Monday, 4 March 2013

January Books!

Welcome to my MONTHLY READS post!

I made a promise to myself in a previous entry that I was going to read an average of 3 books per month this 2013. I've kept track of the here and will try to write about them at the end of the month.

January was a pretty good reading month for me. I read two extra long books this month, but I still managed to read 4 books! Take a look at some of my January reads:


1. Megan Bryce - To Catch a Spinster - **

It took me quite a while to recall what happened in this book, because I read and finished it on January 2, 2013! To be honest, it wasn't a very good book to begin my year, but whatever! I'll be sure to read more substantial books as the rest of the year passes. Anyway, this is a historical novel in which a spinster named Olivia decides that even though she's lost hope in getting married, she still wants to experience the physical side of it. She enlists the help of Nathaniel, and the plot problem lies on how far the deal is supposed to go.

(I suck at summaries for romance novels, writing them gives me the creeps!)

I didn't really like this book, but I didn't hate it either. There were some funny moments, and the heroine wasn't the typical regency damsel fawning over the tall and handsome stranger. However, the development between the two characters left much to be desired. I usually avoid romance stories because most romance novels don't really tell us the reason/s why these characters fell in love with each other, other than "S/he's hot!" This was one of those novels. Also, (spoiler alert!) at one point Nathaniel proposes marriage to Olivia, and she refuses because she's gotten so used to being a spinster and was quite set on living that way forever. The boy, however, is not daunted! He just says something along the lines of "oh well, I'm just going to pester you until you say yes." He even bought his mother and sister into it. I just find that really annoying. If a girl doesn't want to do what you want her to do, either leave her alone or have a proper conversation about it. My complaint isn't really valid considering the time period this was set in, but I just wanted to put it out there that COERCION IS NOT ROMANTIC.

2. Jodi Picoult - Nineteen Minutes - ****

This might sound strange to you, but I'm interested in crimes that occur within youth. Not stupid things like theft, but more serious things like torture and murder. I spent a lot of time reading up on Junko Furuta and Columbine. I just wonder what in the world pushed these children to commit such heinous acts, which is why I picked up Nineteen Minutes, a novel about a school shooting and how the lives of everybody involved changed.

The book's plot is very compelling, and I like how Picoult makes an effort to introduce the characters to the readers as much as she could, so we could relate better and see where they're coming from. It does come off as a bit tiresome, however, it's necessary in order to examine the actions and reactions of all the characters. The plot was nicely paced and the story itself wrapped up pretty well.

One thing I didn't like about this book was that it had the tendency to blabber on about philosophical things out of context or not fitted to the situation, just to make a quotable quote (personally, I call it "John Greening"). Like at one point Josie Cormier says "You don't need water to feel like you're drowning," which was one of the more memorable lines in the novel. The problem was it felt really out of place to say it during a simple conversation with her daughter. Another problem I had is with the "twist" in the ending. I saw it coming from five miles away, and it wasn't really necessary to the plot nor was it dealt with properly. There was a revelation, a resolution, BAM! Take a bow. But other than that, this novel really made me think about choices and the twisted ideals of society. It left me very heavy-hearted and sympathetic for the characters. I hope more people read this book and realize the consequences of even the tiniest actions against our fellowmen.

On a random note, I didn't really like the cover. It looks a lot like a self-help book on grief or something.

3. Scott Westerfeld - Leviathan - ****

I will be very excited and squealy about this book. Be warned!

I'm super interested in history, steampunk, girls in kick-ass roles, the military, and fantasy. Imagine the amount of drool accumulating in my mouth (eeew!) when I heard about this book, combining all these and more! Leviathan is a story about Alek, a prince on the run from assassins and usurpers, and Deryn, a girl disguised as a boy to serve as a midshipman in the titular vessel. That was enough to get me hooked, but imagine an all-out war between man-made steam-powered fighting machines (the Clankers) and genetically-modified animals as weapons (the Darwinists). I was super sold, and was super ecstatic when I found a copy at a nearby Book Sale.

For starters, the story is amazeballs. It's the kind of story that I wish I thought about first! The pacing was great, and the events were plausible but not predictable. I really like how he took actual history and twisted it all around to come up with a more kick-ass and exciting version! Another thing I really liked about this book was the characters. I felt like each character had a purpose, nobody was there to be stupid or unneeded, and I sympathized with their causes. Westerfeld's writing, as always, is very witty and refreshing. Since it's Young Adult, I'm not really expecting mind-blowing, reflective and insightful prose, so if you're looking for that, this is not the book for you.

One thing I also really liked about this book was the treatment of the female characters! I WANT TO BE DERYN/DYLAN SHARP! She's awesome without being a Mary-Sue, she knows her limitations, and even if her initial reasons for joining are a bit questionable, she still knows her duty and embraces it. Professor Barlow is also a strong female character. She's important to the plot and she's a doctor in a time where women are not expected to become such. Sadly, even though there are two awesome females, there aren't a whole lot of them at all in the book. Which is OK, given that they're in a military setting.

I think the only thing I didn't like about this book was that it ended! I'm still on the look out for a copy of Behemoth. I'm super looking forward to reading the next two books!

4. Alan Gibbons - The Shadow of the Minotaur - ***

After my excitement of reading Leviathan, I unfortunately was pulled down with this book. I picked it up because it's about Greek mythology, a subject that I LOVE to death, and computer games, another subject that I love to death. However, the book did not live up to my expectations. Or I just made my expectations too high based on Leviathan.

The plot is pretty basic. Phoenix has a game developer dad who is part of a team making a game called "The Legendeer." It's a game where you can be the hero of a number of Greek legends (like Perseus and Theseus). Problems arise when the lines between game and reality blur, putting Phoenix, his father, and his friend in mortal peril (MORTAL PERIL WHOOO).

As you can see, the premise is basic but intriguing, and it also proved to be the biggest disappointment. It picked up really slowly, then the action started kicking in, and the ending was solid but a bit meh. It didnt' really get me excited for the next book (it's part of a trilogy). Also, I didn't really feel the atmosphere of the game. The game rules weren't well-established and it honestly didn't feel like an exciting game. When you adapt a game from a legend or a well-known story, you're supposed to add your own twist to it to make it feel more like a game instead of a story simulation, and I think that was missing from the story. Maybe Gibbons should go pick up an MMORPGs because I think he's not super in-touch with the culture of gaming.

The narrative was also a bit meh,. Nothing really jumped out at me and Phoenix wasn't a very solidly constructed character. I do give props to Gibbons for putting in a POC as Phoenix's best friend! This book honestly wasn't that bad, I probably would have enjoyed it if I read it at 12 years old. It's just forgettable, which is disappointing considering the potential of the material.


And that concludes my January reads~! I was going to include my February reads, but as you can see, I have a penchant for rambling about books and it would look utterly cluttered if I included two month's worth of books in this entry. So stick around for my February reads!

What were your January reads? Comment below and help me expand my ever-so lengthy reading list!

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