Saturday, April 18, 2015

Reading Marathon

Last week was my Spring Break, aka The Week of Not Getting Up Early or Doing Anything Other Than Reading. You know how some people have Netflix binges? Well, I have book binges. There are times when I have reading slumps, but when I have a ton of free time on my hands and a ton of books on my shelves, I race through them (Get it? Race? Like a marathon?).

So, let's see how it went.

I started on Friday night into Saturday morning, with Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay. It's about a girl who was burned and scarred when she was young. But in alternating chapters, we get the story of what would happen if she hadn't been scarred--a parallel universe story! I love these! I enjoyed some aspects of it, but I think it took too long for the same characters to pop up in both worlds, and it left me wondering what the point was. It was an interesting look at how every little thing (that makes you) can change lives, but it was kind of underwhelming.

I moved on to Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, one of my most anticipated reads of the year. It's a young adult fantasy book, set in a world divided into Red-blooded people and Silver-blooded people. Silvers have powers and rule over the Reds. But Mare begins to show some Silver power, even though she's got Red blood. She's invited to the castle so that the king and queen can keep an eye on her and do some damage control. It kind of reminded me of Throne of Glass, but there was also a revolutionary group thrown in there. I thought this book was really interesting and, thankfully, I read it close enough to its release date that I had not been spoiled for the plot twist towards the end. I think I might have seen it coming if I hadn't been so wrapped up in Aveyard's lovely writing style.

On Saturday night, I read Side Effects by Jen Calonita. This was interesting, because it was a web series first, then turned into a novel. It's about a girl and her siblings, living on their own. Their dad left them, and their older brother had to leave his life to take care of them so they wouldn't get put into foster care. The girl is on anti-depressants that have side effects of musical hallucinations. I was intrigued, but the writing seemed almost condescending, like I know how teens talk, and it's rad. I really love Calonita, though, and the reviews I've read of it mostly say that the web series was great, but it doesn't translate well into book form, so I can almost forgive it (The "almost" is for the cringe-inducing moment when two characters confront their bullies in a hallucination of Katy Perry's "Roar.")

The next book I read was Just One Year by Gayle Forman. It's the companion novel to Just One Day, which I read last year and loved. The story is about a girl and a boy who spend just one day together in Europe before he disappears and she goes back to America. I think I liked this one, but I waited too long to read it. They're the same story, told from two different perspectives, so at times I was wondering what was so great about this girl that Willem wanted to find. But the imagery was wonderful, and I finished the book with a smile on my face.

Then I read The Unbound by Victoria Schwab, the sequel to The Archived. I was excited that there was more to Mackenzie and Wesley's story, but I think the actual plot line was pretty nicely tied up at the end of The Archived (It's about a world where the dead are called Histories, and they're kept in the Archive. Mackenzie is a Keeper, and it's her job to catch the Histories if they try to escape back into the world). The plot in this book was fine, but I don't think it was completely necessary. However, I loved the moments between Mackenzie and Wesley, so I forgive it all its faults.

I picked up Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas next. It's the second book in the Throne of Glass series, and it was wonderful. The main character is an assassin, and she works for the king, but she doesn't always agree with him. I loved Throne of Glass, and I loved Crown of Midnight just as much. I'm reading the prequels now, and then Heir of Fire is waiting for me on my shelf.

Now we've gotten to my favorite book that I read over Spring Break, I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak. This is the story of Ed, who starts getting playing cards in the mail that give him addresses. The addresses lead him to people who need help, and it's Ed's job to help them. This book was beautiful. It was comedic, mysterious, and touching. I know Markus Zusak gets a lot of (well-deserved) praise for The Book Thief, but this one is seriously underrated.

Okay, so then I read Huntley Fitzpatrick's What I Thought Was True. I had started it last summer, but I didn't get into it. Since I loved The Boy Next Door, I thought I'd try this one again. It's about a girl named Gwen who lives on an island, and it's summer, which means tourist season. She's got some sort of past with one boy, but this is inexplicably kept a secret until three-quarters of the way through the book. I liked some of it--Fitzpatrick is really good at the cutesy romance--but overall, I thought the secrets and flashbacks went on too long to hold my interest.

Spring Break is about fun and sun, so what would be more perfect to read on Spring Break than The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath? I liked this book. I would say I enjoyed it, but I didn't--it was really hard to read, emotionally. But it's a classic--and for a good reason.

Then I read Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. It's set in a dystopian world, where some people have strange powers. Juliette is one of them, but her power is her touch--it can kill. I enjoyed most of this book, and I have only one complaint. Juliette was too passive! She has this awful power, and I know that she has to be a likeable and sympathetic character, so she can't just go around killing people, but we only get to see her use her power a few times. It's a trilogy, though, so let's see how the rest of it goes.

The last book I read over Spring Break was Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Okay, here we go. I liked the historical aspects of this time travel story. (At its simplest, the synopsis is: Claire is sent back in time to 18th century Scotland, where she gets into all kinds of adventures with some kilted men). And I enjoyed the Claire and Jamie romance, for the most part. But the note from the author at the beginning said that Gabaldon set out to write a purely historical novel (no time-travel), and this feisty, not-appropriate-for-the-time woman just kept popping up. And in many parts, Claire was not that character. She let Jamie get away with too much (Interestingly enough, this is almost the same problem I had with Shatter Me). This strong female character that Gabaldon described would not be okay with Jamie beating her, and she would not tell him she loved him afterwards.

Outlander was really interesting, and I think Claire's passive side showed up in few enough places that I can give the second book another try, but I'm going to need some character development. I know it's the 18th century, but come on.

So! Those are the books I read over Spring Break. As you can see, it was a full week. I enjoyed most of the books, and I enjoyed just getting some time to read whatever I wanted. I wish you luck in finding books to binge!

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