Thursday, June 26, 2014

It Girl by Nic Tatano

I asked and received this book through NetGalley for free. This review is not sponsored nor influenced in anyway.

What the book is about

The book follows Veronica Summer, a NYC TV journalist that gets the chance to become the new face of the morning show and though this eventually get her dream job as the evening news anchor. As hard as it is for her to be upbeaty and smile every morning, she tries her best, until one day her snarky personality takes over...and people love it. Then the unthinkable happens, the network wants her to be part of their successful show Dance Off (similar to Dancing with the Stars) where she will have to work with an insufferable British judge that might be as snarky as she is. Will she be able to maintain her credibility while dancing the night away so she can finally get her dream job?

First impressions

This book as a Romantic Comedy and for me it falls in the same lines than the Shopaholic series, which unfortunately made it very predictable even though Veronica is very different (behavior and personality wise) to Becky from such series.

Final thoughts

This was a fun light read, but for me it didn't bring anything new to the mix. This made the things that bother me become ever more present.

So let's break the story down, shall we? Veronica is very opinionated and direct, that was nice to see in this type of character, she is not a "damsel in distress", she has a nice career and she is proud of it. The scene with her boyfriend were she puts her foot down about getting her career opportunity was pleasant to read, her being assertive and putting herself above the idiot that was forbidding her from advancing in her career. But then she goes, a couple of pages later she goes and says: "he gave me a strong hug and almost lifted my hundred and thirty-five pound off the floor". I have never, ever heard any person refer to herself regarding her weight in such a sentence; and she kept having sentences like that which made her for me very caricature like.

Regarding caricatures, she has a friend Savannah described as the "sultry Southern brunette" of the group...and for some reason, this Savannah is incapable of saying you; no, she will only say y'all, even when it is a singular you...again, this would be a small thing if it wasn't in every sentence uttered by the character. This type of dialogue building made it hard for me to dive into the story, also since at sometimes where the you is supposed to be singular, it made the sentence I was reading very awkward, and I would have to go back to it to make sense of what she was supposed to say.

Finally, the thing that made me itch the most, and I know this is just because of my science background, is as follows: one of the characters gets an allergic reaction and says: I'm sorry I need to get my vaccine...I think the author was trying to avoid repeating the word shot in the same paragraph, but a shot and a vaccine are not interchangeable terms, I am sorry, they are just not.

I think the book is entertaining for a very light, summer evening. The characters were not complex and are in general enjoyable, give or take certain clichés that I'm coming to think are unavoidable when writing this type of story, since I see them almost every time I read this type of books.

As I mentioned, the story and the ending are a bit predictable. The thing that made me take it from 3 to a 2/5 was that at the end (spoilers ahead) since it is her that ends up giving up her dream to follow the guy. Off course at the end she seems happy, I am sure she feels happy. But it was never even an option that HE would give up, or to find each other in the middle. I don't know guys; I think I am not longer the audience for these girls that throw everything as long as the guy is happy, particularly when at the beginning of the book the main character is portrayed as very career oriented. It makes me feel like the message is: oh, is just a face, once you meet the right guy, you will change your mind...I just can't.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

This was the June pick for the Sword and Laser BookClub

What the book is about
The book takes place in the country of Adro, where in the middle of the night the Field Marshal Tamas has overthrown the king in an attempt to stop a corrupt government. However his actions bring also a war against the neighboring countries as well as in internal fight against those who were far from opposing the royal regime. What would look like an historical fiction is touched by fantasy when you add the power of mages, Tamas' son included. Magic and gunpowder merge to deliver a book full of action and intrigue.

Final thoughts

I should've liked this book...I mean I really liked His Majesty's Dragon, so what was it about this book that I didn't enjoy?

I've read amazing reviews, boasting praises for the book. And I have to say, all the things that they mention are indeed there. An interesting magic system, with gunpowder being the source of the Powder Mages magic seems to be the part that most people agree was a strong point for the book. I agree, it was there, it was different, it...did nothing for me. I would find myself doing "meh" faces as the magic happened in the book, for it did not happen in my head sadly.

Is not that I do not enjoy a military novel, as I mentioned before, I really enjoyed HMD, but in this case it just didn't click. I never fell for any of the characters, although I have to say I started liking Ka-Poel towards the end.

It bothers me that I didn't like this book, because I think it has a lot of good things which is why I am giving it a 3, because while I didn't like it I can perfectly see why other people should and have liked it. Dear book, is not you, it definitely me, sorry.
A spy is not a soldier, Marshal. A soldier has a loyalty for himself, it is true, but at the end, he needs to fill his stomach and to get one month's worth salary. Spies are motivated by the love of the art. They love their country, and their king.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Unknown Unknowns by Adam Bromley

I asked and received this book through NetGalley for free. This review is not sponsored nor influenced in anyway.

What the book is about

The book follows several points of views but the main story is based on Project Pandora, a mysterious project commanded by the Russian Government 30 years ago that somehow has ended up in the hands of a drug dealer trying to cash it out to escape from prison in a country nobody knew existed, Ozerkistan. Kat Foster, a junior diplomat will have the mission to meet this person and asses the veracity of his claims as well as bringing him to the corresponding least that's the plan she has been told, but as she will learn, there are a lot of things that she wasn't told before accepting this mission.

First impressions

I enjoyed the first chapters of the book, the introduction of the characters, leaving tiny glimpses of not only the Pandora mystery, but their own lives and what took them to where they are presently. The opening sentences on every chapter were perfect subtitles for each chapter.

Final thoughts

I liked the main idea of the book; the way the mystery was shown, little by little, with a nice political build up and personal details of the characters here and there made for a good general flow of the story. Most of the dialogues also had a good rhythm to them, albeit sometimes they could seem forced.

While the book is not intended to be a comedy, at least it is not advertised as one, it has serious chuckling moments, through irony and dark humor. The bit of political humor is also appreciated. Characters were in general well built, giving insights to their past through a series of flashbacks, that didn't overtake the story, but gave it more sense to the actions of everyone involved.

However, there were several things that ticked me off and made me wonder farther from a 4/5 ratting. First of all, and off course this is personal, the fact that they refer to "Columbian cartels". People, I've said it before and I will say it again, it is Colombia with an O, and hence it should be ColOmbian cartels. This, you are going to say, is not enough to take down a whole point, and I agree, but it bother me nonetheless.

Then we have the scene where Kat uses her Krav Maga...this might a be a tiny spoiler, but bear with me, so Kat is in this very uncomfortable situation, as in, she will probably be raped situation. Through other chapters in the book it has been hinted that she was abused at a certain point in a way that I thought this would have a bit more of weight. Alas, it felt like the only reason to keep hinting for this was so it would made sense that she kicks the guys ass, since she know Krav Maga. It was one of the build ups that fell flat for me, mostly because all the previous mentioning were pointing (for me) for a deeper scene and not just a page of her defending herself.

'In this life, there are two types of men,’ explained the rider. ‘Those who have the power to do harm to others; and those who do not.’

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Book Blogger Test

Stephanie from Don't be afraid of the Dork tagged me for this test and here are my answers!

What are your top three book pet hates?
  • Product placement...not mentioning a product, but when adding names of products, websites, etc, seems just random and unnecessary. This happens a lot in YA and I think is the author's way of showing how "hip" and "in tune" with young people they are.
  • Caricatures of speeches and/or slang. For example I just finished a book with a southern girl...she would start ALL of here sentences with y'all and what was even worst, the authors used it to replace the singular "you". On YA what usually happens is an overuse of "cool", "like" and "whatever".
  • Female characters portrayed as doormats. It bothers me too with male characters, but sadly it is more common with female ones.
Describe your perfect reading spot.

Right now I am very lucky and have a couple of places at home that I love. Number one being my papasan; it is so comfortable, no matter the season. But now that summer is here, I can use my rocking chair in the patio, and it's just perfect.

Tell us three book confessions.
  • When reading a book that fails to interest me, I often start skimming it, so I guess some of my 1 star hasn't been fully read.
  • I once started reading an erotica book without knowing it...I realized what I had in my hands while blushing (beet red) in the metro.
  • While I haven't advance much in the A Song of Ice and Fire series (I have only read the first book) I am relatively up to date with the Shopaholic series...hey! they are perfect light readings in between heavier ones! 

When was the last time you cried during a book?

The last book that made me cry was The Last Unicorn, mostly because it took me back to my childhood.

How many books are on your bedside table?

I have one book right know, since I finished a couple this week. I am reading El Ruido de las Cosas al caer.

What is your favorite snack to eat while you’re reading?

I don't always have a snack while reading, mostly I have coffee

Name three books you would recommend to everyone.
  • Momo by Michael Ende
  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R Tolkien
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Show us a picture of your favorite shelf on your bookcase.

Write how much books mean to you in three words.

Heaven in print

What is your biggest reading secret?

I am not sure if this questions refers to a secret I have to read more or a secret about what I have read...I am going to answer it as the former. I've realized that expanding my reading to not only "paper books" I've managed to be able to squeeze more reading time daily.

Now I have to tagg for lovely fellow bloggers and they are:

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Nosotras que nos queremos tanto by Marcela Serrano

It would seem that men live the relationships and it is women who think them

What the book is about

Four friends have the opportunity to spend some days together, just the four of them. Four women that met almost by chance at work and that became friends in spite and because of their differences. The book takes us through their life and the life of those they loved, lost and hated; through their childhood, teenage years and their adult ones; through their bliss and their pain all mixed with a political conflict in the background.

First impressions

I have memories of women in my family reading this book and last time I went home I took a copy with me to read it myself. This is a beautiful book, depicting women with all their nuances. It is a powerful book from the eyes of a feminist, from the eyes of a person who loves women and a person that has been loved by them. The title translates roughly to "Us who love each other so much" and it is a perfect description and synthesis of the book. It is a book of women who love each other, as sister, friends, and even as enemies.

Final thoughts

These women, as I mentioned before, are very different from each other, and in being so they show all the different sides that a woman might have in a life time. During the book I felt that I identified with all of the women at a certain point and that was an extremely powerful feeling.

For me it was a book that had it all, from the deepest friendships to the hardest sorrows, Serrano takes us through the lives of this women and made them feel like it is our own. I am not sure how much of this sense of belonging comes from the Latin taste that covers each character and how much comes from being a woman, but this book reached all possible fibers inside of me.

Love is ever present in the book as I mentioned before, but not only love inside a couple, but fraternal love and off course the love between friends and the love that sometimes we forget to feel for ourselves.

It was a splendid read and I would recommend to all of my contacts and beyond. It has taken me a while to write this review, mostly because I feel that words fall short for what this book made me feel. So I can only say, read it!.

For you should know, Ana, that intimacy for men is the bed itself, no like for us which is after the bed, and hence, way longer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can't Google.)

What the book is about

Cath is a a very self conscious, introvert girl...except when she is only, writing fan fiction. While in school, she used to do so with her twin sister, Wren, but now that they are going to college, Wren wants to try to be more of an individual, less of a twin. Forced to meet new people and deal with it alone, Cath will have to deal not only with her own fears but also with Wren's college experience, her father's ups and downs and even confronting her mother, who left years ago.

First impressions

What I seem to like from Rowell's books (I say seem, since this is only the second book I read from her) is that she writes young characters without them feeling like a caricature of young people and the fact that their biggest problem is not what to wear to prom, if you know what I mean. Her characters deal with bullying (Eleanor & Park) and mental issues (this book) as well as with daily life, classes, crushes, etc. So far her style is very compelling to me and hence I would like to read the rest of her work.

Final thoughts

While I didn't love this book as much as I did Eleanor & Park I enjoyed it a lot. I think it was interesting to use twins to show how people can react so differently when exposed to the exact same situation as a child. When they were still living with their dad, they both took the role of adults (pretty much) however, once the "freedom" of college came along, both girls went into a extreme version of reclusion/party mode.

In general I liked the character construction, but I thought there would be a bit more of rounding up for the characters of Laura and Courtney, considering their effect in the story (no spoilers, I promise) and how the later was portrayed from the beginning.

The building of relationships amongst characters was a strong point for me too, maybe because it is hard for me to start new ones, not to the extent portrayed in the book, but still.

I think I could've done with the tiny excerpts of Simon Snow here and there just because for me they didn't add much to the story. I didn't need them to compare with the fanfic Cath wrote. It didn't bother me that it was obviously based in Harry Potter, because I think that was the whole idea, to use something a lot of people would be familiar with, she could've gone for any other series of books that had been so seriously used in fan fiction, but I don't see it as plagiarism as some people have pointed in their reviews.

It as a pleasant read, perfect for a relaxed weekend. Rebecca Lowman was a very nice narrator for this book.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Clockwork Scarab: A Stocker & Holmes novel by Colleen Gleason

Why, I ask of you young ladies, is it the female race who must sit still and take pains to be slender and pretty, all the while taking care to have nary a relevant thought in their heads? 

Why I read this book

I asked for a copy of this book with at the Early Reviewers from LybraryThing. I won the book in August 2013 but sadly I did not receive it until March of 2014. When I finally got to reading it I had almost forgotten what the premise was but I still wanted to give it a chance.

What the book is about

A steampunk novel taking place in Victorian London where Evaline Stocker (sister of Bram Stocker) and Mina Holmes (niece of Sherlock Holmes) are introduced to each other in order to investigate a series of suicides that might not be so.

First impressions

While I was reading the book, I kept having the feeling that the author wanted to lure way to many publics by adding a lot to the mix: vampires, time travelling, Sherlock Holmes, steampunk...and at certain points it get tiring mostly because I didn't feel that a lot of this was adding to the story. It felt to me that the intention was to plant seeds for the series, but in my case since some of the things mentioned felt underdeveloped I do not feel like reading the next to come. Even on of the heroines in the story agreed with me:

The rest of London would never believe it of their staid, gear-ridden, mechanized world. Vampires. Demons. Supernatural instruments supposedly belonging to an Egyptian goddess…and now time travel?

Final thoughts 

While I did not love the book, I think there is something there worth reading. First of all, the characters are well written both female and male. I liked the voices that Mina and Evaline were given, although I will mention that after a while the thing Mina does, analyzing every new comer, felt overused, like we needed to be reminded about the fact that she was related to Holmes and that she wanted to be like him. But in general the 2 girls felt like very proper Victorian girls in the way they were depicted while at the same time feeling like they had substance and enough ground of their own.

Another good point for me was that, while basing herself in the real London 1889, Gleason made her additions to this new London in a way that they flowed seamlessly. I did not stop in the middle of the sentence to say: well, this makes no sense!, and this is always a good thing in my book. However I've come to accept that Steampunk is not for me...particularly when every single gadget had names like Mr Morris brighten device for a lamp (I might be exaggerating, but this was not enticing for me).

One thing I have to say though…maybe it was called liked that back in 1889…but Syrian language? Unlike Farsi (or Persian) in Iran and Turkish in Turkey there is no Syrian language…maybe it is a typo an they meant Syriac? I don’t know, but this type of things bother me.

This book felt right in the middle for me, the balance between good points and bad points was about 50%, leaning toward positive marks for a well researched base on Victorian London and a good amount of imagination from the author, since I can honestly said, background of the story felt quite different from my usual reads. Hence a 3 out of 5.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo

When fire burns, it uses up the wood. It devours it, leavening only ash. Grisha power doesn't work that way.

Why I read this book

I heard people talking about this new series in 2012. It had a very good premise, saying it used Russian mythos elements and so I considered I would like it. Once it got on sale at the Book Depository I decided to go for it. It also makes part of my Once Upon a Time Challenge.

What the book is about

The main characte, Alina Starkov, has always been a bit sickly looking and weak. She is an orphan that join the first army along with his good friend Mal...Whom she is also attracted to. On day, her regiment tries to cross what is known as The Fold, an area of the country covered in darkness, where evil creatures lurk. Is here that she almost looses both her life and Mal and it is when her powers surge saving both of them. She will now have to leave the first army to join the second, the Grisha, dealing with the little Science. Her powers might be able to get rid of the Fold...or they could give someone else infinite power to abuse.

First impressions

I would say that it took inspiration of Russian folklore, albeit with a fair amount of literary license taken. There is not a lot of world building at the beginning although it does feel like it would be settled on a very cold part of Russia. Characters are interesting but a bit predictable.

Final thoughts

I think the book itself is physically pretty, both the cover and the map were visually pleasing. The division between the different Grishas according to their powers was interesting, but not particularly different from other books with similar stories.

Now, the story itself is not completely original, taking the "ugly duckling" type of story and mixing it worth magic and some Russian inspired words and constructions. I liked the comparison of the magic to science, when considered as manipulation of matter, but there wasn't a lot of development there. I believe this might be tackled in the sequel.

I am conflicted to give this less than a 4, because while the story was not great I got immersed in it pretty fast. I finished the book in a 2 day weekend and basically devoured it. Maybe it is because I needed something light at the moment and it delivered exactly what I was expecting of the book but I liked it enough to preorder the paperback edition of the sequel. Hopefully I'm not disappointed.

And there is nothing wrong with being a lizard either. Unless you were born to be hawk.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

El Turno del Escriba by Graciela Montes

Why I read this book

I am on a quest to try and read all the winners of the Alfaguara book award :) It's part of my plan to increase the amount of books I read in Spanish that were also originally written in Spanish.

What the book is about

Is 1298, Rustichello de Pisa has been a prisoner in Genoa for a long time. Now he has encountered a fellow prisoner that turns out to be Marco Polo. His travelling stories are full of adventure and foreign charm that de Pisa would love to transcribe and share with the world

First impressions

The book starts a bit slow, introducing the main character, the city of Genoa...the problem is that is continues to be slow...and, for me at least, it ends up slow.

Final thoughts

I don't have a general problem with slow books when there is something else carrying the story, case in point, The Goldfinch. It is a fairly slow paced book, but it doesn't feel that way, because the descriptions are so beautiful that for me it carried the story. This was sadly not the case for this book.

While I was not expecting a retale of Marco Polo's Livre des merveilles du monde I was hoping for bits of it, the excitement, and the description. But no..There are practically no dialogues with Marco Polo; there is only the description of Rustichello saying how last night Polo said something, but even then it is very vague.

The think that made me give a 3 to this book, even though I wasn't enjoying it that much, was seeing an scribe turn into a full writer, feeling the voids in the story, creating and not just transcribing. I believe is this, paired with the historical part that felt well researched, that made the book won the award that year.

I honestly wouldn't know to whom I would recommend this book if I was to do so. Hence me giving it a 3...more like a 2.5, but I gave the extra .5 because of the researched that was obviously behind the book. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Lighting Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) by Rick Riordan

It's funny how humans can wrap their mind around things and fit them into their version of reality
Why I read this book

Several times I've encountered reviews or comments refereeing to this series. I like mythology a lot, particularly Greek and Egyptian; this book is based on the former so I thought it would be a good series to give a shot.

What the book is about

Percy Jackson has never met his dad; he left him and his mom when he was a baby. He is also a problematic student, suffering from dyslexia and ADHD. Then one day, on a field trip a monster attacks him and all of the sudden everything starts making sense...sort off. He turns out to be the son of a god, making him a demigod. It seems like fun, except that now he is also a suspected of stealing Zeus lightning bolt and his mother is gone. He will have 10 days, before the summer solstice, to recover both.

First impressions

Harry Potter was first published in the late 90s (oh my, I am feeling old suddenly) while this series was published in 2005 so I cannot help to make comparisons. That said...the story building based on Greek mythology was very different and fun to read. I think I should've read this one on paper first, mostly because while I think Jesse Bernstein did a good job, he sounded to teenager-y for my image of 12 year old Percy.

Final thoughts

While I did not fall for any particular characters I enjoyed the book, mostly all the mythology references. That said...It felt a bit TOO much like HP, but replacing magic with mythology.

Things that I liked: The references to Greek Mythos and the modernization of several of the characters. The ferryman falling for Italian Suits and wanting a raise from Hades? That made me laugh; Auntie M 's garden emporium? Clever.

Things I didn't like: the predictability of the situations. The fact that Annabeth is supposed to know all this Greek history and yet it takes her forever to see or recognize obvious things ( i.e: Auntie M's garden emporium full of stone statues...but I guess is normal considering she is 12). The fact that none of the kids sound like kids.

Thing that annoyed me even though I realize I might be being ridiculous: Perseus is already the name of a son of Zeus; I know I am nitpicking, but couldn't the author use a name that wasn't already linked to a completely different god? Just saying.

The series seems to have potential but it wasn't enough to get me exited. I reserved the second book at the library and then will decided if I am dropping the series or not.

Even strength must bow to wisdom sometimes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Sometimes people don't understand the promises they are making when they make them

Why I read this book

The trailer for the movie based on this book is all over the place and I have to admit, my curiosity got hold of me. What is it about this book that so many people are raving about?

What the book is about

This is a love story between 2 teenagers that encounter themselves through a support group for cancer survivors. Hazel has a rare cancer that has compromised her lungs and Augustus had osteosarcoma. Their relationship grows through the illness and through a book that has marked Hazel. They will both change each others with their first love.

First impressions

From the moment I thought about acquiring the book I told my boyfriend: apparently I will cry a lot with this book. However as I advanced in the book, while I encountered pretty sad moments, nothing moved me to tears. I couldn't help but think that the whole raving about "the feelings" in this book oversold it for me and I had way to higher expectations.

Final thoughts

Have you seen any of the videos from John Green? He has a very particular style and oh boy does it transfer to this book. I cannot say to his writing, since this is the first book from his that I've read, I think that is amazing, to be able to transfer yourself so well on paper...well, on audio in this case.

The characters were very likable, which is not always the case, and good thing is, I felt that they would be likable even without the cancer. Hazel is smart albeit a bit of a Debby downer (yes, I know she has cancer) being, I suppose, the voice of tragedy somehow. And Augustus was very sweet and also smart...but sometimes overly optimistic, so the voice of comedy?...I think that the intention was to show the two extreme reactions to being sick so young. You could either take your eventual death and be very pragmatic about it or go the other way around and try to act like the illness is not there while taking profit of every single minute.

The story builds up nicely, and I appreciated the fact that at the end Green talks about consulting with specialists to be as accurate as possible and admits that in some cases he took the liberty to ignore their advice in order to make a literary option instead of a scientific one.

The descriptions of Amsterdam were lovely. How lucky for him to be able to get to know the city!

It was a nice love story. It was a nice cancer story. But it was a predictable story. I don't think this was Green's fault. I think is the fault of the internet.

I enjoyed Kate Rudd as a narrator; she was fun, very good inflections and voices.

The dead are only visible in the terrible, littlest eye of memory