The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is a memoir about a family that is less than perfect and determined to seek out a life they define.

Jeannette Walls grew up with parents who took nonconformity to another level.  Rex and Rose Mary Walls had four children, one boy and three girls–Jeannette being the second oldest. When Jeannette was young, her family lived a nomadic life–moving from place to place, sleeping in cars and camping in the desert.

Sometimes they scavenged for food and sometimes they ate like kings. All four kids grew up bookworms–studying geometry, art, history and basically any interesting fact their parents could get their hands on. Discipline took a back-burner to life; Rose Mary and Rex believed strongly in the sink or swim method of life lessons.

Although, they often went hungry and life could beat you down, there was something magical and adventurous about those early years on the road. But all that changed when the family moved to rural West Virginia and life deteriorated until the kids were all but surviving.

This is the story of a dysfunctional family that stuck together until they didn’t.

Anyone who follows my blog or reviews knows that I am not a big nonfiction person. I will occasionally listen to a biography or a narrative driven historical non-fiction but I’d rather jump out of my skin than get under someone else’s>>does that make sense? So for me, this book was beautifully written… just not for me.

When I first picked up this book I didn’t realize it was a memoir. And then reading what these kids went through, I really didn’t think it was a memoir until I looked it up on Amazon. Jeez, what a life Jeannette had and I am sure this book doesn’t even cover half of it. You’ve got to be extremely lucky to survive a life like that and come out the other side still intact.

The characters I think most people will focus on are erratic Rose Mary and charismatic Rex. But you know who I would have loved to get a closer look at… Jeannette’s brother. Although he and Jeannette were more like twins then brother and sister, Brian was the only boy and just a really interesting person in my opinion. I’d love to see this journey from his perspective.

Overall, this was a read about overcoming adversity and living life the best you can no matter what type of life you lead. This book gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

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The Girl In The Tower

The Girl In The Tower by Katherine Arden is the second book in the Winternight Trilogy.

After surviving a night of nightmares and putting her town back to rights the best she could, Vasya finds herself once again at the Frost Demon’s door. Vasya has been labeled a witch by her village, she doesn’t know what to do or where to go–she knows only that she wants to see the world and be more than the wife and mother she was expected to become.

When chance finds her in Moscow, masquerading as a boy, Vasya must learn to blend in or risk revealing herself. Now Vasya must guard her identity and navigate a society of rules, politics and drink or risk losing the freedom she has gained as a man. All the while, dark forces are at work and Vasya is at risk of losing a game she didn’t even know she was playing.

Will Vasya ever be able to face the reality of who or what she is? Will she ever understand this powerful connection she has with the Frost Demon and the world of the demovi? And what will she be willing to sacrifice to protect those she loves?

The first book in this series was so complete that I was actually very surprised to find that there was going to be a second book, let alone third. I absolutely adored the first book. The mixture of myth and folklore, Russian culture and scenery were just extremely well done. Now in The Girl In The Tower we get a little less magic and myth and a little more society and the political culture of the time. And I think it was because of this that I wasn’t as enamored with the book.

This book does, however, achieve second book status in my opinion. In a trilogy, you usual get introductions and backstory in the first book, build up and intrigue in the second, and action and resolution in the third. Vasya and the demovi world were laid out for us and we met our core characters in the first book; in this one we learn more about why this secret world is fading and we learn that there is much more at work behind the scenes.

The Girl In The Tower addresses a lot of themes as well. We get gender roles and inequality, political turmoil, family roles and reversals and more. There is also just a feeling a magic and fairy tale-esq qualities in this book that gives it a very authentic feel.

Overall, this was a book that I enjoyed and I can’t wait to get more Vasya and Morozko in the final book. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race

Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race by Chris Grabenstein is the third book in the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series.

Mr. Lemoncello and his fantabulous library is back for another adventure filled with riddles, fun, facts and of course books. After escaping the library and competing in the Library Olympics what else is there for Kyle Keeley and his friends to do? Race of course!

Mr. Lemoncello is on the verge of revealing his new fabulous fact-finding frenzy game and in Lemoncello fashion, he is asking his friends of the library to compete in a race to see who will tour the libraries of the world and debut his new game. Of course Kyle and his friends can’t wait to compete!

But the race ends up being about more than just a game. Kyle Keeley and his friends find themselves in a race of another kind… a race to the truth.

It is just so much fun uncovering clues and reading/hearing quotes from books you’ve read. It’s like “Hey! I’ve read that book too!” People love that and Grabenstein is constantly referencing popular books and authors. This is definitely a series for book lovers.

The Lemoncello world is a world I want to visit. I’d love to ride around in book mobiles and race across the states to find clues and solve riddles. And the library just gets cooler and cooler with each book. Please take me to this library!!!

My only criticism of this one is that all of the Lemoncello books feel very familiar. Yes, the plots are different but the contests and fact finding games are all very similar. It is still a lot of fun though and I did enjoy that this one focused on doing research and not taking shortcuts.

Overall, this was another entertaining read by Chris Grabenstein. Grabenstein really does write some great children’s books. This one gets a high 3.5-4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Before The Devil Breaks You

Before The Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray is the third book in The Diviners series.

It’s 1927 in New York City and the jazz age is in full swing. After facing sharp-tooth ghouls and a terrible sleeping sickness, the diviners are ready for the truth. Evie, Memphis, Ling, Sam, Isaiah, Theta and Henry and their non-diviner friends Jericho and Mable are more determined then ever to discover the truth behind their powers and the evil forces threatening their city.

As the diviners uncover clues and come into their powers, they find out that terrible forces are at work. A mysterious entity–The King of Crows–has power over the dead and is working to cause a breach between the world of the dead and the living. Together the diviners must work to reveal secrets that could endanger them all.

Will the diviners be able to uncover the truth before it is too late?

This wasn’t my favorite of the diviner series so far. I don’t know why, but I have a problem with series that get longer and longer with each book. Yes, I understand that the plots get more complicated as the story progresses but sometimes the also get more convoluted. We aren’t quite there yet with this series but I sort of feel like we might be heading in that direction. There were some plot lines that almost feel thrown in and some scenes that I just didn’t feel we needed.

I will say, I love the era the author has chosen to write in. The Jazz Age mixed with the supernatural is just wonderfully done. I love all the lingo and our characters have some really wonderful expressions and characteristics that wouldn’t work well in another time period. This book makes me want to go around using the lingo and of course get crazy looks from everyone!

On top of crafting an atmosphere that perfectly represents the 1920’s, Bray also doesn’t shy away from the political climate of the age. She addresses themes like racism, prohibition, eugenics, gender equality and more. Our cast of characters each face these themes in their own way.

Overall, this was an entertaining read and I will be interested to see how Bray wraps everything up. This one gets 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

All The Crooked Saints

All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater is a new young adult fictional standalone novel.

The Soria family deals in miracles. People from all over find themselves drawn to the Soria’s because everyone wants a miracle right? But not everyone realizes what it takes to get one.

This generation of Soria’s revolve around three cousins: Beatriz, Daniel and Joaquin. Beatriz is eccentric and brilliant but emotionally stunted; Daniel is the Saint of Bicho Raro who performs most of the miracles; and Joaquin leads a double life as a pirated radio personality–Diablo Diablo. Along with Peter, an outsider who just wants to work, these three cousins will change the way the Soria’s do things forever.

What happens when saint’s need their own miracles? Will they be able to face the darkness and save their way of life? And what will they learn about themselves along the way?

Maggie Stiefvater is just such a diverse writer. She can do different types of narratives and her stories are just so unique. I really enjoyed All The Crooked Saints. First off, that title–stellar! Second, it was just a really interesting story with some really great takeaways.

The narrative was really interesting here. It actually reminded me of Anna-Marie McLemore’s style in a way, where a lot of the narrative is commentary and observatory. The language was also magical and whimsical. This was probably my favorite part of the novel. The dessert itself is often personified and this only adds to the magical feel of the story.

The characters were done in such a way, where you were given just enough information to build the character in your mind rather than being told entirely who they were. I don’t know if that makes sense but it worked.

For some reason I am finding it really hard to write this review but I thought All The Crooked Saints was a great read and I would definitely recommend it to others. This one gets 4 high stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

Artemis

Artemis by Andy Weir is an adult science fiction novel that takes place on the moon.

Jazz Bashara doesn’t follow a straight path–she’s one for shortcuts and bending the rules. Life on the moon isn’t all it’s cracked up to be if you aren’t rich but for Jazz it’s still home and has been since she was six. So running a small smuggling operation to bring in some additional cash isn’t the worst thing she could do, right? Not when she’s barely surviving on her salary as a porter.

When Jazz is given the chance to make a ton of money on a single, all-but complicated and potentially life ruining job, she jumps at the chance to change her life forever. But planning the perfect job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when Jazz finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy and being hunted by the mob.

What has Jazz gotten herself into and how will she get out of it and save Artemis at the same time?

Artemis has Weir’s usual narrative flair. Jazz is a master of snarky sass without making everyone want to kick her ass. This is not an easy thing to achieve and Weir makes it look effortless. That being said, Artemis didn’t capture me like The Martian did.  The latter made me laugh but had a nice balance of plausible science and excitement. Whereas Artemis didn’t quite hit that balance for me. I liked the Ocean’s Eleven feel of the story but something was just missing for me.

The world building was well done. I really felt like a city on the moon was plausible and I could totally see it being a tourist trap or taken over by the wealthy. I don’t know why but I keep thinking Disney World but on the moon. I also enjoyed the glimpse into the politics we get.

Although, I like the narrative snark, did anyone else feel like Jazz was basically a female Mark Watney without the desert island and the countdown clock? I didn’t even realize Jazz was a girl until a few pages in. She could have been a bit more original.

This was an enjoyable read but didn’t feel entirely original to me. Not bad but not Weir’s best. This one gets 3 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

 

The City of Brass

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy set in the middle east.

Nahri grew up on the streets of Cairo, surviving using her wits and her talents as a thief and swindler. Nahri has a strange gift for healing; she can immediately tell what ales a person and can often heal them. Not knowing anything about this power or where it came from, Nahri’s only goal in life is to save enough money to bribe someone into training her to become a professional healer.

But Nahri’s life is changed forever when she accidentally calls a powerful djinn warrior, Dara, to her side and she learns that all the mythical stories were true and that a part of her belongs in this world of marid’s, bird-men and djinn. With Dara as her captor/escort, Nahri travels to the mythical city of Daevabad where court intrigue rules, politics are played with blood and warring tribes threaten to tear down a peace that is shaky at the best of times.

Will Nahri learn who she truly is and will she be able to adapt to a life beyond her imagining?

I really liked this world behind the curtains. A world of magic; a world where myth and folklore come to life. The world building in this book is just so complete. From the politics to the history, to the character development and setting there just are not any glaring loose ends.

There was actually almost too much world building to the point where the story came second. There were a few times where I was wondering where the book was going and how certain chapters related to the plot. But I think the author is spinning a web to carry though the rest of the trilogy. This book felt more like a build up to the action to come.

I found myself rooting for each of our main characters in turn. First, Nahri with her sass and mysterious past. Then Dara with his lost memory and hard brand of caring. And finally Ali, with his family drama and conflicted moral code. Even the side characters were interesting and well developed.

The ending also really left you wondering… what exactly is going on and who is the one with all the power. I like this in a cliffhanger. You aren’t dying with the cliffhanger but you are definitely intrigued enough to want to know more.

I’ll be interested to see where this one is going. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-