I loved the writing in A Study in Scarlet. The dialogue was catchy and natural. I found the b...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I loved the writing in A Study in Scarlet. The dialogue was catchy and natural. I found the book surprisingly easy to read especially considering how old it is. The thing that really stands out in this book and the thing that has made it last for so long are the characters. Sherlock is very cheerful, eccentric, sarcastic, loves to be flattered, and is bluntly honest. And of course the thing that makes his character so fun to watch on TV in the modern adaptation - his cocky genius. I couldn't hate this guy if I tried. I loved seeing these two iconic characters meet (Sherlock and Watson) to set the stage for the rest of the Sherlock Holmes series.
The first half of this book was a fascinating mystery. I was glued to the story, turning pages, dying to know what happens next. Then we get to Part 2. The second half of the book was the longest, most drawn out and boring flashback I have ever read. We find out the solution to the mystery at the end of Part 1. Part 2 goes into why he did it. Apparently Mr. Doyle doesn't believe in recapping what happened. We get to live it. If we're going to live through it, at least make it interesting. It was not at all interesting because almost nothing happens for most of Part 2. I skimmed a lot of it. It also felt very disjointed to go from a mystery in London to the American West. It felt like I was reading two different stories that had nothing to do with each other. Part 2 is only tied in to Part 1 by the very end.
Portrayal of Mormons
I have to say as a Mormon, reading Part 2 of this story was a little difficult for me since Mormons are not painted in a good light for this part of the story. But let's start with this hilarious quote first.
In the central portion of the great North American Continent there lies an arid and repulsive desert...
- Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet p. 63
Repulsive! Arid! My home this is! Yoda and I are highly offended. Okay not really. But he kept describing the whole state of Utah like it was entirely covered in the Salt Flats where everything was covered in "alkali dust" and used words like "barren", "misery", "despair," and my personal favorite "gloomy." The whole thing just made me laugh. While it is true that the west side of the Great Salt Lake is all those things, the pioneers settled on the EAST side of the lake which was your more run-of-the-mill desert with snakes and cacti and stuff. And regular desert dirt that almost nothing can grow in thank you very much. I mean if you're going to insult my state at least get it right. :)
The thing I struggled with the most was the portrayal of Mormonism as a cult. And when I say cult I mean a group forcing people to do things by threats or brain-washing. Mormons believe the point in life is to make choices. There is a point in the story where Mormon pioneers find a starving, wandering man and his daughter and say they can join them only if they become Mormon. Brigham Young (or any Mormon) would NEVER force anyone to be Mormon. Not cool Mr. Conan Doyle. I did some research and in Mr. Doyle's defense, he believed these things to be true at the time. Still - forcing people to do things is against our religion and always has been.
The murderer's motive was based on their hatred of the practice of plural marriage (or polygamy). While Mormons did practice it, it was portrayed in the book that if you didn't get married to more than one person you were kicked out (and then hunted down by a secret band of murderers. Say what?? That most definitely didn't happen). Not everyone practiced plural marriage. Many early Mormons were monogamous and were in fine standing with the church. I won't go into tons of detail in this review, but if you're interested the official Mormon (also known as Latter-Day Saints or LDS) website has more information on plural marriage and Mormonism. It's an interesting article that talks about the trials the people who lived it faced, how long it was practiced and more. And just to be thorough Mormons don't practice polygamy today and haven't since 1890.
Overall, I adored the first half of the novel and meeting the most iconic characters in literature, but I found the second half to be boring and the anti-Mormonism made me uncomfortable. I would give the first half of the novel 4 stars and the second half like 1/2 a star.(less)
I loved Let the Storm Break as much as the first book, Let the Sky Fall. I flew through this...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I loved Let the Storm Break as much as the first book, Let the Sky Fall. I flew through this whole book so fast that I hardly took any notes. Being that immersed in a story is a lot of fun but it makes for crappy reviews. I'm going to try to think of more to say than "asdjfkl it's so awesome go read it."
Vane is such a great character and I love his sense of humor. He's cracking jokes about Legolas that no one gets and I love it. He has this sarcasm and blunt honesty that make him so much fun to read about. Vane feels like a realistic teen. He's got this immature streak that I find so funny.
So there are "relationship issues" like there are in many second novels that have romance. But I thought it was very well done because it was more about each of them working out their own things and not just trying to tear apart the relationship that was just made for the sake of conflict. I hope that makes sense without spoiling it.
The power of the winds coming from their songs that only sylphs can sing is one of my favorite things about the world building in this series. It's just beautiful and simple.
One of the things I did not like about the first book was the lack of an interesting villain motivation. This book shed some more light on the villain. The villain just got upgraded from "I want to take over the world for no reason" to "Mad Scientist" and I found it very interesting.
Overall, this book has great romance, funny and realistic characters, and a beautifully simple world.
Content warning: kissing scenes and a few immature jokes about things like farts and boobs.(less)
I picked up Bowels of Hell right after The Orphanage. What a cliffhanger! I was on the edge o...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
I picked up Bowels of Hell right after The Orphanage. What a cliffhanger! I was on the edge of my seat wondering how Billy and Amber would get out of this mess. The reaction of the orphans when they see that Amber and Billy are missing was really poignant to me.
I loved getting to know more of Amber's backstory in this one. And there's such a cute moment between Billy and Amber when Billy is just in awe of something she has done. I like how their relationship is developing. They have such great chemistry together and yet they argue about things that girls and boys often do. I just find them endearing.
Billy, an Aboriginal Australian boy, is very non-judgmental even when he has culture shock and just can't understand something. I was touched by how unselfish Billy is. When Billy is faced with death, all he thinks about is his clan and how they won't be able to pass on their traditions. Billy is a joy to read about and so easy to like.
Overall, I really enjoyed learning more about the characters and seeing their relationship grow. I can't wait to see where the story goes next!
Content warning: graphic descriptions of survival skills and a discussion among the boys about circumcision.(less)
As dark and epic as Days of Blood & Starlight was, I found it surprisingly funny. I espec...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
As dark and epic as Days of Blood & Starlight was, I found it surprisingly funny. I especially loved the Monty Python references. While Daughter of Smoke & Bone was more of a love story, this sequel was more a story about war. The author does an excellent job of showing how pointless war is.
Mercy, she had discovered, made mad alchemy: a drop of it could dilute a lake of hate.
- Laini Taylor, Days of Blood & Starlight pg 205
I thought I would lose interest in this book since the romance wasn't as prominent, but I care so much about the unique and interesting characters that I couldn't put this one down. This is one of those books where I did nothing all day but read and my house was a complete mess by the time I was done.
The only way I can think of to describe the writing is "intelligent." There are witty references and Laini Taylor can play with my expectations like a violin. And like I said - the writing is just so funny.
Well, Karou wanted to retort, with all the gravity and maturity she could muster. Duh.
-Laini Taylor, Days of Blood & Starlight, pg 45
Karou, the main character, grows so much in this book. You can see the small steps of her becoming an adult. Karou learns about forgivness to herself and others, seeing the big picture, and not blaming herself for everything. The huge amount of character growth like this is one of the reasons I love to read Young Adult. Laini brings up a lot of interesting questions about Akiva, too. The book brings up his past, his people, and hints at what role they might play in the next book.
Overall, I loved this beautiful and intelligent sequel as much as the first book in this series. It's a great look at how pointless war really is.
Content warning: an attempted rape scene, frequent language, violence that was sometimes kind of graphic.(less)
Cruel Beauty was a very dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast that had an unexpected mix of...moreThis book is also reviewed on my blog Books: A true story
Cruel Beauty was a very dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast that had an unexpected mix of Greek Mythology. The story opens on a very stiff and formal life for the main character Nyx like a dark version of Downton Abbey. Then we get a nice, long lecture on How This World Works that I found hard to get through.
I was entertained by the story but I really didn't like the cop-out device of Nyx having "no choice" to create these dramatic situations. Nyx is engaged to a demon since birth because her father made a bargain and now she has no choice but to marry him. This bothers me for two reason. 1. It takes away the self-sacrifice element of Beauty and the Beast that I love but, more importantly, think was the main point of the fairy tale. 2. Her dad is an idiot. And 3 -- okay apparently there are more than reasons why this bothers me -- she doesn't "have" to do anything. It made the main character seem very passive about her life. She was very negative and spiteful all the time. I didn't like her all that much, which is fine, but if she's going to be unlikable then at least make me understand why she did things. I never understood why she did things.
I did like the quest of trying to find the demon's name which was one of the few elements remaining from the original fairy tale. The castle was a wonderful adventure full of strange rooms like something out of Alice in Wonderland.
I won't spoil the ending, but I didn't like it. I felt like the ending did not have anything to do with what they had been doing for almost the whole novel. I felt like we spent the whole novel doing one thing and she suddenly decides to change course and last minute do something very drastic. And as the books comes to a close, I felt like the characters were so completely different that they weren't even the same characters anymore. They felt like strangers and I didn't care all that much what happened to them.
Overall, it was too dark of a fairy tale retelling with poor world building and unlikable characters that just wasn't for me even though I did like the Greek Mythology element of the story. Content warning: quite a bit of dark innuendo (that is thankfully not very graphic) about a girl trying to seduce a demon which I found mildly disturbing.(less)
The One and Only Ivan was just the bittersweet book I needed when I was dealing with a stressful week. I read it in about one day because I could not...moreThe One and Only Ivan was just the bittersweet book I needed when I was dealing with a stressful week. I read it in about one day because I could not put it down. The whole story felt like a work of art about a gorilla who makes art. The voice was such a cute, appealing, and engaging one. The format it's told in is kind of a journal that makes you see the world the way Ivan, the gorilla, does. You really get to know him and how sweet he is which makes it all the more tear jerking when you learn some of the horrible things that happened to him.
The One and Only Ivan is a book I could see kids liking. Ivan, the gorilla, loves to draw simple things and eat his crayons...and sometimes his art. But the writing was so poetic and beautiful I enjoyed it immensely as an adult.
"He goes back to work. His mop moves across the empty food court like a giant brush, painting a picture no one will ever see."
Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan pg 233
It was the ultimate showing not telling and it sucked me right in. And the art inside was just as beautiful as the writing. It looked stunning even on my kindle and it looks even better in the print version.
The animal characters are all full of personality. I found each of them wonderful and very caring - even the sarcastic homeless dog. I really liked Stella, the elephant, and she had my favorite quote from the book:
"I always tell the truth," Stella replies. "Although I sometimes confuse the facts."
- Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ivan pg 66
The impossible task that Ivan tries to achieve reminded me of Finding Nemo and how impossible it sounded for a fish to escape a fish tank and go back to the ocean. I was rooting for Ivan hard and hoping with everything I had that he would overcome.
Just when I was teary eyed enough, I read the Author's Note about how The One and Only Ivan was inspired by a true story. She embellished of course, but definitely not as much as you'd think. Very much of this story is similar to what happened to a real gorilla. Someone get me some tissues. Was I really having a stressful week? I've forgotten what it was.
Overall, this was a work of art about hope and the sad reality of animal cruelty that was brought up in a beautiful way that children could relate to and understand.