An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson | Book Review

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Rating: ★★★

An Enchantment of Ravens is disappointingly dull – even more disappointing because of its gorgeous cover. How can such a beautiful book be so… blah?

Goodreads Synopsis: A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

BookishBlond Reviews: Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a bad book. The writing is good, and the plot is fine. Younger readers (or anyone new to the YA fantasy genre) may very well enjoy it. And if YA fantasy is your genre and you love and accept the tropes, you may love it. But it’s such an uninspired rehashing of every exhausted trope… I was bored to death. Especially since a full 100 pages are spent wandering through the woods. Where nothing happens.

And I’m convinced its origins were as a ACOTAR fanfic. Oh, let me count the ways!
-MC is an artist/painter
-Raised by single adult
-With no mom & two sisters
-Sexy fae/fair folk manboy
-Who is allegedly verrry powerful but is actually pretty snivelly (when he’s not brooding)
-Steals her away to the faerie world
-Made up of season-themed faerie courts/kingdoms/whatever
-Tension between staying in the human world and joining the (eternal) faerie world
-(I’ll add more as I remember)

I read this book because (1) the cover and (2) the reviews for Rogerson’s new book Sorcery of Thorns are incredible. I like to read things in order so I had to check this book out first before reading the new one even though they’re both standalones. An Enchantment of Ravens is a first novel, so I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt – Rogerson shows us her imagination and her writing skills and I’m hopeful that she comes into her own in her next book.

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart | Book Review

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Rating: ★★

Ugh, nope. This book is so dull and takes itself waaaaay too seriously.

Goodreads Synopsis: 

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.

And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

BookishBlond Review:

I found this book in my childhood bedroom while visiting my parents. E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver books (The Boyfriend List and its sequels) were some of my favorite books when I was in late middle school/early high school and I was impressed that We Were Liarsreceived high praise, including a Goodreads Choice Award. My GR friends’ mediocre reviews made me wary, but considering my fond memories of Lockhart’s books, I was willing to give it a try.

Maybe I should have left it on the shelf. After all, Lockhart did write a book about a girl who transforms into a fly just so she can gawk over penises (which I think she charmingly called “gherkins”) in the boys’ locker room.

From the first page, Lockhart tells you there’s a huuuuuge secret in the book, which puts the reader on notice that there is a twist coming up. The problem with knowing there’s a twist is that you obviouslyexpect a twist and you end up guessing what it is. If you’ve read YA “thriller”-type books before, it’s not very difficult to guess Lockhart’s game. Booooring.

Without the magic of the plot to keep you reading, what’s left? Not the characters. This is a book about whiny rich kids on their family’s private island. I can’t remember any of their names, including the MC, but I can remember how snooty and pretentious the lot of them are. I was ready to throw them all overboard.

Lockhart’s social commentary efforts repeatedly fall flat. She’s trying to do a Great Gatsby thing here, but none of it works. There’s nothing likable or redeeming about the characters, except, I suppose, for MC’s amnesia, which honestly felt like manipulation to sympathize with her plight.

Younger readers who haven’t read a book like this before might enjoy it but I hated this book from the beginning and don’t think I would recommend it to anyone. It’s baffling that it earned a Goodreads Choice award because I don’t think it’s anything particularly special.

Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr | Book Review

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Rating: ★★

I must preface this review by saying that I have been vegan for six years and I fully support books encouraging Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables and eventually transition to a vegan diet. On that front Carr’s goal is laudable and I can see this book being a great introductory resource for people unfamiliar with a vegan diet. However I found this book overall to be problematic and would not recommend it over the plethora of vegan health and fitness books available. 

Crazy Sexy Diet reads like a Cosmo article. The writing is far from endearing; Carr’s cutesy “girlfriend” tone quickly becomes irritating, making finishing this book a chore. This book is clearly targeted at women (upper-middle class white women, to be exact) but Carr’s tone is patronizing, isolating readers who do not fit her intended audience.

Educating and encouraging others to go vegan is beneficial to their health, animal welfare, and the environment, but there are good and bad ways to go about this. Readers unfamiliar with veganism are likely to be overwhelmed by Carr’s lifestyle recommendations, which are expensive and unsustainable. She wants you to invest in a blender, juicer, water filter, supplements, yoga classes, and a meditation room on top of the large amounts of (organic) fresh produce necessary to follow her plan. For Americans privileged enough to be able to afford these luxuries, her plan may be achievable, but the majority of us cannot afford these luxuries.

This book is full of junk science. Eating more fruits and vegetables (organic or not) is a goal in itself: countless studies have shown the many health benefits of eating these foods. Carr, however, advocates for eating veggies to achieve a balanced pH. According to Carr, eating alkaline food like fruits and vegetables leads to better health. But there is little scientific evidence to support these claims. Some may see improved health outcomes because they are eating more fruits and vegetables, not because of any effect on blood pH. Focusing on your food’s pH is time consuming and complicated and may turn people away from following this diet entirely.

The anecdotal “success stories” featured at the end of every chapter make it clear that following Carr’s plan will replace the need to take prescription drugs. It is wildly irresponsible to encourage people to stop taking their medications without their doctor’s knowledge or advice. Some conditions like diabetes may be reversible when following a vegan diet but there is little evidence that other chronic conditions can be “cured” this way. Carr’s recommendations to see a naturopath are irresponsible as well – naturopaths are not medical doctors and are not qualified to treat chronic diseases.

Additionally, I had issues with a few miscellaneous aspects of this book. At least twice in the book, Carr lists autism as a preventable disease caused by poor diet. This claim is not supported by any evidence and is incredibly offensive and ignorant. Carr (unsurprisingly) advocates for the use of essential oils, specifically endorsing Young Living Oils as a favored manufacturer. This company is a known MLM and it makes me uncomfortable that she would support an industry that adversely impacts so many people. For a “diet” book, Crazy Sexy Diet contains shockingly few actual recipes. The few recipes included in the book are very similar, providing little variety.

It is wonderful to see so many vegan health and diet books on the market. But if you are interested in learning more about the many health and environmental benefits of going vegan, please consider the many (much) better books that are supported by actual science.

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WWW Wednesday | June 5, 2019

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking On a World of Words. Every Wednesday, the posters discuss 3 Ws:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you recently finish reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Happy June! I can’t believe 2019 is already half over… it seems like we were just celebrating the new year, and it’s summer already. Here in Phoenix, we are getting into that 100 degree (F) weather, which I am NOT looking forward to. I will not be going outside for the next few months. At all. I hope the weather is better where you are!

What are you currently reading?

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The Gathering (Darkness Rising, #1)The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)Blood and Money: The Classic True Story…Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncen…The Butterfly Mosque

  1. The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong: I am loving this book! I just started it yesterday, and I’m planning on finishing it later today. First Nations, skin walkers, cougars, oh my!
  2. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski: I really do like this book, but for whatever reason my reading speed sloooows whenever short stories are involved.
  3. Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson: I haven’t touched this in a while… oops.
  4. Perfect Murder, Perfect Town by Lawrence Schiller: Same.
  5. The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson: Same 😦

What did you recently finish reading? 

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On Immunity by Eula BissWishful Drinking by Carrie FisherAll the Rage by Courtney SummersI Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura PhilpottThe Widow by Fiona Barton

  1. On Immunity by Eula Biss: Finally finished this quick kindle book. I would never recommend this to anyone! Read my full review here.
  2. Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher: I listed to the audiobook for this one – it was only about 3 hours long, and read by the author. I love Carrie Fisher so much; her snarkiness is delightful. RIP!
  3. All the Rage by Courtney Summers: Mixed feelings about this one! Read my full review here.
  4. I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott: Meh. I enjoyed this memoir/essay collection, but it’s nothing special. Read my review here.
  5. The Widow by Fiona Barton: Again, kind of meh, but I did enjoy reading this one. Review to come!

What do you think you’ll read next?

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If I'm Being HonestThe Weight of Our SkyUprootedMy Lovely Wife

  1. If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka: A retelling of The Taming of the Shrew? I’m in!
  2. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf: I promise I’ll actually get to this one this week.
  3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik: Same!
  4. My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing: I hope this book doesn’t end up being another 2019 thriller disappointment (I’m looking at you, The Silent Patient).

Last week, I added my own fourth category, and I think I need it again this week.

What did you DNF?

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  1. Playing Big by Tara Mohr: I read the first two chapters of this book a few months ago and was not impressed. In a halfhearted attempt to finally finish it, I tried reading the next chapter… until I saw Mohr cite Marianne Williamson, Oprah’s spiritual guru who is now one of the 23 Democrats veeing for the 2020 nomination. Um, no thanks.

Happy reading! See you all next week!

On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss | Book Review

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On Immunity: An InoculationRating: ★★

This isn’t a science book. It’s not a book about healthcare. It’s not even a book about vaccination. Instead, On Immunity is a confusing collection of essays with no cohesive theme. Biss cycles between motherhood and literary analysis and never brings it all together.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Upon becoming a new mother, Eula Biss addresses a chronic condition of fear–fear of the government, the medical establishment, and what is in your child’s air, food, mattress, medicine, and vaccines. She finds that you cannot immunize your child, or yourself, from the world.

In this bold, fascinating book, Biss investigates the metaphors and myths surrounding our conception of immunity and its implications for the individual and the social body. As she hears more and more fears about vaccines, Biss researches what they mean for her own child, her immediate community, America, and the world, both historically and in the present moment. She extends a conversation with other mothers to meditations on Voltaire’s Candide, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Susan Sontag’s AIDS and Its Metaphors, and beyond.

BookishBlond Reviews:

With the measles outbreak splashed across every newspaper, I picked up a copy of On Immunity, aiming to educate myself on vaccination, and expecting a primer on vaccines and vaccine culture. I was disappointed to discover that this book is an unorganized collection of vague musing about Biss’ decision to vaccinate her son, and her obsession with Stoker’s Dracula.

I’m not sure what this book is, and I don’t think Biss is, either. It’s definitely not a comprehensive history of vaccination. I’m not even convinced that Biss is pro-vaccine. She treats the anti-vaccine movement like a valid philosophy, and that’s a dangerous approach. The truth is, anti-vaxxers are not parents with valid concerns. They spread misinformation, information known to be false, and their message results in low vaccination rates that put vulnerable members of the population at risk. It’s not okay. From all her “research,” I expected more from Biss.

And was this a book about vaccination, or a book about Dracula? I’m convinced that Biss had an idea for a thesis about medicine as the modern Dracula, and it never got approved, so she turned it into a book. She practically mentions Dracula on every page. It quickly became annoying, then infuriating. The constant discussion of the book wasn’t relevant to Biss’ larger goal to discuss the sociology of vaccines. Her editor should have taken most of that out.

Parts of this book struck me as insightful, specifically where Biss highlighted the contrast between mothers and doctors, and how the disconnect can impact vaccination rates, which is why I’m giving it two stars instead of one. I would never recommend this book to anyone.

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WWW Wednesday | May 29, 2019

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking On a World of Words. Every Wednesday, the posters discuss 3 Ws:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you recently finish reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Good afternoon! How was your Memorial Day holiday weekend (if you’re American)? Mine was wonderful; I read a few books, caught up on sleep, and visited Saguaro National Park. The weather here in Arizona has been unseasonably beautiful. I believe it was actually cooler here last week than it was in places like Michigan.

This is my third week participating in WWW Wednesday. I believe I’ve made more progress on my reading goals this week than I had in the previous two weeks (although I am a day late posting. Again). I am really enjoying using this weekly post to keep track of my reading. It’s nice to glance back and see what changed in regard to what I was currently reading and what I was thinking about reading. Well, let’s get started!

What are you currently reading?

I Miss You When I Blink: EssaysBlood and Money: The Classic True Story…On Immunity: An InoculationThe Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: The Uncen…Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Miss…The Butterfly Mosque

  1. I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott: I’m about halfway through with this book, and I’m not sure how I feel. It’s a collection of short memoirs/observations, and some chapters are better than others. Much of Philpott’s musings are about motherhood, which I just can’t relate to.
  2. Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson: I haven’t made any progress on this book.
  3. On Immunity by Eula Biss: Still reading this one sporadically at work.
  4. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski: I already ordered the second book in this series, and I’m ready to dive in once I finish this one! I also saw that there is  a Witcher series coming to Netflix, which is pretty exciting.
  5. Perfect Murder, Perfect Town by Lawrence Schiller: Maybe it’s time to officially DNF this one.
  6. Playing Big by Tara Mohr: Ditto.
  7. The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson: Dammit, I WILL finish this book soon!

Me: I’ve made so much progress this week!

Also me: Has made no progress on my currently reading list.

What did you recently finish reading?

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuireIce by Sarah Beth DurstBridge to Terabithia by Katherine PatersonThe Hazel Wood by Melissa AlbertLove Hina, Vol. 02 by Ken AkamatsuHorimiya, Vol. 3 by Hero

  1. In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire: I LOVED this book. It very well might be my favorite book in the series. Read my full review here!
  2. Ice by Sarah Beth Durst: So… this book was WEIRD. But I loved it. It was magical and kind of creepy. Full review to come!
  3. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: I somehow never read this book as a kid, and it’s on my list of books that I should read. I was disappointed in this “children’s classic.” Read my full review here!
  4. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert: I almost didn’t read this book. Several of my Goodreads friends gave this book a one-star rating and wrote very critical reviews that addressed troubling issues with the book. But then I turned my copy of the book over and saw the rave reviews, including one from Seanan McGuire. I’m so glad I read this book anyway – I loved it, and I think the accusations I read on Goodreads were unfair. Full review to come!
  5. Love Hina, vol. 2 by Ken Akamatsu: I love this manga. I first read it in high school, and I’m so glad I picked it up again. It’s such a fun read.
  6. Horimiya, vol. 3 by Hero: I randomly saw this manga at my library, and I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s absolutely adorable.

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Weight of Our SkyInto the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep, #1)The Widow (Kate Waters, #1)Uprooted

  1. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf: The reviews for this book are AMAZING. Another library book I can’t wait to read!
  2. Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant: I have seen this book all over Goodreads, and I’m feeling left out! It looks really creepy. Can’t wait to dive in!
  3. The Widow by Fiona Barton: I haven’t read a thriller in a while! I was planning on picking up Barton’s The Child, but then I realized it was the second book in a series. And I must start from the beginning! 
  4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik: I see Novik’s recent book Spinning Silver everywhere. I decided to read her older book first. I’ll probably read it this weekend.

I need a fourth category this week…

What did you DNF?

The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed & Lorraine Warren

  1. The Demonologist by Gerald Brittle: I read a couple chapters of this book before deciding to bring it back to the library. To be fair, this book was published in the 1980s, and is a product of its times. It’s not an “objective” evaluation of the paranormal, but instead a weirdly worshipful account of the Warren’s lives. I’m not interesting in reading a biased version of what exactly the Warrens were up to… I want to read a journalist’s fact-based findings and conclusions. This book is just not for me.

I’m writing this at work, and now all I want to do is go home and read! I hope you enjoy the rest of your week. Happy reading!

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire | Book Review

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In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

Rating: ★★★★★

This book has been sitting on my nightstand for months. I devoured the first two books in this series, and quickly added them to my list of favorites, but I was hesitant about reading this latest installment. Why? The third Wayward Children book, Beneath the Sugar Sky, was a huuuuuuge disappointment. It lacked the magic of the first two books. Reading that book and discovering it to be nothing like the first two books was profoundly disappointing, and I kept putting off reading this book because I was worried that it would be similarly disappointing.

Was I ever wrong.

In an Absent Dream may very well be my new favorite book in the series (or perhaps my second favorite book, after Every Heart a Doorway). McGuire is back. This book is every bit as magical and wonderful and beautiful as her first Wayward Children books. I know a lot of people were disappointed with Beneath the Sugar Sky, but please, don’t let that stop you from reading In an Absent Dream. Trust me!

Goodreads Synopsis: 

This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

BookishBlond Reviews:

This book is about Lundy, the childlike counselor/right-hand man to the school’s headmaster, who was a supporting character in the first book. In the first book, we learn that she ages very slowly and backward, kind of like Benjamin Button. In this book, we learn the story behind her anti-aging, but the book isn’t simply telling that one story. Lundy was a kid just like the other Wayward Children, who stumbled down a doorway into a Wonderland tailored just for her. In an Absent Dream tells Lundy’s story – who she was as a child, what world drew her in and why, and, of course, why she couldn’t stay, and where she went afterward.

This book was much more of an emotional read for me than the earlier installments in the series (especially Beneath the Sugar Sky), which are more whimsical. In an Absent Dream is a true coming-of-age story. I had SO MANY FEELINGS after finishing this book, and I’m still not entirely recovered.

“Of such commonplace contradictions are weapons made. Katherine Lundy walked in the world. That was quite enough to set everything else into motion.”

I felt more of a connection with Lundy than I have with any other Wayward Children. At first, her character seems a little bit bland – she’s the principal’s daughter, a bookworm, a rule follower. Quiet. She definitely isn’t as distinct as some of McGuire’s other heroes, but that’s exactly what sets her apart. She is a normal girl, perhaps a bit of a loner, living in the 1960s, with a normal family. I was drawn to her quiet bookishness. Each of McGuire’s Wayward Children books feature a different type of child who ends up in a (very) different type of world. Following my connection with Lundy, I feel like if I opened one of McGuire’s doors, it would lead me to a world very similar to Lundy’s Goblin Market.

I looooooved the Goblin Market. It’s different from McGuire’s other worlds in that children are able to freely travel back and forth between their home world and through the Doorway to this one, at least until their 18th birthday. McGuire’s other worlds aren’t so readily accessible, and it’s interesting to compare Lundy’s experience with the experiences of the other Wayward Children, who only went down the doorway once and then spent years trying to find it again. But… this feature doesn’t work out so well for Lundy, which absolutely broke my heart. The flexibility of traveling to this world made Lundy’s journey less ominous and less urgent than the journeys in the other books, where the children only get that one chance to decide whether to stay forever or to go home. McGuire is tricky, though – she lulls us into a false sense of security then hits us with a sucker punch to the heart. It hurts so good.

The Goblin Market is definitely one of my favorite worlds, right up there with the world the twins went to in Down Among the Sticks and Bones. There are centaurs, birds, children turning into birds, and a complex yet intuitive system of rules. I love rules (which is maybe why I went to law school), so this world really resonated with me. And the characters from this world! The Archivist, who I imagine as an ancient librarian, guides Lundy like Virgil leading Dante through the Inferno. And, of course, Moon. Lundy doesn’t have any friends in her home world, but she meets Moon, her best friend, at the Goblin Market. Their friendship was one of my favorite things about this book.

I love this book so much. It is absolutely one of my favorite reads of 2019. Please, please, please… read this book. If you haven’t read the rest of the series, start here.

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