Book Blogger Hop – July 21

 

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Hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer

This week’s question:

Have you ever read a book or books you would consider ‘toxic’ because of the effect it(they) had on you? If so, which one(s)? 

(submitted by Maria @ A Night’s Dream of Books)

This is a tough question because I’ve definitely read books that have made me uncomfortable or given me nightmares or been otherwise unforgettable in a way that isn’t necessarily good. But I wouldn’t really call any of them toxic because I believe that books can and should make people uncomfortable sometimes. I would never decide to only read books that made me happy, had happy endings, or weren’t controversial. 

I think Oscar Wilde may have said it best:

“As for being poisoned by a book, there is no such thing as that. Art has no influence upon action. It annihilates the desire to act. It is superbly sterile. The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” ― Oscar WildeThe Picture of Dorian Gray

 

Review – The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

The Impossible Fortress

By Jason Rekulak

Summary: A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.
Do you remember your first love?
The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it.
The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan—they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.

 Source: Book of the Month Club pick 

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Review:

The Impossible Fortress promised an amazing YA journey through 1980’s nerd and pop culture that I couldn’t pass up. I love the 80’s and it sounded like it would be right up there with Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which was a huge favorite of mine that I’ve recommended many times. 

I was incredibly disappointed by The Impossible Fortress.

At first, the boys were trying to come up with ways to get their hands on the new Playboy issue with Vanna White which was a great plot device because it was the 80s, they were young, and it was a big deal at the time. They came up with pretty elaborate schemes and finally settled on one crazy one that worked out well for Will. Will was a programmer and creator of video games using code and discovered a girl hanging out at the store where the Playboys were sold who also shared the same interest. So he came up with a way to give himself a reason for hanging out with her to work on this video game contest in context with the heist for the Playboys. He used the scheme as an excuse was because she was kind of fat and his friends were making fun of him and her for the short interaction they witnessed and Will didn’t want to just admit he thought she was cool or shared a similar interest. 

The boys seemed a bit over the top about getting their hands on the Playboy and women in general, but part of the problem was that the characters were all pretty flat, so there wasn’t anything else about them that we knew. Had the author done a better job creating well rounded characters, it would’ve shown that, while obsessed with naked chicks, they were still actual people with other interests and personalities. I even feel like the book missed out on friendship dynamics that would’ve made the group more realistic and easier to love.

For the majority of the book, Will grew as a character as he began spending a lot of his time learning code and developing a friendship with Mary and even her standoffish dad who owned the store. He wasn’t as interested in the antics of his friends because he had a goal and was working towards it with someone who shared the same passion. It was a great transformation… until he completely undid all of that great character growth by being an awful friend and lashing out after being rejected. 

All of the obsession with Playboy and girls was totally fine and even relatively normal for the time frame, so I wasn’t even bothered by it. The fat shaming and offhand comments the guys made about Mary were also things I could deal with and not really get upset about because Will was growing as a character despite it and it was a thing back then. But then Will was a completely awful person by lashing out, allowing damage to property and people, all because he was rejected by Mary. And, while he did realize he was being a jerk, the book didn’t do enough, in my opinion, to really talk about the fact that he didn’t have a good excuse to lash out. There wasn’t really a lesson learned by anyone in regards to women and since the book was published recently, I think the whole “it was the 80s” excuse didn’t work anymore. The whole end just made it seem like Will messed up, but also there was a twist and Mary was pretty messed up, and everything was fine. There was this whole “boys will be boys” kind of attitude that rubbed me the wrong way and made me a bit uncomfortable. This book was pretty much awful when it comes to showing a healthy attitude towards women and by the last page, I was just kind of disgusted by everyone. 

There could’ve been a number of ways the Playboy magazine heist could’ve blown up in Will’s face and I knew it was inevitable, but the way it all went down was just disappointing and ruined a story that I was mostly enjoying. Mary shouldn’t have needed a reason to turn Will down (yes, this apparently needed to be explained) and Will shouldn’t have lashed out in a very awful way and if those things happened anyway, then there should be some sort of lesson everyone learned as a result. And since there wasn’t, at that point, I could no longer shrug it away and say “but it was the 80s” anymore.

Star 2

Review – The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

SummaryWhen all hope is gone, how do you survive? 

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected. 

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

Source: I received an Owlcrate exclusive hardcover in an Owlcrate box.

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Review:

The Sandcastle Empire was a strange book. I was confused for the majority of the story, but it was so interesting that I couldn’t help but turn the pages to see what would happen next. Because I was so intrigued and constantly surprised by the direct of the story, I enjoyed the book quite a bit.

The book definitely has a LOST feel to it, along with dystopian elements. Something happened to Eden’s world and it was under very strict rule, but her main goal was to find the Sanctuary her father wrote about in his survival guide. During a moment of chaos and confusion, Eden found herself traveling with three other girls headed off of the coast with only one way to go: towards Sanctuary.

There was so much going on with the plot. The island was really strange and it became clear that they weren’t on any ordinary piece of land. Also, the group dynamics were weird because none of them could really trust each other. And then one of them went missing and the girls attempted to find her and stumbled onto all sorts of messed up things. What WAS this place?! What was happening?

And then, suddenly, there was another group of people who showed up with characters some of the girls recognized, but not quite. Who were they? What were THEY doing here? 

I loved all of the craziness.

I have to admit, things did get a little over the top with the amount of strange twists and turns and shifting alliances, but I was so hooked. The end probably had more plot holes and rushed schemes than I would’ve liked, but it wasn’t a big deal to me. From the beginning, I knew I wasn’t reading a story that was realistic or had a tie to any world I’d recognize, so it was pure fantasy and chaos that never really needed to make sense to me. I suppose I understand if you are a stickler for realistic fiction how this book would be maddening, but I thought it was kind of fun and insane. 

I would definitely recommend The Sandcastle Empire to anyone who enjoyed Lost, enjoys being on the edge of their seat, and doesn’t have super high expectations for YA dystopian novels. This isn’t the next big hit, but it was definitely enjoyable and I had so much fun flying through the pages with a confused look on my face. No one can accuse the book of being predictable!

 Star 4

 

 

 

 

Ode to Books

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Ode to Books

I have talked about my love of Bookstagram and I do have my Instagram linked, but every so often, I like to share some of the content I’ve been posting with my blog followers.

 

I just moved across the country and set up my bookshelves:

 

 

  • ACOMAF necklace
  • Hogwarts wallet

 

Kindle Paperwhite in the Springtime:

 

Books and Bookish Tattoos:

 

 

Do you take bookish pictures?

 

 

Book Blogger Hop – July 14

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Hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer

 

This week’s question:

 

What is your go-to drink and/or snack while reading? (submitted by Kristin @ Lukten av Trykksverte)

 
 
I don’t have a dedicated snack, but I love drinking hot beverages like coffee or tea and pastries. It’s kind of what I crave on cloudy, rainy, or just cold days, which is when I most want to read.
 
 
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Review – Fire Study (Study #3) by Maria V. Snyder

 

Fire Study (Study #3)

By Maria V. Snyder

SummaryThe Apprenticeship is Over Now the Real Test has Begun.

When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder able to capture and release souls spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. Already Yelena’s unusual abilities and past have set her apart. As the Council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising against her homeland, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before….

Honor sets Yelena on a path that will test the limits of her skills, and the hope of reuniting with her beloved spurs her onward. Her journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. Yelena will have but one chance to prove herself and save the land she holds dear.

Source: I purchased a kindle copy.

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Review

Fire Study was the third book in the Study series and took place right after Magic Study ended. It concludes the Study series, but there is also a spinoff trilogy that involves some familiar characters and extends this series. Yelena discovered she was a Soulfinder and so did the Council, which raised some eyebrows of concern. The last Soulfinder was power hungry and awful and Yelena’s knack for acting without thinking was a dangerous trait for someone so powerful. She was set to pair with a Magician who hated her in order for Yelena to better hone her skills. 

I really enjoyed Poison Study and gave Magic Study a lot of slack because it switched settings and was definitely different from the first book. But Fire Study tried my patience and left me feeling frustrated and annoyed. The plot was over the top and I found myself unable to care about any of the characters anymore. Fire Study could’ve bridged the gap between the amazing first book and the second book that suffered from second book syndrome, but instead, it continued along the downward spiral of the series. Not even Kiki the horse could cheer me up or make me care about anyone or anything.

The plot was full of crazy theories and plans, holes, leaps of logic, and shockingly convenient solutions. Yelena’s go-get-em attitude didn’t seem to evolve and just started to get old. Even Valek was watered down and lame, always swooping in to save the day and whisper sweet nothings instead of being the strong character he was in book one. The whole story was full of convenient actions and started to feel like one of those series where suddenly this one person has all of this influence with two warring countries in a way that makes absolutely no sense. Also, I hated that all of the good guys were always on Yelena’s side and all off the bad guys were people she just couldn’t get along with. It was so juvenile for the actual bad guys to be conveniently people that she just couldn’t seem to like or didn’t like her. That’s not how the real world works and I would’ve preferred to see the story take the path it was supposed to with her training and have her actually learn stuff instead of galavanting into the wilderness to save the day. 

The spin off Soulfinder series has much better reviews, so there’s no telling whether I’ll continue at this point, but I know it won’t be anytime soon. I have no idea what happened to the amazing story from book one, but it got so ridiculous. 

Star 2

Review – Magic Study (Study #2) by Maria V. Snyder

 

Magic Study (Study #2)

by Maria V. Snyder

SummaryA lesson in loyalty, a master class in intrigue

So far, I’ve managed to survive. You would think after being kidnapped as a child, imprisoned in my teens and released to become a poison taster, I would have endured enough. But no. The discovery of my magical abilities, powers forbidden in Ixia, has resulted in an execution order. My only chance is to flee to Sitia, my long-lost birthplace.

But Sitia is unfamiliar. I’m treated like an enemy, even by my own brother. Plus I can’t control my powers. I want to learn about my magic, but there isn’t time. A rogue magician has emerged and I’m targeted as his next victim.

Will my magical abilities save me…or be my downfall?

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

Magic Study has some mixed reviews and I think it’s primarily due the abrupt setting change and lack of familiar characters with no plan to return to the original setting. Yelena was no longer allowed to remain alive in Ixia at the end of Poison Study and she left with Irys to the south to find her family and learn more about her magic. It is rightly titled Magic Study in the same way that the first book was named Poison Study. It was a bit disappointing to not have Valek front and center, but I was curious enough to continue. 

(For anyone put off by Valek’s absence, I will say that he does make an appearance at some point, so it’s not without it’s moments between Yelena and Valek. I think, especially since Yelena is so similar to Celaena in Throne of Glass, people may have worried about a love interest shift. No need to worry!)

I enjoyed Magic Study, although Yelena’s I-Can-Tackle-Anything attitude was becoming more reckless than helpful, but I think she had/has to fail in order to teach herself to be patient and also she needed/needs to push herself to show others that she is more than capable. She came into the magic game late and was behind, so very few people seemed to grasp that she was more than capable of helping, even if she didn’t know how to formally do whatever it is with her magic that needed to be done.

Some reviewers have mentioned the fact that all of the villains seem obsessed with rape and torture and it’s excessive, but I feel like it fits in a fantasy setting and with Yelena being so outspoken and powerful, she draws unwanted attention from villains who would be of that type. It fits for me and doesn’t seem like it’s over the top. And I love that Yelena has learned how to overcome her past and help others heal and realize that they aren’t responsible. There are some great messages there and I think it fits and is relevant to the setting, the characters, and the growth that Yelena has experienced from the beginning of the story. 

I also love that Yelena’s homecoming was nothing like I assumed it would be. I’m glad that her clan and family welcomed her because I was afraid they wouldn’t, but I’m glad that there was a bit of a complication with Yelena’s brother. I like when things aren’t neat and tidy and a homecoming that brought everyone together would seem just a little too neat to me. I like the messiness of the guilt and hatred and shame that Lief seemed to have towards her because it seemed a bit realistic to me. 

Magic Study felt different from Poison Study in many ways, so I understand why there are many mixed reviews. It’s not really more of the same, which is what people normally expect from sequels. But I like the change in scenery and characters. I liked seeing Yelena discover her past and her abilities. It seems like the series will expand on her character throughout each book and I’m enjoying the journey. 

Star 4