curiously bookish

The Friday 56, Book Beginnings, & TBYS Readathon: The Emperor’s Blades

Friday MemesHappy Friday! It’s a long weekend and on top of these two memes, I’m doing a readathon. I know I haven’t been here for a while (sorry 😅), but I do have some exciting plans to get this little blog up and running! Now, let’s get started.

Firstly, I’m taking part in the Taking Back Your Shelves Readathon going on this weekend! It’s for finally reading books that you have had on your shelf for far too long. You can check it out by clicking on the link and if you want to see more updates on my progress, you can look at my Instagram and Twitter. 😀

Also, I’m participating in two different blog memes today. They complement each other so well, why not?

The first is The Friday 56 from Freda’s Voice! The rules are:

1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

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The second is Book Beginnings from Rose City Reader! The rules are:

Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.
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The book I selected is The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley! I’ve had this book sitting on the shelf since it’s release and I’m always meaning to read it. The Mister has already read the whole series and has been hounding me to start this. I decided that this Readathon was a good opportunity to get this giant book off my TBR.
Book Beginning:

Rot. It was the rot, Tan’is reflected as he stared down into his daughter’s eyes, that had taken his child.

56:

Valyn hesitated, suddenly conscious of the weight of her hand on top of his own, of the delicate, salty scent of her hair. She held his gaze with those wide, almond eyes of hers, her lips slightly parted.

Those sentences are pretty different! The first is quite dark and the second is a little romantic, which is actually a pretty good combo for me :P. I’m excited to dive into this book! What are y’all reading this weekend?

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Book Review: China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan


china-rich-girlfriend-book-coverTitle:
China Rich Girlfriend

Series: Crazy Rich Asians #2

Author: Kevin Kwan

Publisher: Doubleday {imprint of Knopf}

Date Published: June 16, 2015

Format: Hardcover {Library}

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I really enjoyed the first part of this series; Crazy Rich Asians was a lovely little surprise for me last year. I usually don’t read too much contemporary and it’s beyond rare to find a book that will make me laugh (particularly in the out-loud-while-sitting in-a-coffee-shop-and-drawing-stares variety). All of this considered, I was very excited for this book! I had heard from friends that this sequel wasn’t as good as the first, so my expectations were somewhat tempered. While I agree it wasn’t as amazing, this book was tons of fun!

China Rich Girlfriend picks up 2 years after the first book ended. Rachel and Nick are about to get married, Astrid is still married to the increasingly wealthy (and awful) Michael, and their numerous aunts and uncles are still finding things to get upset about, from serious to ludicrous. While Crazy Rich Asians was mostly about Rachel being introduced to her boyfriend’s ridiculously wealthy family and trying to gain their acceptance, this book introduces us to Rachel’s mystery father and his family comes with a whole host of problems. Surprise, surprise, they are also billionaires (what would be the fun if they weren’t? :P)!

I totally recommend this to someone looking for a beach/vacation read or just in need of some entertainment. The characters are pretty much the same as the first book, don’t expect too much growth or enlightenment here, but I didn’t feel that was the point of the book. This is a sneak peek into this wealthy lifestyle and I’m not looking for major character growth. Don’t get me wrong, Rachel and Astrid, in particular, are lovely, but many of the side characters are flat. I did find the new characters from Rachel’s family, entertaining and there were some good stories there. I’ll refrain from saying too much in the review, but they are different from what we’ve seen before.

I will add, I am really happy that there is a third book in this series. It ends in an unsatisfying way, it’s not a cliffhanger or anything horrible, but my thoughts about the book would’ve been more negative if I thought it was the conclusion to the story.

Cover Critique: I love the covers to this series. I will shamelessly say that the covers are the reasons I wanted to read them in the first place! They are very graphic and simple, and I adore the bright colors. The paperback of China Rich Girlfriend has a different cover, which I also really like. I do think it makes a better pair with the paperback of Crazy Rich Asians than this one does, since they are both just faces rocking some awesome earrings.

Quick Version: This is a perfect summer read. And by summer read I mean something that will make you laugh and enjoy some soap-opera-level drama. China Rich Girlfriend is a charming book that excels in pulling you into its lavish world. The characters, apart from the main few, are fairly two-dimensional, but from the way Kwan writes them they still feel like people. Money can bring out the peculiarity in people and this book captures this in an entertaining way.

Score: 4 stars 

Book Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Title: Wolf by Wolf

Author: Ryan Graudin

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers [imprint of Hachette]

Date Published: October 20, 2015

Format: ARC {Received in exchange of a fair review}

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Yael wants Hitler dead. She is willing to do anything to see this man pay for what he has done to the world and her people. When she was a little girl she was taken to a death camp and after a being subjected to horrible experiments, she managed to escape. It’s now 1956 and Germany and Japan have carved up the world between them. A rebel group sees their chance to execute the Führer by entering Yael into the annual motorcycle race that crosses Asia, from Europe to Japan, which if she wins, we get her close enough to end him. The Nazi experiments left Yael with the ability to change her appearance. She must imitate last year’s female victor (Adele) to try to win again, but she does not anticipate Adele’s twin brother and a jilted boyfriend to also be in the race testing her cover at every moment.

I’m not usually into alternate histories. Alternate WWII stories, especially, tend to be everywhere and after a while they just seem to have more fun playing with ‘what-ifs’ than actually telling a good story and developing intriguing characters. Wolf by Wolf does an excellent job of not falling into that trap. It is original, clever, fast-paced, and the world is very well-developed.

Yael is a well-crafted character. She is damaged and because of her abilities she has spent most of her teenage life pretending to be the enemy. She can’t even remember what she used to look like before the experiments erased her identity, but Yael still manages to have a strong sense of self. The one thing that she cannot erase when she changes skin are the numbers stamped into her skin. She decides to hide these with elaborate wolf tattoos to represent people she has lost and what she is fighting for. It helps her remember who she is and even though it would be so easy, she doesn’t just run away from it all and blend in with the population. While racing and interacting with other racers we see her world expand and her character grow more and more.

Cover Critique: It looks like a WWII propaganda poster (what a surprise! 😛 ). I think it works perfectly for this book. I like it.

Quick Version: Really interesting and entertaining take on the Axis powers had winning WWII. The world is interesting and thought-provoking, the motorcycle race is entertaining, and the protagonist, Yael, made you want to keep reading and rooting for her. I didn’t know until I was at the end of the book that this was part of a series and while that lead to this ending being a bit anti-climatic, I still really enjoyed it and will definitely be reading the sequel.

Score: 4.5/5 stars

 

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Title: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline

Publisher: Random House

Date Published: August 16th 2011

Format: Paperback {own}

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I had been reluctant to read this book for so long. My husband and brother have been recommending this to me nonstop for the past year, and even though it sounded perfect for me, I was reluctant to take the plunge. Sometimes when people recommend things to you so much, you are afraid that you won’t like it or that you’ll somehow be disappointed. I’m beyond glad to say that this was not the case with Ready Player One. This book lives up to all it’s much deserved hype and it not only met my expectations, it exceeded them!

Wade Watts is a about to graduate from high school and his life isn’t going too great. It’s 2044 and the world is an ugly place. The only place that he, and most of the world, feel alive is inside the virtual world of OASIS. Everything for him happens inside his headset, including school and meeting friends. He hasn’t known much of a life outside of OASIS and has spent the majority of his childhood obsessed with finding clues to the secret the creator, James Halliday, left inside the game. In his will, Halliday promised that whoever solves the puzzles will inherit the company, which means control over OASIS and becoming a multi-billionaire. Halliday was an 80’s nut and completely obsessed with video games and geeky pop culture. The hunt for clues has stalled and everyone thinks that nothing will ever be found, but one day under-leveled Wade finds a clue. This turns everything on its head and the race ramps up. During the competition Wade finds out that there are big forces going after this prize and more than OASIS is at stake.

I’m a big 80’s nut and complete geek, anyone who knows me in real life can definitely attest to this. 😛 I’m the child of two 80’s obsessed parents, so my childhood consisted of a steady diet of John Hughes, action/scifi films, and 80’s songs. And while these references are entertaining and it’s amusing when you know exactly what obscure movie moment they’re referring to, it’s not what’s best about this book. Ready Player One manages to balance heart and brain better than most other scifi/dystopian titles. It’s very clever, but it doesn’t revel in its own intelligence. There are many different references that I didn’t understand at all (like specifics about old arcade games), but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of those moments. Wade beating a game of Pac-Man is actually amusing to read about, which if you’ve ever watched anyone play it that’s pretty impressive. Even if we’ve never cared about beating Pac-Man that much, we can all relate to trying prove yourself better than the rest, whether it’s in a game or in real life.

The stakes always felt very high in this book. Many times with these types of stories you never really feel anxious for these players. Like, if they don’t make it, they’ll still be fine in the end. Cline does an excellent job of ramping up the consequences for the characters’ actions as the story goes on. It’s not a story about saving the world from Sauron or anyone who’s going to blow the planet to smithereens, but while you’re reading you do feel like if the protagonists don’t come out on top, many bad things would happen to them and to society.

Cover Critique: I really like this cover for the book and the original one. They both share the title in a huge font, spanning basically the entire cover. It makes for a striking and memorable image. The original is a little more graphic, since it is just yellow words on a red background. But that combination of colors has never been my favorite and makes the book look a little more dated, which considering the 80’s fest, is probably intentional. The cover I used on the post is the one I have, and I really like the illustration. It’s really well done and easily shows you just how bad the world outside this game is.

Quick Version: Ready Player One is an extremely entertaining book that you can easily read in a couple of days. It’s quick-paced and funny, and also makes you care so much for its cast of unique characters. While it does help to be a fan of 80’s pop culture and/or video games to get into it, the book does a good job of explaining these topics enough that you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy the novel.

Score: 5/5 stars 😎