Monday, June 30, 2014

June Wrap-Up

So, I went through a bit of a reading slump in June.  After doing two read-a-thons in a row, I just lost all motivation to pick up any books, and instead I read numerous pieces of Harry Potter fan fiction for the first two weeks.  And I don't regret a thing.

After I got over my bout of laziness, I managed to finish eight books and participate in the Rick Riordan themed #ayearathon.

The first books I finished this month were Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle, vol. 1 and 2 by CLAMP.  This is a shōnen manga series that incorporates many other CLAMP worlds, particularly the xxxHOLIC universe.  And the whole series focuses on Syroan and Sakura, who are originally from the Cardcaptor Sakura shōjo series.  However, these two characters aren't just lifted from one universe and put into an alternate one; they are actually completely different people from their Cardcaptor counterparts.

Now, Syroan and Sakura are two of my favorite characters of all time, and I loved the Cardcaptor Sakura manga and anime.  I originally found out about this new series years ago, and I read the first three volumes, but then I left the States, and I kind of forgot about reading them.  But now I'm picking them up again and rereading the first three before I continue on with the series.  And I am loving them.

This is one of the prettiest mangas that probably exists.  I mean, look at how beautiful the illustrations are:

Even though it took awhile for me to return to it, I really enjoyed each volume - the story, the characters, the artwork - and I am excited to get through all 28.  I gave each volume 4 stars.

After that, I read The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters, which are the first two books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan.  I read these for the #ayearathon read-a-thon, and I don't have too much to say about them.  I had already read The Lightning Thief once, but it was so long ago that I decided to reread it.  I enjoyed it, but I wasn't wowed by it.  I thought that the character development and world-building could have been stronger, but it still entertained me.  Sea of Monsters was much better, especially the pacing.  It was a much faster read, and even though I still couldn't relate to any of the characters, I thought the book was more entertaining.

What I do really appreciate about this series, however, is that Percy is not the average hero.  He has ADD and dyslexia, always gets into trouble at school, and very often fails, but all of his flaws are what make him unique and special.  I think that's a really important message for kids to be receiving, and I am glad that they have a character like Percy to admire.  I gave The Lightning Thief 3 stars and The Sea of Monsters 3.5 stars.

The #ayearathon really took effort to get through, as I was still feeling so unmotivated to read, so after finishing it, I picked up an old favorite, Something Under the Bed is Drooling, by Bill Watterson.  I have been reading Calvin and Hobbes comics for 20 years now, and they always remind me of being a kid and reading while stretched out on the carpet in the house I grew up in.  These are classics, and they will always hold a special place in my heart.  This gets 5 stars, all the way!

So, I had heard a lot of hype about Of Poseidon, by Anna Banks, on YouTube and on Goodreads, and I just got curious.  This is not the type of book I would normally pick up, but I wanted an easy, fun read, and I love mermaids, so I decided to check it out and just see.  I got exactly what I expected: an easy, fun, entertaining read that didn't try my brain or deeply affect me.  But, hey, there is nothing wrong with a light read!  The characters were eh, and the plot was ok, but I did really enjoy the building of mermaid mythology, which I've never experienced before.  I liked the book enough that I picked up the next in the trilogy, Of Triton, but that one is taking me much longer to finish as my interest has kind of petered out.  This got 3 stars because of how entertained I was by it.

After that, I read Jerusalem: A Family Portrait, which I wrote a full review on.  The final judgment: I loved it.  5 stars!

Finally, I ended my month with Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion.  I had been wanting to read this for a long time, and I really enjoyed the movie, so I decided that this was the time to cross it off my TBR.  It took me much longer to read it then I expected because the pacing was so slow.  It just didn't engage me the way I thought it would.  I know that it's more of a love story than an action story, but there needed to be more happening.  I found myself getting bored and putting it down for the rest of the day.  I liked R, but I didn't feel much for Julie.  And I had a serious problem with the lack of world-building.  I ended up giving it 2.5 stars because it just didn't satisfy me.

So, this was a really light reading month for me.  I don't mean this in terms of numbers so much as content.  Except for Jerusalem, these were all easy books that were fun but not deep.  Yet, that was exactly what I needed to get me through my dry spell.

July promises to be more stimulating as the #ayearathon theme is classics, and I have several adult novels on my TBR that I suspect to be quite substantial.

What books did you read this month?  Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Top 5 Wednesday: Top 5 Last Sentences

Hello all!  So, after watching every other Booktuber/book blogger do Top 5 Wednesdays, I've decided that I want to join in on the fun, as well.

Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey from gingerreadslainey, and you can check out the full list of those who participate in the Goodreads group.

Today's topic is Top 5 Last Sentences.  No concluding sentence immediately jumped into my mind, so I perused my favorite books, and this is what I came up with, in no particular order:

"His hand closed automatically around the fake Horcrux, but in spite of everything, in spite of the dark and twisting path he saw stretching ahead for himself, in spite of the final meeting with Voldemort he knew must come, whether in a month, in a year, or in ten, he felt his heart lift at the thought that there was still one last golden day of peace left to enjoy with Ron and Hermione." (J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)  

It's no secret that I love the Harry Potter series.  It holds my entire childhood and carries so much nostalgia for me.  Not to mention that it's just an amazing story.

Most people who love Harry Potter will remember the last sentence of the seventh book, but I prefer this ending.  Half-Blood Prince is an unremittingly dark tome with one of the most shocking character deaths of the series.  It would have been fitting and expected for it to end on that note, as well.  However, it ends with Harry holding onto hope, grasping that last shred of peace before war breaks loose.  I really love that juxtaposition, and it is one of the reasons I love Harry so much.

"When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter's mother in turn; and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless." (J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan)

There are many reasons I like this last line, but the main aspect that sticks with me is that Barrie chooses to use the word "heartless" to refer to the purity and innocence of children, painting it as being almost selfish.  It's unexpected and beautiful.

"Deeply, he bowed, touching the ground, before him who was sitting motionlessly, whose smile reminded him of everything he had ever loved in his life, what had ever been valuable and holy to him in his life." (Herman Hesse's Siddhartha)

I have always connected to Siddhartha and the journey of the two main characters.  And the last sentence is deeply satisfying to me as they both end their search for enlightenment.

"At that, as if it had been the signal he waited for, Newland Archer got up slowly and walked back alone to his hotel."
 (Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence)

For this entire novel, you are waiting for Newland to act decisively.  But when the opportunity arrives for him to gain what he always truly wanted, he walks away.  This ending was unexpected and frustrating, but I also found it to be so true.  It left things undone in such a realistic way that I found it wholly satisfying.

"We each owe a death, there are no exceptions, I know that, but sometimes, oh God, the Green Mile is so long." (Stephen King's The Green Mile)

Putting aside how wonderful of a book The Green Mile is, this sentence stuck out to me because of its imagery.  Imagining life as that death-row walk from cell block to execution just gets under my skin and carries the kind of disturbing beauty that I adore.

So these are my top 5 last sentences.  I'd love to know what your favorite last sentences are, too, so please leave them in the comments below.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

June Book Haul

Last month I was introduced to Book Outlet, a website that sells new books at a great percentage off their cover price. Needless to say, I went on a little binge and placed three orders in three weeks. The first of my orders just arrived, so I thought I would do a post detailing what I bought and why.

First off, I got Old New York, a collection of four novellas by Edith Wharton. I read Age of Innocence last year, and it became one of my favorite classics. I'm excited to read more stories that take place in the same time period. Her humor and tongue-in-cheek social commentary make her work entertaining and smart.

I also grabbed Warm Bodiesby Isaac Marion. This will be the first zombie novel I've ever read, but I enjoyed the movie and have heard good things about the book, so I thought I'd try it out. I'm just looking for a fun summer read with this one.

I had never heard of Absent when I saw it online, but it really captured my interest upon reading the synopsis. This Sherri Vanderveen novel is about a man who abandons his family, but then returns many years later to see how his absence affected each person. I have high hopes for this book, and I will probably do a full review of it.

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo, has been really popular on Booktube lately, so when I saw it for such a good price, I figured I would give it a try.  It's the first book in the Grisha trilogy, a fantasy series about a nation called Ravka and an orphan girl named Alina.  I do not know very much about the plot, but the reviews on Booktube and Goodreads praise the series, and I really enjoy fantasy, so I am looking forward to reading this one.

Billy: The Untold Story of a Young Billy Graham and the Test of Faith That Almost Changed Everything  is the story of Billy Graham's friendship with Charles Templeton, the famous evangelist who came out as an atheist.  I've already heard a lot about Charles Templeton from different interviews and biographies, but I am interested in how his forsaking of the faith affected Billy Graham's walk since the two of them were such close friends.

I'm really trying to get into graphic novels and build up my collection. So, I picked up Jerusalem:A Family Portrait by Boaz Yakin and Nick Bertozzi. I was intrigued by the political and historical backdrop of the work. I have since read and done a review of it. 

Finally, I immediately bought The Ghost Bride, by Yangsze Choo, when I saw it was about ghost marriage.  In Chinese tradition, families of recently deceased, unmarried men would find living brides to marry them posthumously.  The reasons varied from gaining a daughter, ensuring the family line, placating the deceased's spirit, or making sure the younger brother doesn't get married before the older.  This novel is about a woman who becomes a ghost bride for financial and familial security and how that decision alters her life.  I am really, really looking forward to reading this book.  Asian literature is one of my favorite genres, and I find the whole idea behind ghost marriage captivating.  I can't wait to see what the author makes of it.

So, those are the books from my first order.  I will definitely be reviewing a few of them.  I have two additional, more conservative orders coming in, as well, and I will do a haul post about those when they arrive.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Book Review: Jerusalem: A Family Portrait by Boaz Yakin and Nick Bertozzi

"A man never fights because he is strong. He fights because he isn't strong enough."

Jerusalem: A Family Portrait by Boaz Yakin & Nick Bertozzi
First Second, 4 July 2013
400 Pages
Historical Fiction
Graphic Novel
5 Stars
Barnes & Noble; Book Depository; Goodreads

Jerusalem is a sweeping, epic work that follows a single family—three generations and fifteen very different people—as they are swept up in chaos, war, and nation-making from 1940-1948. Faith, family, and politics are the heady mix that fuel this ambitious, cinematic graphic novel.

With Jerusalem, author-filmmaker Boaz Yakin turns his finely-honed storytelling skills to a topic near to his heart: Yakin's family lived in Palestine during this period and was caught up in the turmoil of war just as his characters are. This is a personal work, but it is not a book with a political ax to grind. Rather, this comic seeks to tell the stories of a huge cast of memorable characters as they wrestle with a time when nothing was clear and no path was smooth.