I reread this a 2nd time as I read the e-arc for McGuire’s newest companion novel, Over the Woodward Wall, see that blog post. I loved it even more getting the extra insight into the side story of Over the Woodward Wall.
What the fork was 2019 Josh thinking (giving this 4.75 stars). This book is flawless. I think I had such high expectations going in I was overly critical, to the point that I docked it points for a non issue.
This story is so we’ll crafted and the perfect mix of sci-fi and fantasy. It’s also time travel which is the best thing ever. End of story. The one complaint I had last time was about the depth of our villains; this go around, it became very obvious to me why they are the way they are.
God I loved this book. I kinda want to read it again but I should pace myself before I overdue it. 5/5 star
First Read – October 2019
I decided to read this because Lala at the booksandlala youtube channel spoke so highly of the book. It is a scifi-fantasy story about two siblings with potentially god-like powers for nefarious purposes. I seems like everything I would love. Plus, McGuire is the author of another series I’ve wanted to read called the Wayward Children. It’s the winner of Hugo and Nebula awards.
My biggest fear her is the hype. There is something special about going into a book you think and hope you are going to like, and then you read it and do love it. Here, there is the opinion of someone I value significantly (granted with limited data). I don’t want to set my expectations too high. Still, I think this is going to be a lot of fun.
I’m almost done. I have a 1/4th left, and I hate it’s almost over. Everything about it is fantastic. I’ve actually stopped reading it to prolong the ending. I am starting my next book in hope that I will get invested in it, so when this is done, I have something else I’m also excited for and into. This story is very well told. I almost wish it was longer just because it is so fast paced. It is very long, nearly 500 pages I think, so it is hardly lacking in material.
I think the biggest flaw in this for me is the basis for the magic. It isn’t badly done. McGuire uses pseudoscience like Astrology, Homeopathy, and Alchemy as a real device by which to do this magic. It’s fiction, but I can’t help but cringe at how so many people don’t see it that way. This is the skeptic in me. It doesn’t lessen the quality of the book, nor do I think most people will be as put off by it as me.
What I have been asking myself is whether this is a favorite of the year. This story is great. It is well written. The plot is well crafted and unique. The characters are largely good characters. The big bad feels a little one dimensional, but most of our other characters are flawed yet well meaning. There is some mystery around the motivations in this book. So, we may get more background to flesh out our main villain. My favorite set of characters are of course the main characters, that is the siblings.
I really appreciate the dynamic they have and the love they share for one another. It’s an easy thing to relate to as someone with two sisters. Siblings are, for at least a part of your life, your best friend, and the bond you share outmatches and outlasts the bonds we share with others. I am really hoping for some heart wrenching moments towards the end. There have already been tough moments between the siblings, and one moment early on almost had me crying. That’s really what solidified the dynamic between the two for me.
This is a fantastic story founded in characters we are invested in. The story itself is the perfect mixture of science fiction and fantasy. My favorite types of stories are those that incorporate a bit of both but are still grounded in real everyday life. That made this story easy and fun. However, it goes deeper with how it explores the ideas of family and a sibling bond as I mentioned before.
The biggest faults I found in the story were the villains. They felt one dimensional, and they never got fleshed out. There really isn’t a more stereotypical villain then one that seeks to take over the world. What’s more the story’s conclusion (light spoilers ahead), while not exactly predictable, feels like what we would expect.
McGuire still maintains some mystery about the fate of the world. The siblings are real people, but they’re also more than that. They are something not even they understand. What might happen if they ascend to their full power may be itself dooming to the earth. If they don’t, they will just be replaced with another pawn for the main villain. Is it a lose lose or is there hope?
All in all, the story is near perfect in its telling. While the villain is a caricature, our “heroes” are real characters that we can connect to. 4.75/5 stars. I hate not giving it a full 5 stars. I can’t help but wonder if I am being overly critical because I came in hyped up. I remember Viscous was similarly hyped, but I definitely enjoyed this story more.
Canada Reads is a yearly competition where 20(ish?) Canadian authors are selected to compete as the one book all of Canada should read. Those books are narrowed down to 5 to meet the years theme: One book to bring Canada into focus. This is clearly a very vague description, but I suppose it isn’t meant to be very specific. Still, the goal is to have them defended in a public debate setting. Note: the debates have been postponed pending the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
A friend shared the announcement of this with me back in January. I had just started my YouTube channel, and I got super excited at the idea of doing a video about them! I’m a graduate student from the States living in Canada. I’ve been here for nearly four years, and I thought it would be fun to familiarize myself with more Canadian authors.
I decided to treat this like a “readathon” where my goal was to read them all in the first week of March. In the end, I think it took 8 or 9 days, but that was good enough! Above, you can watch my vlog of the experience where I discuss my thoughts as I read them as well as my overall thoughts on who I think should win. It was a fantastic experience. I loved all of these books, and I am so glad I decided to read these. Part of me worried that this type of literary competition might consist of very cerebral books that might be a bit taxing to read in one week (back to back). Overall, I don’t think they were.
I found most of these books to be very accessible and a delight to read. I’m going to provide a review of each below with some context as to how well I think they satisfy the “theme” of the year. Then I’ll do a final discussion of who I think should win at the end of the blog.
This is a story about a small town in Newfoundland (I think). It centers around a group of people who work or go to this restaurant in the town. The long and the short of it, this is a novel about toxic masculinity, gas-lighting, and other forms of mental and physical abuse. It touches on blame and mental health and the effect our actions have on those around us.
This was the hardest novel I read for this challenge. I found myself being as intrigued as I was infuriated. The writing was so weird and confusing at first. Coles uses the local dialect which is not the easiest to understand. I keep doubting that I read something the right way, and eventually I had to accept reading more causally, not fixating on every weird phrase and hope it comes together (which it did). I stopped noticing it eventually.
The structure is also weird. She essentially starts by focusing on our characters state of minds from the start. Except, she does it without any real context. We’re basically diving into a story midway, and we have to figure out what it is that’s going on. We eventually get the context. Although, it is a fascinating, if confusing, way of telling the story. Cole’s basically starts this by saying, this book is about the mental state and health of our characters. That is the most important aspect.
I really enjoyed the book. I gave it 4/5 stars, but that was a close call. It was actually the only book I considered giving less than 4 stars (spoilers for those reviews). However, I will say that it probably was the most thought provoking book because of how challenging it was.
This was a very fun read. It was a thought provoking set of science fiction novellas. The first is about a capitalist “dystopia” where the poorest pay even to use their own appliances. It was weird story that grew on me. It introduced me to Doctorow’s writing style (which is weird and I like it). The second (I think) was about a superhero (basically Superman) who basically tries to solve the problem of racism and police brutality. I thought this was a fantastic discussion of the idea of a “white savior” and the role of alleys today and in history. The third one was dark. It was a story about people who commit acts of terror against the healthcare system. This walked a fine line between critical critique of our healthcare system and encouraging acts of violence and fear to make change, which really bothered me. The last story was a dystopia about a plague of some sort. It is obviously very poignant given the news. I thought it was a great. It explored the power dynamic of that type of situation.
Overall, I gave this 4/5 stars. I really enjoyed the book, but it felt more American than it did Canadian. It seemed like a giant VOTE BERNIE SANDERS book. I don’t see that being relevant to Canadians. What’s more, even if this was for American’s, if we are looking to inspire a movement, we need a book that raise awareness and change minds. This book is great, but it is speaking to the choir. I don’t see this changing anyone’s beliefs. Does it really fit here? I think not.
Son of a Trickster is a fiction book about a young indigenous teen in an unstable home who begins to learn about his connections to his heritage. This is a fantasy contemporary book, and I loved it. Eden Robinson is herself indigenous, and I assume uses that to build the dynamic we see in the book. I thought was a good domestic story, and I was really intrigued by the mythological side as well.
Personally, I think this deserves attention. It isn’t just a fun read, it is educational. It brings attention to indigenous issues, but more importantly, it explores of one of the mythological story of the indigenous people. I don’t mean to assert this novel is a complete representation of indigenous people. However, I think it would be good for Canadians to be better familiarized with the culture of the people who were here before. One of the most fundamental traits of a culture is it’s mythologies or religions.
Overall, I think it is a great candidate and a great book. 4/4 stars.
I loved this memoir because I felt that I connected with it in a lot of ways. This is about a queer Muslim woman’s experience growing up in Pakistan before moving to Canada. This was a fantastic exploration of life as a woman in very conservative Muslim countries, but it also did a great job exploring what it must be like to be queer. I grew up in a much more privileged position than Habib. However, I too grew up queer in a very religious family. It creates feelings of doubt and confusion.
This is her story of finding peace in her religion. While I hold a much more negative view of religion, I did enjoy hearing her perspective as a queer woman trying to shape Islam to be what she needs it to be. This was also a story of acceptance, and again I found myself relating to her attempts to find acceptance from her family. Our situations are not perfectly aligned (obviously). Although, it was to the point that I was really able to connect with Habib’s story in a way that I could not for any other story. 5/5 stars
The last book is another memoir about the life of Jesse Thistle (the author). He is an indigenous Canadian who grew up in a broken home, and this story tracks his life as he tries to grow up with these struggles. It details how these have life long effects on the choices he makes and the places he ends up. This is a dark tale of drug abuse and homelessness, and I felt it was perhaps the most poignant story for that reason. Another thing that stood out to me was the presence of religion in his life. Never do we see him turn to religion, but it was the kind of redemption arc that is easy to believe happens. Although, I feel those types of stories miss out on the true struggle that the person has to go through to recover their life.
This is a full reveal of his life, and I can only imagine how taxing it must have been to reveal some of the things he discusses in this memoir. I really enjoyed it overall. My only complaint was that the writing wasn’t my taste. 4/5 stars.
Who should win?
When we think about which book all Canadians should read it becomes a very complicated question. I’ve already said that Radicalized is not focused on Canadian issues let alone told in a way that would be effective to get people in focus.
Small Game Hunting touches on a world wide issue that has only grown in recent year. That is, issues of gender, patriarchy, and rape culture. I thought it was fantastic. It was probably the most thought provoking, and it is the kind of thing that, even now, not enough people are thinking about. Sadly, I am again forced to ask the question on effectiveness. I thought this novel was difficult to read, and I am not convinced the majority of people would actually stick with it long enough to hear what it has to say. I think we need to focus on a book that every Canadian will consume (or are more likely to).
We Have Always Been Here is much more direct with its message. My issue here is a subjective one. I should be clear, I am no Canadian, merely a graduate student in Canada. What’s more, I am white cis gender male atheist. I am not one to decide which issue outweighs another. However, in my assessment, I don’t think Habib’s memoir brings attention to the area most in need. That is to say, religious and queer freedoms have made great strides.
Personally, I would narrow it down to Son of a Trickster and From the Ashes. I think Robinson’s book is a better book from a writing perspective. It also still focuses on indigenous issues as well as drug abuse (which, to be clear, I am saying is a shared theme between the books not necessarily in the entire community). It also touches on the concept of gender and sexuality in a way that From the Ashes does not. If I had to pick one Canadian to read, it would probably be Son of a Trickster. It is an immersive book that familiarizes Canadians with Indigenous mythology and some of the struggles they have to endure. It is the type of thing I feel would make great foundation for Canadians, perhaps in the classroom.
However, I have to address the fact that this year’s theme is “bring Canada into focus.” What I have done is make an assessment on what I think is most important for Canadians (again, I recognize this isn’t my place), but the theme does restrict exactly what it is they want to accomplish. While it is vague, I can’t help but gravitate to From the Ashes when I think about bringing Canadians into focus. Robinson’s work is the type of background material I think every Canadian should have about the culture that preceded theme. Still, for today’s issues, From the Ashes brings attention to poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, and more. For that reason, it seems like the clear winner.
I was granted an e-ARC of The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel by the publisher on NetGalley to provide a fair and honest review.
Emily St. John Mandel’s novel is a fictional story that spans decades as we follow a series of characters trying to live their best life. At the center of all of them is the hotel featured in the title, but the moral of the story is one of redemption and second chances. We see our characters dealing with issues around drugs, relationships, and financial issues. In this review, I won’t be going any deeper into the plot; I will only convey my feelings about the book. Although, I will discuss the writing and the structure of the plot.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I did not love it. The best thing about the book was St. John Mandel’s writing. I spent the first quarter of the narrative trying to figure out exactly where the story was going. Who are the characters that matter, and what role do the people we are meeting play in the bigger picture. Around ~a third of the way in, our characters begin to piece together. Although, there is still a mystery as to what the issue of the story is all about. Not much later, that too begins to be revealed, and it becomes a bigger look at the implications.
Up to this point, I was engaged and intrigued at the possibilities that awaited us. Although, intricate story telling can only take you so far. When it finally comes together, it all left me feeling wanting. It was like, this is it? This is what everything lead to? It all felt so mundane and trivial. That is to say, the plot just isn’t compelling. The writing made the story more compelling, but that doesn’t save a boring plot.
The character work is great. The way she tells the story is by focusing on each character and letting the plot form around them. That is, we follow them at different points in there life, in a not entirely linear fashion, and it is on the reader to piece together the bigger picture. The act of discovery is exciting. What’s more, it produces well written characters, and even as the mediocre plot came to an end, the character endings were still satisfying. That doesn’t stop there being a disconnect between interesting character stories and a cohesive and compelling story at large.
I go a bit more in depth in my Vlog (post at the top), so you can watch that if you would like more details. Although, that is mostly repeating what I have said here, and the spoilers are mostly contained to a couple minutes. As I said at the start, I enjoyed reading this. I still can’t say it was worth it though. My enjoyment of parts was outweighed by my being bored by the overarching narrative. 3.5/5 stars.
Rating Break Down Writing Style: 8/10, Plot: 6/10, Characters: 9/10, Ending: 10/10, Engagement: 8/10, Enjoyment: 7/10, Comprehension: 8/10, Pacing: 8/10, Desire to Reread: 0/10, Special: 3/10, Calculated Rating: 3.49/5, Final Rating: 3.5/5 Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance to calculate a final score that is rounded to the nearest half.
After reading this, I immediately stopped and started it over again. Toni Morrison is an author I have wanted to read for years, and the only reason I never got around to it was a fear of not being able to comprehend these complicated works of literary fiction. Luckily, I really enjoyed this book. By the end of my first read through, I will admit I felt like I missed some details. I was able to ascertain the overarching points and narrative, but I was still confused a bit by whose who but more so the structure of the novel. The book is presented at points in first person by a seemingly side character. Later, it gives another first person perspective, and a lot of the book in between is third person.
As you might imagine, that was difficult to follow and keep up with. While it may be a disappointing to my past literature teachers, I choose to review some readings aids after I finished the first time to figure out the things I was missing. After I did that, it made a lot more sense. My improved understanding coupled with a genuine desire to get as much as I could out of this novel motivated me to reread the novel. Admittedly, I listened to the audiobook, so it made it easier but also likely made it harder for me to catch all the details the first time around. Although, I think the beauty of audiobooks is that, if you have the time and enjoy the experience (which I did), rereading can be both fun and a great way of retaining more and more details about the books.
The book itself is written beautifully. I could appreciate the poetry in her Morrison’s words even if I struggled to pull all of the meaning, and rereading it helped me better ascertain the meaning. That kind of writing really lends itself to this kind of story. That is to say, a dark narrative about the pain induced by racism and how it can decay a person’s mental health. In this book, we focus on a young black girl whose desperate desire is to have the blue eyes of the white girls she sees being so admired. This is brought on by racism but also hatred and bullying by other minorities for her perceived status and family “ugliness”.
In my video review, I discuss how this racism is still alive today. Despite being set in the great depression, the novel feels all too modern in its content. It is a hard novel to read both mentally and emotionally. Nevertheless, I highly recommend you check it out. There is a reason this novel is so well regarded. It touches on major societal issues in a way that hits you to your core. I highly recommend to everyone.
In the end, I gave the book 4 stars the first time and 4.5./5 stars the second time.
Rating Break Down Writing Style: 9/10 Plot: 8/10 Characters: 10/10 Ending: 10/10 Engagement: 8/10 Enjoyment: 9/10 Comprehension: 8/10 Pacing: 9/10 Desire to Reread: 3/10 Special: 10/10 Calculated Rating: 4.255/5 Final Rating: 4.5/5 (3.5-4/5 originally) Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance to calculate a final score that is rounded to the nearest half.
Cormac McCarthy is one of those authors that I’ve always been intimidated by. As such, I have avoided his books. I will do so no longer. I adore his writing. He crafts a gripping narrative of a boy and his father trying to survive in a world that is destroyed. This form of dystopian story seems like it has been done so much, but this book isn’t about the world. It’s about the characters in it. In developing this story, McCarthy constructs what seems like the barest of settings where the details are slim. All we know is an epidemic occurred. It is their struggle to survive that we care about.
McCarthy creates characters that are real, damaged and all. It is very bleak take on life in such a world, and it is one that I can really connect to. Perhaps that is because it is the most likely type of story for us. Now, I am not saying how the story ends, so don’t mistake this for a spoiler. I merely mean that it is clear that life is nearly impossible in this barren wasteland.
I mentioned my concern of McCarthy at the start, so I want to talk about how wrong that was. The story was equal parts emotional as it was easy to read and enjoy. Of course, enjoyment with this is like the enjoyment you might get from a sad song you hear on the radio. It hits you hard, and all you want to do is listen to it over and over again. 5/5 stars
Rating Break Down Writing Style: 10/10 Plot: 10/10 Characters: 10/10 Ending: 10/10 Engagement: 10/10 Enjoyment: 10/10 Comprehension: 10/10 Pacing: 10/10 Desire to Reread: 8/10 Special: 5/10 Final Rating: 4.825/10 Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance (see blog for more details).
I really enjoyed this. If you’re following me regularly, you may know that I often don’t like young adult books, so I think a 4 star for this is really good. It was well written in dark dystopianesk setting which I enjoyed. I had a bit of trouble following what exactly was happening at first, but I think that was intentional as everything became revealed with time. The story was fun and exciting; it was a good plot. The conclusion was the best part for me. I think my biggest disappointment (which isn’t that big) is that we didn’t have a darker fast paced start.
I appreciate the need to build to a big reveal, but I thought it was a little too mundane in its school girl like plot early on. I still really liked it though, and Rory Power is now another YA author I will seek more of. More thanks to Books and Lala for yet another great recommendation! Honestly, I am really impressed when I think about how this is a YA novel. It can be really hard to develop a believable science fiction or horror story, in my opinion, when you use a young adult approach. My prime example of that would be Strange Exit by Parker Peevyhouse. Both of those genres require a delicate approach to avoid it seeming cheesy or underdeveloped.
I wish I had more to say about this, but I think that should speak to why I gave it a 4. I know Books and Lala gave it 5 star, and I find we have similar tastes, but for me, my enjoyment didn’t reach the level of love and excitement I’d like to see in a 4.5 or 5 star. Nevertheless, I think this is a great book! 4/5 star
Rating Break Down Writing Style: 9/10 Plot: 9/10 Characters: 8/10 Ending: 10/10 Engagement: 9/10 Enjoyment: 8/10 Comprehension: 9/10 Pacing: 7/10 Desire to Reread: 3/10 Special: 3/10 Final Rating: 3.985/5 Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.
Last year, I began to blog about the books I read. I am glad I made that decision, and I am thankful to the friend who shared their blog post of them tracking their reading because it really got me motivated to read. I am going to try and continue that this year! In addition, I am also starting my own Booktube channel, Josh’s Bookish Voyage. I am loving it! Editing was a little scary at first, but it is a process I enjoy doing. Although I still worry that I might not have the time to do all I’d like to do.
Hopefully, I can do both, but my time may end up monopolized by one sometimes. I’m already finding myself behind on my blogs (still 4 or 5 more to write, and I just finished 4!). I am loving making videos though, so it is worth it! I’ve set a limit and sort of a goal of 2 videos per week. This won’t always be feasible, but I know the more excited I get, the more likely I am to spend too much time on this. I am really excited for the channel. I want to point out, my channel name is an homage to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. He began the series with a moving quote,
We are going to explore the cosmos in a ship of the imagination.
Each month, I’ll share my TBR for that month and review the month before it!
Ratings in 2020
If you read my 2019 stats post, you’ll know I wanted to change how I approach rating the books I read because I felt like I was too generous. My average rating was 4 or 4.5, and the fact is not every book is amazing. It is true that I enjoyed most of what I read. Nevertheless, I wanted to develop a more objective approach, so I broke it down into the factors I consider most important to me in a book.
Desire to reread
These can be expanded for fiction/nonfiction which I have slightly different expectations for:
This may seem like a very convoluted way of thinking about these, but for me, rating a book isn’t about any one aspect of it. There are books that aren’t the most enjoyable that I feel like are still a positive experience. Sure, some of these matter more. The idea is, I can appreciate certain aspects of a book, and breaking it down is a way of thinking about each one then tying it together. This is still very much a measure of what I like in a book.
I’ve weighted each characteristic based on how important it is to me (see below). That means the rating I give one trait, say enjoyment, will matter more than say the writing style. Comprehension matters because I want to leave the book feeling like I understood what I read, but sometimes, confusion doesn’t ruin the book. Now, each of these will often effect my rating of the other; if I don’t find a book engaging, I probably won’t enjoy it. However, I think there are a lot of eccentricities that go into how we judge a book such that breaking it down feels like the best approach for me.
I mentioned “special” because it gets to the core of that special feeling a book can make you feel. I can read a book that I find enjoyable, engaging, and everything else seem perfect about it, but that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be a profound book to me. I think that should matter. Another trait is my desire to reread a book. Now, together these two are only worth a quarter of a star out of five stars. However, you might see how that can just barely shift a book into lower category. On that note, I am moving away from .25 ratings and rounding to the nearest half; on Goodreads I will round up or down based on if my final number is above or below .5.
This is a breakdown of each aspect of a book that matters to me with a weight to indicate how important it is in the calculation of the final number.
Update 8%: I keep stopping to restart this because I feel like I am zoning out at the start. I don’t think it’s the book’s fault entirely; part of it is my state of mind. Nevertheless, I’m using some online resources because if I can figure out whose who I can focus better. Is that cheating? Don’t tell my lit teacher.
Update 68%: This isn’t really working for me. I’m having the worst time following the characters. I googled it, and I made myself memorize who the the mom’s name is and who the kids are, but I’m still only getting bits and pieces. I feel like I’m wasting my time here. I am not going to give up just yet.
DNF at 78%: I could have “finished” this, but I didn’t feel like I could do that in good conscience. I restarted the audiobook on this 3 or 4 times (about half an hour in each time) because I could tell it wasn’t sticking from the start. I eventually did some googling and understood the story followed the twins and, for a time, their mother. That kept me informed enough to keep up with the story as it focused on her. Once the focus shifted, any handle I had on understanding what was going on, vanished.
I really wanted to like this, but in the end, I couldn’t follow the characters which meant the situations didn’t make sense. When I don’t have situational context of each moment in the story, it doesn’t stick. It’s like driving and realizing you don’t remember how you got where you’re at. Clearly, you were focused on the driving, but your mind didn’t consider it worth retaining. That is what this became. I tried so hard to follow. I don’t usually restart a book; I’m of the opinion that a book should be readable on its own. This one was special; it was one I really wanted to enjoy. Sometimes, I may be slow on the uptick, but it all would come together in the end. It was clear that wasn’t the case here.
The academic in me wants to drop everything and pick up the physical book to study it until it makes sense. That’s because I feel like there is a good story here to be loved. Sadly, I have too many other books I know I’ll enjoy more. This one had it’s chance. I may return to it, forgoing the audiobook, but not any time soon. You have no idea how much this pains me. 2/5 stars.
Rating Break Down Writing Style: 5/10 Plot: 5/10 Characters: 5/10 Ending: 0/10 Engagement: 4/10 Enjoyment: 5/10 Comprehension: 3/10 Pacing: 5/10 Desire to Reread: 5/10 Special: 3/10 Final Rating: 2.2/5 Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.
I have been wanting to read this for the last year or so when I was seeking out Hugo and Nebula award winners. I never did because I knew this had a good bit of physics talk. I was worried it would be dry or worse, too advanced, for me to enjoy. I am happy to report that this was a great book. Cixin Liu and his translator, Ken Liu, have written a compelling and easy to consume work of science fiction.
I came into it with the idea that it is essentially a specific type of story (sub-genre). I won’t say what to avoid spoilers, but I was surprised when this was much less that kind of a story. That is to say, this book is very much a prelude of whats to come. It almost feels like a prequel to what’s to come. That is why I am hesitant to really classify it as such because that really ruins the slow methodical reveal.
I was really impressed with the plot. We follow several characters, with a focus on one, as an investigation takes place into a series of high profile scientists being killed. One man, basically the main protagonist, is tasked to infiltrate and investigate. Within it, he comes across a virtual reality game, the Three Body Problem. Now, this is a very elite game that supposedly only the very bright are able to play. What follows is series of revelations that were amazingly creative. I think what I liked most about the plot was a very unique take on this sub-genre of fiction.
I also want to give Liu props on very believable science fiction. As a scientist, I think it is a lot of fun, and really cool, to read a story that effectively uses science especially when that science is direct and easy to understand. It made for an engaging and enjoying ride. I am so excited to be moving on to the next in the series! 4/5 stars.
Rating Break Down Writing Style: 8/10 Plot: 9/10 Characters: 7/10 Ending: 8/10 Engagement: 8/10 Enjoyment: 9/10 Comprehension: 7/10 Pacing: 7/10 Desire to Reread: 3/10 Special: 3/10 Final Rating: 3.765/5 Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.
This month I chose to participate in the January AYearAThon readathon where I read as many red covers, as I could, for one week. Now, I don’t intend to participate in the AYearAThon moving forward, but I like to participate in at least one readathon every month because it helps me read more. I chose this readathon because it seemed like an easy one too get invested in that covered a lot of the books I wanted to read (soon). The objective was pick books with a certain color on the cover, so I chose red. The rules technically said to read a cover of that color not with that color, but I allowed for a little wiggle room.
Overall this was a very successful readathon. I’ve read more books this week than I think I ever have before in a week (9). Of course, some of these are novellas, or just very short books, but even still, it was a challenge but one I thoroughly enjoyed. I went in with what I thought was a very ambitious goal, expecting to read 7 or 8 books. I had had a slow start to the month (year, decade!) and was hoping to get myself back into the swing of things. Once I started with my regular reading routine, I really got into it. By the end, I even threw in a 9th book!
This month I read If You Ask Me, by Betty White. I was very hesitant to read this one because as much as I love Betty White I wasn’t sure how much I would like it. In the end, I enjoyed it, but it was a little lackluster. I had an overall better experience with Robin by Dave Itzkoff. It was a fantastic book that I recommend to any Robin Williams fan. The next one that I read was Underland by Robert McFarland, and I was really excited about this one. Sadly, I was very disappointed by what I read; it just was not what I thought I was getting when I started it. Luckily that was really the only novel that severely disappointed me. Every other book I read I either loved or was at least glad I read it.
I read How We Know What Isn’t So by Thomas Gilovich. This is a book that I had on my TBR for a while because it is considered a standard book and the skeptic community. It’s about the fallibility of human reason, and I really enjoyed it. I was hesitant because these types of books about human bias and human psychology can easily be very esoteric and difficult to read. However, that was not the case. This one was written away that was very easy to consume, and I highly recommend it! A more esoteric book was be The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould. That one I enjoyed, but I did not much appreciate the way in which Gould structured the book.
In fiction, I finally read Scythe by Neal Shusterman. I added this one to by TBR at the last second because I had been so hesitant to read it. There are so many hyped YA books, and so far, I have really not loved them. Luckily, I gave this one a shot, and it is amazing. I haven’t been this excited for a series in a while. Another book that I read was the 4th book in the Earthsea Cycle, Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin. It was fine. I haven’t loved reading them, but I am trying to read one a month so as to get a full review of the series. I enjoyed it more than the others, but it still isn’t something I love. You’ll see my review of that sometime in the spring.
The last book I read (this isn’t in the order I read them) was Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman. I read this one because I haven’t been reading a lot of general thrillers, and I wanted to tackle that section of my TBR. This was one of several books I bought after the positive review by Books and Lala, and while I trust her opinion, I’m finding it hard not to go off books that I am more excited for on my own than purely off her suggestion. Of course, there is a reason I trust her judgement! It did not fail me because I loved this book. It is a story about these teen girls who get into some drama, and I am here for it. I absolutely adored that book.
I read so many books part of me is worried I am leaving one off! This is the first time I created a readathon post after finishing it, but the holidays and January are such a busy time. You may have noticed, I attached a video at the top of this discussion. That is my first attempt at posting a video for Booktube! It is essentially me talking about the same stuff as here. I may or may not continue to do blogs and videos for the exact same content, but that is the goal!
I am so grateful to the leaders of the AYearAThon readathon. I had been having a serious slump this month from the traveling followed by the flu for a week. I was getting really disheartened about reading, but now I leave this week with 9 new books and a renewed vigor. I was shocked I read so many nonfiction, but I suppose those are the ones I wanted to read. I think I owe some thanks to Olive at abookolive for being one of the key people getting me inspired about nonfiction. Overall, I loved this readathon! I would say it was a real success not just in quantity but specifically in the quality of books that I read.
I decided to read this at the behest of my then girl friend as I knew it was her favorite book. In fact, it was what inspired me asking her to choose half my TBR this month (from my shelf). I choose to read Fall on Your Knees first of course. I am happy it is not disappointing. I am thoroughly enjoying following this family through the generations. It is a hard hitting family drama fraught with abuse, tragedy, and loss. I love a good character drama, and even more than that, I love a good domestic drama.
Ann-Marie MacDonald writes beautifully, and it is easy to get lost in her writing. She has an expert way of convey the naivety of the young girls in the story as we watch them grow into young women. I can definitely see how some people might not enjoy this, but it is exactly because the story is so tragic and real that makes it so enjoyable.
My biggest issue with the book is the length. I don’t exactly understand the overall structure. We have jumped from one member of the family to the next, but I would like to see a more cohesive message beyond the suffering of young woman as they learn to come into their own. Part of my frustration may have come from trying to rush it in the end, as I have about 10% of the book left. That is why I decided to let it sit rather than rush to finish it just because I have a readathon I am participating in right now. I would rather finish this off at a pace I can enjoy and fully appreciate it.
In the end, I really enjoyed Fall on Your Knees. This is one of the first books I’ve decided to try a new rating approach with where I rate a series of factors, weighted by how important they are to me, to come to decide on a final rating. I really enjoyed MacDonald’s writing, and overall, I enjoyed the plot of the novel. The length had be a little tired toward the end. I made a concious decision not to rush to finish this book before the January AYEARATHON to come back to the last quartor of a book with a fresh mind.
I am glad I decided to do that because it was much fresher when I returned to it. I think I also was able to better appreciate the ending which was great. MacDonald did a fantastic job connecting all the characters with the ending so that we really appreciate the overarching relationships of the women in this family. I enjoyed how she structured the book and and could easily follow along. I probably won’t reread it, but I think there is a small chance. I will admit that I used the “special” category to bump this novel up because I choose to read this at the behest of someone close to me. Because of that, I this book will hold a special place for me. All in all, 4/5 stars!
Rating Break Down Writing Style (7%): 9/10 Plot (15%): 9/10 Characters (15%): 10/10 Ending (1%): 10/10 Engagement (5%): 8/10 Enjoyment (25%): 6/10 Comprehension (20%): 7/10 Pacing (2%): 7/10 Desire to Reread (5%): 3/10 Special (5%): 10/10 Final Rating: 3.84/5 Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.