Month: September 2016

September Reads. End of Month Wrap-Up #amreading

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Hello, fellow book junkies! In September I had the pleasure of reading ten novels and, though a couple came close, not a single one was a five-star read. Whether that’s a reflection of the books or of me as a reader (returning to work this month was a definite distraction), is hard to say. Every book had strengths and memorable moments. Here’s a recap . . .

YA Paranormal / Urban Fantasy

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin – Creepy in a good way, original (and humid) Miami setting. 4/5 stars

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater – Part of what makes me love a book is getting to enter a brilliantly wrought world with outstanding characters. The Dream Thieves had this. So did the first book in the series, The Raven Boys, which I was so enamored with that maybe it was hard to love the second book as much. The Dream Thieves is still great and made me definitely want to read the rest of the series. Since one of my favorite characters is Blue, I’m especially looking forward to the third book, Blue Lily, Lily Blue. 4.5/5 stars

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older 304pp – Brooklyn girl gets caught in a world of ancient spirits who come alive out of painted murals. Intriguing concept, bold characters. 4/5 stars

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey Strong writing (author Melissa Grey graduated from Yale) but the plot’s too reminiscent of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone. 3.75/5 stars

YA Contemporary-Mental Illness

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia – Much funnier than I expected. Creative writing style, but not a super memorable plot. Saw the twist coming a mile away. 4/5 stars

YA Fantasy Romance

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh I go into every book with an open mind, but since romance isn’t my favorite genre maybe this wasn’t the right book for me. Disappointing. 3.5/5 stars

YA Suspense

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes  – Gifted teenagers help the FBI track serial killers. Enjoyable characters, interesting premise. I’ve read many suspense novels, so my standards are pretty high and this one was a bit predictable. Still a fun read. 3.75/5 stars

Adult Sci-Fi Horror

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch Vividly imagined, quick read, (almost too) screenplay-ready. Memorable story! 4/5 stars

Adult Romance-Humor

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion audiobook Joyful, often hilarious story of a professor with Aspergers who’s on a mission to find a wife. Cleverly written–I love how the MC is often the unintentional superhero of the story. Rosie is a fun character, too. 4/5 stars

Adult Historical-Empowered Women

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier audiobook  In the early 19th century, two bright women from different social classes bond over fossil hunting–in the early days when extinct dinosaurs were still thought to be giant crocodiles. Based on a true story. 4.25/5 stars

–Eve Messenger

How to Tell If You’re a Book Junkie II

Image result for person buried in books

Directions: Mark an ‘x’ for each statement that applies to you.

[ ] 1. I have dropped a book on my face. More than once.

[ ] 2. On social media, I follow writers, not singers and movie stars.

[ ] 3. “Unputdownable” IS a word.

[ ] 4. My idea of a great weekend is starting a new book.

[ ] 5. My fingers type “Google” into the web address bar but somehow I keeping winding up at Goodreads.

[ ] 6. If I leave the house without a book I feel naked   I have a mini-panic attack. I never leave the house without a book.

[ ] 7. I freely admit I’ve hugged, kissed and/or lovingly patted a book.

[ ] 8. My favorite thing in my wallet is my library card.

[ ] 9. I plan road trips just to listen to audio books.

[ ] 10. While reading a book I am oblivious to the outside world. People can shout my name, gesture rudely, but short of bodily injury, I will not notice them.

[ ] 11. I’m happy if there’s a long wait at the mechanic/doctor’s office/airport because it means I get to read.

[ ] 12. When putting together a travel checklist, my first item is always: “books to read.”

[ ] 13. While standing in line to buy a new book I am. . . reading a book.

If you answered “yes” to any of the items on this checklist you are officially a book junkie. For further confirmation, try this test too: “How to Tell if You’re a Book Junkie.

Happy reading!

–Eve Messenger

Library-Hopping Adventure #3 #amreading #amwriting

 

Why I Like Writing in Libraries:

  • They’re libraries, as in churches of books.
  • They’re free. No obligation to buy coffee.
  • They’re MUCH quieter than Starbucks.
  • Some are open until as late as 9pm–perfect for evening writing. University libraries have even later hours–much later–often until 2 in the morning. (Thank you, night-owl college students.)
  • For weekend writing, libraries are the best. Most are open on Saturdays, and some even have Sunday hours. Which brings me to this week’s library-hopping adventure: Newport Beach Central Library.

Newport Beach Central Library is huge, a whopping 71,000 sq. ft.–so big I had to use the panorama feature on my camera to photograph the building facade. And again with the palm trees. Are there any libraries in my county without palm trees? Hmm, that’s a question for the next library-hopping adventure. Ext NB Central Library.jpg

The Good

  • This library is open on Sundays.
  • Because I keep the latest versions of my works in progress on Google Docs, I appreciate that Newport Beach Central Library offers a generous five hours of free internet access–with a library card. So, of course, I signed up for a library card. 🙂 In fact, I want to collect a whole DECK of library cards, one for each of the 33 cities in my county, plus the county library  system (which I already have). So far, at three different cities, I’ve been able to sign up for a library card even though I don’t reside in the actual city.
  • Newport Beach Central Library is super quiet. I got in an hour of uninterrupted writing, and it was very peaceful.

The Good & Bad

Newport Beach Central Library has tons and tons and tons of seating. . . none of it the least bit inviting. And I wished I had a cushion for the hard wooden chair.

Study Table.jpg

The Bad

  • Not that I should be staring out windows while writing, but it’s worth noting that the view–which you’d think would be amazing since this library is located in a beach town–was not very good, just street traffic and overly landscaped parking lots.
  • At the top of the stairs is a large open area with a credit union and a bistro, which totally had the feel of a mall. Call me old-fashioned, but I like my libraries mall-less.

Random Highlight

There’s an 8-ft. bunny statue on the lawn. Yes, just sitting out there all by his lonesome, no plaque or anything. No one knows why this is. Maybe the giant bunny is on a library-“hopping” adventure of his own. 😄

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–Eve Messenger

Library-Hopping Adventure #2 #amwriting #amreading

Some people meditate; I find my center at the library. Libraries are my Disneyland. I write in them, read in them, escape, explore, daydream, and mini-vacation in them. I love libraries so much that, earlier this year, I posted in my blog I’d like to visit a new local library each week.

Seven months(?!) later, I’m finally making good on Library-Hopping Adventure #2. 🙂

Today I visited East Anaheim Library, one of nearly a hundred libraries in Orange County and Anaheim’s newest one, remodeled from what used to be a medical center and featuring the requisite palm tree.
Exterior Facade - shares building with Anaheim PD

East Anaheim Library shares a building with the Anaheim Police Department, so out front there’s a lovely little memorial to police dogs.
Ext Police Dog Memorial front

I got choked up reading the list of canine heroes’ names. Ext Police Dog Memorial names

Just inside the front entrance, really high high ceilings and industrial style architecture let in the light of a beautiful, sunny morning.
Int Entry Industrial Architecture 1

Here’s the cozy back table where I spent three hours writing and reading next to a view of trees and. . . major freeways. The muffled rush of traffic was easy to habituate to, though; after a while, it sounded like ocean waves. Pictured: my trusty red backpack and document holder for transporting my tools of the trade: laptop, manuscript, folder for completed pages, pens, highlighter,  water, snack. Cozy Table in the back by trees and freeways

For what it’s worth, the library bathrooms were also extraordinarily clean, but I didn’t take a picture of those. 😀

Here’s to libraries and visiting more of them. They’re good for the soul.

— Eve Messenger

 

ARC Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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Let me start by saying that, even though I’m not big into vampires, Certain Dark Things was a unique and thoroughly entertaining read. This YA paranormal thriller is told from alternating viewpoints of Atl, a naïve young female vampire who’s illegally entered the vampire-free zone of near-future Mexico City; Domingo, a homeless Mexican teen; and Ana, a tough Mexico City cop.

The tenuous balance between humans and vampires, as well as clashes between vampire families and drug cartels, make for an action-packed story. However, the most compelling aspect becomes the relationship between Atl and Domingo. Domingo’s awkward courtship of Atl is genuinely sweet, i.e., this passage told from Domingo’s POV:

“Yeah. I know how it goes. I used to have a girlfriend but that’s not the case anymore,” he told her because he figured it sounded like the mature thing to say. He was attempting to go for “aloof” and “sophisticated,” like they said in the magazines.

World-building is a tricky thing. It can come across as info dumps, which it does early on in this book. However, by chapter 14 the story totally drew me in, and I didn’t want to leave the world and characters.

Moreno-Garcia has a strong writing style. Though in a couple of places descriptions went on a bit long, making me impatient to return to the story, for the most part the descriptions were excellent; for example, this one about the Mexico City district of Colonia Roma:

It was a place for sophisticated older people and hip young ones, with magnificent trees and faded mansions, a taco stand here and there to remind you it was not quite the Belle Époque and you were still in Mexico City.

The Revenant vampire Bernardino is an UNFORGETTABLE character. I also really liked Mexico City cop/single mom Ana. Armed with knowledge gained from listening to her grandmother’s folktales, Ana is one of the only humans in Mexico City with expertise on how to take down vampires. To give you an idea of Ana’s fiery attitude, here’s how she describes a sexist male coworker: “. . . skinny fucker with his cheap tie and his monumental indifference.”

I appreciated Moreno-Garcia’s subtle characterizations, like this one conveying how Atl begins to open up to Domingo. It’s simple but so effective.

He kicked the can in her direction and she kicked it back.

Lastly, don’t skip the glossary at the end. Moreno-Garcia clearly put a lot of research into the story, and it’s interesting to read about the different vampire species from all over the world, their habits, and social structures.

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August Reads–End of Month Wrap-Up #amreading

August 2016 Reads - final

Hello, fellow book junkies! Well, August was filled with lots of good books (including one 5-star read) and, apparently, many yellow book covers (see picture above).

“Girl” Books 

Yes, I am a sucker for any book with “girl” in the title. Here are two more.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey This adult, zombie horror/sci-fi story was a thrilling and unsettling ride. The little girl is. . . unlike any character I’ve ever read. Warning: this is no shiny-happy book. Highlight: Unconventional, strong-willed, kind-hearted Miss Justineau is now one of my all-time favorite characters.  4.5/5 stars

Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes YA contemporary. As a young girl, protagonist Maguire escaped unscathed from a car accident that killed her brother, dad, and uncle, so she now believes she’s a jinx. If you’re in the mood for a very sweet romance, this is the book for you. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but it’s solidly written with a lot of heart. 3.5/5 stars

Netgalley ARCs

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedotti  Main character Hawthorn Creely comes across as a bored, annoyed, teenage Amelia Bedelia, with a first person POV that didn’t quite work for me. Hawthorn believes popular girl, Lizzie Lovett, disappeared because she turned into a werewolf. Or maybe Hawthorn doesn’t believe that. Or maybe that whole story line falls by the wayside. Highlight: Hawthorn’s mom’s old hippy friends decide to camp out in her backyard. 3/5 stars

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-GarciaHonestly, it took a few chapters for me to get into it, but by chapter 14 I didn’t want to leave this well-written, well-researched YA paranormal set in near-future Mexico City. Though I’m not into vampires (I’m more of a witches gal), Moreno’s clever take on vampires is so compelling. The Revenant vampire was UNFORGETTABLE. 4.5/5 stars

Hype-Worthy Books I Finally(!) Read

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater  At last, I am not the only YA book lover in the world who hasn’t read The Raven Boys. The rating I give it is (*drum roll, please*). . . FIVE STARS. Yes! Fully realized characters, friendship, magic, an Old Virginia setting that’s a character in itself, eccentric fortune tellers/witches–I just loved everything about this book and cannot wait to read the rest of the series. 5/5 stars

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski – The Winner’s Curse is a winner! It’s got everything–flawless writing, strong world-building, and the ultimate in star-crossed lovers. 4.5/5 stars

Audiobook

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Highly entertaining and action-packed, I had so much fun reading this book. The world building is fantastic and main character Wade/Perzival is really likable. James Halliday is a futuristic Willie Wonka who promises his $2 billion fortune to the first gamer to finds the Easter egg in Halliday’s virtual reality world. Narrated by Wil Wheaton (“Wesley” from Star Trek Voyager). 4.5/5

Others

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King. How could I resist reading a book with this amazing title?  King’s excellent writing style did not disappoint. The plot wasn’t always strong, but this book paid off big-time by the end–such thought-provoking ideas! Overall, I preferred her book Reality Boy  but am addicted to King’s writing and will absolutely keep reading her books. 3.5/5

Summer Days and Summer Nights– In this entertaining and varied short story collection edited by Stephanie Perkins, YA writers–including big names like Leigh Bardugo, Libba Bray, and Cassandra Clare–contributed stories with a summer love theme. The story that blew me away was Nina Lacour’s The End of Love . It was flawless and made me definitely want to check out Lacour’s other work. (I think I’ll start with Hold Still.4/5 stars

Happy reading, everyone!

Eve Messenger