystery, and Alicia sounds fascinating. Why is she silent? Why did she kill her husband? And what is this twisted path Theo is going to go down?

Let’s Discuss: Bad Writing, #1

As a reader, I wholeheartedly believe that less is more. I don’t mean that description should be sparse. Instead, a writer should give us just enough. And frankly, I think it’s a difficult balance to achieve. For instance, repetition signifies importance, but at the same time, it can also suggest a small vocabulary. Description can transport the reader into another world, but it can also come across as too flowery.  Long sentences can create a beautiful rhythm , but they can also become disjointed and confusing.

I recently read Olivia Twist by Lorie Langdon, a book that managed to encompass all three of these problems within the first page.  If you haven’t heard of it, this is a “sequel” to Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist wherein we learn that Oliver was never actually a boy.

Langdon begins her novel with this: “For long minutes, there was considerable doubt as to whether the child would survive to bear a name at all.” Then literally a few lines down, she writes, ““Extended moments passed as the babe lay on a thin, flocked mattress, struggling to find that first, essential, life-giving breath while the parish surgeon warmed his hands by the meager fire and the nurse slipped into a dark corner to find fortifications within a tiny green bottle” (1).

There were three problems I had with these passages:

  1. The repetitive nature of the language and ideas.
  2. The overuse of adjectives.
  3. The poor use of complex sentence structure.

Within a few lines, Langdon addresses the “long minutes” and “extended moments” that passed a surgeon and nurse waited for a baby to take its first breath. Essentially, it felt like Langdon noticed that she was repeating a phrase, referenced a thesaurus, and changed the second to “extended moments”. Not only are both phrases incredibly awkward and specific, but she’s also expressing the same information. Instead of showing how agonizing these “long minutes” might have been, Langdon pulls attention to her word choice.

In addition, the author is too reliant on adjectives. Don’t get me wrong. I love descriptive writing when it’s done well, but this example isn’t done well. Instead, I notice Langdon’s use of adjectives. There’s a “thin, flocked mattress”, the “first, essential, life-giving breath”, the “meager fire”, a “dark corner”, and a “tiny green bottle”. To me, this is purple prose. It’s too much in a short amount of time. In other words, it’s cheesy.

Finally, the second sentence consists of two ideas that don’t mesh well. I think this stems from the author’s attempt to mimic Dickens’ writing style. After all, he was known for his long-winded sentences. But the difference between Dickens and Langdon is that Dickens was able to use this technique to impact the pacing and the mood of his writing whereas Langdon could not. Yes, while the baby is struggling to take her first breath, the nurse and surgeon are doing other things. However, these two ideas are awkwardly presented in one sentence. Using “while” to transition between the two  felt artificial. And if I’m being completely honest, something about it just rubbed me the wrong way. I can’t quite place it.

In the end, writing should be creative and complex, but at the same time, it should be clean and well-thought out. Anyway, I know that this post was more of a rant, if anything. But let me know your thoughts in the comments below: Do you agree? Do you have similar or different pet peeves? Run into something similar? Seriously, I’m curious. 🙂

On Why I’ve Been MIA

Well, it has been…awhile. The last time I blogged, I was getting ready to start a new job at a law firm. I was excited to be out of education, to try something new. But things didn’t turn out how I thought they would.

If you were following my blog last year, you know that I taught, and you know that I was incredibly frustrated with education. I was tired of the extra hours I put in, I was tired of the low pay, I was tired of the poor working conditions, and I was tired of the disrespect from politicians, parents, and students. So when my husband accepted a position in another state, I decided it was the perfect time to change professions.

It took awhile, but I finally accepted a position with a law firm. This was perfect because before I decided to go into education, I had considered law. I thought I would love this job. I could leave my work at work, it would be challenging, and it would be different. I thought I would be happy.

But I hated it. I hated sitting at a desk and looking at a computer all day. I hated my boss (more on that later—it’s actually all ridiculous). I hated the work. And all of this bled into my every day life.

During the duration of my employment (September to January), I didn’t read a single book (and since I ran a book blog, I wasn’t blogging either). I know that might seem trivial, but for me, it was a big red flag. Simply put, when I’m happy, I read. When I’m not, I don’t. And for comparison, when I taught, I read every day. The last time I didn’t read regularly was in grad school, and that was simply because I didn’t have the time.

But it wasn’t just that. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to hike, go to the beach, go to events. I drank more than I usually did. Nothing crazy, but I definitely had a glass of wine more often than I used to. And I complained. A lot. Ultimately, this all blew up in early January when my husband confronted me about how much I complained, something that never happened when I taught.

So I quit my job. Because ultimately, this wasn’t worth my marriage or my happiness. Luckily, I had a backup plan. Literally within a month of working at this firm, I had another job lined up as a visiting teacher for one of the school district. Really, this is just a fancy term for a sub, but it was a process because in order to be a sub, I had to have my full credentials (the district hires its permanent teachers from the sub pool).

Simply put, I know I was MIA for awhile, so I wanted to explain why. Here’s to reading and blogging again. Let me know if you’ve gone through a long term “slump” like this in the comments below :).

Time is currency, and the rich are winning: Everless by Sara Holland

everlessTitle: Everless (Everless #1)

Author: Sara Holland

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Pages: 362

Format: eBook

Other: Amazon, GoodReads

Grade:   C(3/5)

Description (from GoodReads):

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself.

Quick Review

  • A strong yet vulnerable female protagonist
  • A terrifying world where blood is money
  • Cheesy villain who needs some serious work

img_2038

Detailed Review

Jules lives in a world where time is money, literally. In Sempera, your years are taken from your blood and boiled down into a coin you can use for payment. For the rich, this is wonderful. They can live for decade after decade. But the poor, it’s a curse that leaves you with a short life expectancy. So when Jules learns her father has little time left, she returns to the estate that she and her father once ran from in a desperate hope to save his life. But little does she know that going back to Everless is dangerous, especially for her.

The entire concept of Jules’ world is both terrifying and intriguing. The idea of paying off your debts with a coin boiled from blood? Naturally, with this form of currency comes a lot of corruption. And readers can see that when they see the differences between the life Jules and her father lead, and the lives of the wealthy. Quite honestly, I would have liked to see more development here because the idea alone creates the potential for some seriously messed up stuff.

Instead of focusing on the politics of this world, Holland focuses on the magic used to create this currency. This makes sense–it has to be a central part of the plot. It’s also different from what I’ve seen before. I also enjoyed that it stemmed from SEmpera’s mythology. Those elements added a depth to Everless that I rather enjoyed.

But I suppose, more than anything, I enjoyed Jules. I liked that she was strong and angry and brave, but she was also incredibly vulnerable. I liked that she is someone who is obviously going to come into her own strength throughout the course of the series. I liked that she was flawed and naive because it means that she has so much room to grow.

Despite this, I found some of the decisions she made a little unbelievable. I’m not going to go into detail because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but she does jump into dangerous situations that didn’t really make sense. She makes really stupid decisions that felt a little…off.

In addition, the villain felt like a comic book character. You know, cheesy, a crappy motive, evil for the sake of being evil. I like a more complex villain, and the one in Everless didn’t feel complex, despite that character’s history. Hopefully, there’s more development there in the future.

In the end, this was the flaw that kept me from loving Everless. But even though Everless isn’t a new favorite, it is the first young adult fantasy novel I’ve enjoyed in a while, and honestly, that was refreshing enough.

Hiatus—Update

Hey guys!

I just wanted to post a quick update. I’m going on a hiatus for a week or two. I mentioned that I started a new job. Anyway, I’m in training, and it’s a lot to learn (legal stuff). I have a few more scheduled posts, but they’re rather sporadic, but I’m taking a break from blogging because I’m pretty busy right now.

I’ll be back soon!