I was honestly expecting to hate this book. I thought it was supposed to be “chick-lit“, but Curtis Sittenfeld is such a talented author, I had to read it even if it meant sitting through whiny ramblings of a girl that lost out on love (but this is not what the book is about!!!!–at least not to me).

The best thing about this book is how infuriating the characters are. I mean, all of them. Isn’t that amazing? How often can authors make you have any type of emotion about their fictional characters? That’s how talented Curtis Sittenfeld is; she crafts such a realistic persona for all of the characters in the novel and you get so angry, so sad, and so happy for them. In most novels, I would perhaps feel attached to some characters, but they don’t evoke any feeling from me.

The main character, Hannah, is similar to her previous female protagonist from Prep, but Hannah grows so much more significantly. Following her choppy relationships with men and with her family is heartbreaking. She’s so real. Aspects of her life and her experiences are so familiar. She feels so concrete–like the worst and best friend that you can have. I get so angry for her nonchalant behavior and her wishy-washiness when it comes to guys. But think about it!!! Aren’t you like that in some point of your life too?

Oh, and apparently, this is not considered chick lit because there’s no happy ending. I love when endings are just…there. Hannah’s life becomes so neutral, but there’s a sense of closure.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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My sister highly recommended this book. I’ve actually heard of Rick Yancey, he was a tax collector turned author, which I think is very cool. This book got amazing reviews on Amazon, so I had to check it out. The weirdest thing was that I went to 3 different Barnes and Noble, and each time they were all sold out, or this book was on hold. I finally got my hands on it and I couldn’t wait to read it.

I thought that this would be one of the books where I would finish it in a matter of hours–devouring the book because I can’t put it down. I’m kind of sad to say that this was not the case. I finished the book over the course of a day, but I took several breaks to do other things…in other words, this book did not capture my attention. I honestly don’t know what the problem was. The pace of the book is definitely a bit slow, but there was no wasted space. All the information and background stories of the monsters and characters were relevant. It just didn’t capture my special attention.

The Monstrumologist follows the view point of Will Henry, and it introduces a monster called the Anthropophagi. Reading its description reminds me of the Tooth Fairy from Hellboy 2. Granted the little creatures of Hellboy were much cuter…and they can fly. The Anthropophagi is decidedly less cute than tooth fairies, and they are much more gruesome.

Rick Yancey has a wonderful imagination. I loved description of the monsters, it was the most enjoyable part of the book. I don’t care for Will Henry’s relationship with the monstrumologist, I found it to be contrite and very by-the-textbook. The true moments that reeled me in were the hunts and history of monsters around the world. There were some strange parts in the book that I found…unnecessary. At the beginning of the story, the monstrumologist is looking through Herodotus’ Histories to look for mention of the Anthropophagi.

Unfortunately, I am a classics major and am foremost familiar with Herodotus’ Histories, and I have no idea what passage he is talking about. Herodotus wrote mainly about the Persian Wars, and the wars between Greeks and non-Greeks. He focused also on moral stories that should be a model for Greek citizens…how does Anthropophagi fit into that?? Nonetheless, I enjoyed The Monstrumologist and I can’t wait to read the sequel to it, The Curse of the Wendigo.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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Buy The Curse of the Wendigo at Amazon

Buy Herodotus’ Histories at Amazon

I had this book on my Amazon wish list for the longest time. Well, I finally read it a few days ago and I can say that I’m probably underwhelmed. That should be my fault though, since I wanted this book for a long time, and my expectations of it probably got too high.

Alice I Have Been is supposed to be a fictional account of the Alice that inspired Lewis Carrroll (pen-name) to write Alice in Wonderland. I was interested in his novel briefly because of the re-release of the movie Alice in Wonderland that came out in Feb-March of 2010 with Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska and etc. Either way, it’s an interesting read, but it was definitely not worth my money to get it in hardcover.

The way Melanie Brown described the character of Lewis Carroll slightly creeped me out. Not in a bad way, it’s just interesting because I don’t understand if he’s supposed to be a pedophile for not. Perhaps he was just innocently interested in children…right??? The reason I didn’t really enjoy the story is because it’s all just so boring. I didn’t really care for Alice because I don’t like children. Half the novel is through the viewpoint of Alice has a child, and therefore she often says that she “doesn’t understand what she’s doing or what’s going on”.

Maybe as an adult, I just don’t understand that. How can one be completely unaware of their surroundings and their actions? I wasn’t as absent-minded or as cruel as Alice when I was young. That’s what I don’t like about children, they are cruel and there’s no one there to tell them otherwise.

Older Alice was more interesting for me to read. Her relationship with the other characters in the novel made it much more enjoyable and I liked older Alice better. The “mysterious” situations in the novel that leaves the reader asking, “What just happened? Is that supposed to happen???”–and I think that adds to the novel, because the answer comes at the end! Overall, an interesting read, but I was not happy with buying a hardcover…was not worth my money.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Buy Alice I Have Been by Melanie Brown

I am fascinated by all things from Japan–music, culture, especially food. I have never been much of a literary geek into Japanese novels (ie; anything about WWII, geishas, or the history of Japan, etc). I have heard of Out by Natsuo Kirino for a long time though. The back of the novel describes the book as a grimy crime novel that explores Japan’s underworld.

I thought the concept was really fascinating. A group of women who work together at a factory all have serious and very saddening problems at home. Together these ladies work the overnight shift at a lunch box company which is exhausting, work is an escape for them from the frustrations of their home life. The spouses of these ladies in the story are so human. Natsuo Kirino doesn’t make the reader hate the characters who are considered antagonists in the story, rather she gives us a very human look into relationships and human behaviours that can’t be changed.

I really loved this book because it was so suspenseful. Throughout the book, readers know what the crime is and we know who did it. The suspense comes from the characters themselves because they don’t know who among them knows the whole truth, and who will exploit that for money, power, etc.

I also found the characters to be so tragic. One of the ladies who works at the factory is a single mother who takes care of an elderly mother-in-law and her own rebellious daughters. Her story is sad to me because she is stuck in this life with no way to get out because of duty not only to her dead husband, but to her own family to keep them alive, even though she doesn’t earn much working. It was hinted throughout the book that her daughter was working very risque jobs, she made more money than her mother did but never even thought about helping her mother out with her finance problems and even stole money that her mother worked so hard for.

Her story is so realistic to what rebellious teenagers do today. It realistically depicts the hardships of family life and the gritty side of why some people throw their lives into their work because their own home life is so miserable. One of my favourite things about this book is the descriptions of life in urban Japan. I don’t know much about current Japanese culture and I love that this book gives me a little insight to the great country of Japan, but also to the hardships that its citizens have to endure within their economy and situations.

My Rating: 9.5/10

Buy Out by Natsuo Kirino at Amazon

I didn’t really read any YA (young adult) novels until I read Cassandra Clare. Her first trilogy that I think was very successful is called The Mortal Instruments. Clockwork Angel is the first book in a second trilogy, The Infernal Devices that Clare is starting that’s supposed to take place ~100 years before the events of The Mortal Instruments.

The story takes place in the late 1800s, early 1900s–the turn of the century. I won’t go into plot details, as you can get that off the cover of the book or on amazon, but I do want to say that I was very impressed with Clare’s writing this time around. I really enjoyed The Mortal Instruments because the story was interesting and Clare’s universe was something that was new to me (apparently, among YA-supernatural-fiction writers…Clare’s ideas are maybe not so original, but I don’t care).

I think a constant danger that writers face is typecasting characters. For example, in The Mortal Instruments, there was the usual cast of characters in a teen novel:

  • Main girl who doesn’t think she’s pretty but the main hot guy likes her
  • Main hot guy who is a douche on the outside but has a heart of gold and a troubled past
  • Beautiful girl but she’s annoying (or some other character defect)

…and etc. I was wary of Clare’s new trilogy because I think that once you have a very successful cast of character type, it’s hard to move away from that. I guess it’s a “Tried and true” theory. I was very impressed with Clare after reading Clockwork Angel because she was able to move away from her older characters and molded new personalities for all of her characters in her new trilogy. Clare’s descriptions of turn-of-the-century London are succinct, and I really did feel like she moved out of her comfort zone and I was really happy with Clockwork Angel.

Clare’s writing style is pretty much the same as it was in The Mortal Instruments–a few of her characters are smart-asses, and I can’t help but wonder if she’s projecting her real-life sarcasm into her main (male) protagonist? Either way, I enjoyed the way that Clare developed the relationship between the main female protagonist and with other characters in the series so far. I think that The Infernal Devices trilogy will be more mature than her first trilogy and it really cements Cassandra Clare as a great YA writer. She’s often compared to Stephanie Meyer, but I think that Cassandra Clare is a much better writer (in terms of technique, storyline, and imagination)…but readers like to draw comparisons to similar stories concerning forbidden romance, which isn’t really fair.

I really enjoyed The Mortal Instruments trilogy, and I liked the first book of the Infernal Devices trilogy even more, so I definitely recommend checking out anything written by Cassandra Clare if you’re interested in a fun, smart, and entertaining read.

My Rating: 8.75/10

Buy the Infernal Devices: Clockwork Angel at Amazon

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I wanted to get this book, which is the second novel from writer Elizabeth Kostova after her hugely successful first novel, The Historian, shortly after it came out at Barnes&Noble. However, I felt the extreme need to go onto Amazon and read reviews before I spent $2-some on a hardcover. The initial reviews were that not a lot of readers were happy with the direction that Kostova took this novel. She went from historical fiction to almost art history, and at times it may seem like a dry read. A few weeks ago, I saw the book in great condition at Half Price Books, and I decided to give it a try.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel less than I thought I would, but it’s an interesting read nonetheless. I’m very impressed with the fact that Kostova is such an astute writer. Her details in describing the various paintings were painstakingly minute, but what else can it be when there is no actual visual stimulation? Kostova actually creates the image in the reader’s mind, which is so necessary for a novel like this. At times it feels like Art History 1001, but Kostova keeps the novel from turning too boring with little twists and a real sense of mystery.

The one thing that does bother me about her follow-up work is the fact that I could not connect to any of her characters. The narrator is a psychiatrist who’s also an artist, investigating why a famous artist tried to destroy a painting. His investigation leads him into his patient’s past life, which is also filled with –SURPRISE!–more artists! All of the characters are unlikable because I find them all unrelatable. I wonder if it’s just the mind of an artist that I don’t understand? The main character is flat and seems strangely selfish, the supporting cast of characters are overly-developed which I thought was unnecessary.

If you can get the hardcover for cheap then I think it’s worth getting, or maybe wait until paperback. I still think it’s a nice addition to any library but definitely not essential.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Buy the Swan Thieves at Amazon.