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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Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson | Book Review

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Bridge to TerabithiaRating: ★★★

I somehow escaped elementary/middle school without ever reading this book. Ever since the film came out a few years ago, I have felt like the only person who hasn’t crossed the Bridge to Terabithia. I’m trying to read more books that I should have read already, and at under 200 pages, this book was a great place to start tackling that goal.

Everybody has that book (or books!) that they just don’t like, even though everybody else seems to love it. For me, Bridge to Terabithia is one of those books. I just don’t get it. I do not understand the hype behind this book. Yes, yes, I’m 26, not 12, but I’m pretty sure this book would have bored me when I was the age of the intended reader.

Goodreads Synopsis: 

Jess Aarons’ greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He’s been practicing all summer and can’t wait to see his classmates’ faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys’ side and outruns everyone.

That’s not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits.

BookishBlond Reviews:

For some reason, I thought this book was fantasy (it’s even shelved as “fantasy” on Goodreads!), but it’s not. Yes, this book is about children who invent a magical imaginary world, but Paterson never actually shows us what Terabithia looks like. At least, not really. It’s possible I missed those passages, but after finishing the book, all I know about Terabithia is that it has a queen. Paterson presents Terabithia as an imaginary world Jess and Leslie escape to while playing in the woods, but she doesn’t flesh it out. Hearing “Narnia” evokes images of satyrs and talking animals, but “Terabithia” doesn’t bring anything to mind. I was expecting something Narnia-esque, and I was profoundly disappointed that Paterson didn’t deliver.

Similarly, I was disappointed in the characters. Jess was boring and vaguely irritating. His sisters and his relationship with them was nothing special… it must have been mandatory to write sibling relationships like that in the 1970s. I did like Leslie, though. She was a little badass and her parents seemed pretty cool, too. I wish we got more of them. But when I compare Paterson’s characters with other “classic” children’s books like the Narnia series, and L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time books, these characters are so flat.

I’m going to discuss some spoilers in the next paragraph, so if you’re one of the rare people (like me!) who haven’t read the book, you might want to stop reading here!

Leslie’s death seemed so pointless. In the Afterward, Paterson explains that she was inspired to write the book after her son lost a childhood friend, which explains why Leslie had to die more than anything else. I really wish I had read the Afterward before diving into the book; I would probably be less disappointed if I had. Paterson wasn’t writing her own version of Narnia. She was writing about her son’s experience coping with the loss of her friend. So Leslie had to die because Jess/Paterson’s son needed to come to terms with her death. But without that context, her sudden death is senseless. I still mostly feel like her death was senseless, but I did appreciate Jess’s emotional development afterwards. Really, the only redeeming thing about Jess’s character is how he deals with losing his friend, which he had betterdo well, since that’s the whole point of the book. In sum, Leslie’s death was a plot device that drove the book. I don’t like it, but it is what it is.

I really didn’t care for this book. It’s boring, and there’s a disconnect between how the book is portrayed and how it actually is. I understand that I’m reading the book as an adult, but there are so many wonderful children’s books available that are both magical and emotionally satisfying that I don’t think my age is the problem here. I’m disappointed in Bridge to Terabithia, but I didn’t hate it, so I’ll give it 3 stars.

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WWW Wednesday | May 22, 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?

This is my second time participating in WWW Wednesday, and I’m excited to compare the post I wrote last week with this week’s post. I did start writing on Wednesday, but didn’t quite have the time to finish, so I’m posting a day late this time.

This week is my second week at my new job. I’m very excited to be working in this position, but I’ve been so tired at the end of the day that I haven’t been reading. Instead, I’ve been watching reality tv on Hulu, which I’m ashamed to say is my guilty pleasure. But I’m planning on reading the entire holiday weekend. I can’t wait!

What are you currently reading?

Blood 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. Blood and Money by Thomas Thompson: I left my kindle at my parents’ house in Texas, so I’ve been kindle-less (at least without my physical kindle…) for over a week now… but my wonderful parents mailed my kindle back to me, so I’ll be diving back into this one soon! Unfortunately, I haven’t touched it since last week.
  2. On Immunity by Eula Biss: I’ve been reading this book sporadically at work, on the kindle app for my computer. This book is… interesting. I’m almost certain it originated as a dissertation on Dracula and modern medicine that somehow was expanded into a 200-page book. I’ll probably finish it soon, and I already have a LOT to say in my review.
  3. 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.
  4. Perfect Murder, Perfect Town by Lawrence Schiller: Maybe it’s time to officially DNF this one.
  5. Playing Big by Tara Mohr: Ditto.
  6. The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson: Dammit, I WILL finish this book soon!

What did you recently finish reading?

Saga, Vol. 8 by Brian K. VaughanSaga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. VaughanThe Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina KhanThe Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani

  1. Saga, Volume 8 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: God, I love this series. I’ll admit that this book wasn’t my favorite Saga installment, but it’s still a 5-star read for me.
  2. Saga, Volume 9 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: And this one broke my heart! I cannot believe that Saga is on hiatus… what am I supposed to do in the meantime?? And that ending?? I just can’t.
  3. The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan: I was hesitant about this book after reading some reviews giving it very mediocre ratings (I highly recommend checking out Vicky Who Reads’ review), but I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It’s about a gay Bangladeshi-American girl who gets caught kissing her girlfriend and her parents scheme to marry her off to a nice Bangladeshi boy. It does have a feel-good happy ending (that is probably pretty unrealistic) and I understand the criticism, but it’s YA so I didn’t have as much of a problem with the ending. Full review to come!
  4. The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani: Huuuuuuge disappointment. I wasn’t impressed with the story, the characters, or the writing style. I’m very surprised that the New York Times Book Review praised this book as one of the best of 2018. Read my full review here!

What do you think you’ll read next?

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)The Demonologist: The Extraordinary Career of Ed & Lorraine WarrenThe Weight of Our SkyI Miss You When I Blink: Essays

  1. In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire: I love the Wayward Children series, but I’m been low-key dreading reading this book because I didn’t love the last book in the series. We’ll see.
  2. The Demonologist by Gerald Brittle: I’ve been dying to read this book. I love horror movies, and The Conjuring is such a fun movie… I can’t wait to read about the real couple who inspired the film! The reviews are mixed, which worries me, but I’m staying positive!
  3. The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf: The reviews for this book are AMAZING. Another library book I can’t wait to read!
  4. I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott: Just picked this one up from the library yesterday. I haven’t heard much about it, but it looks fun.

I didn’t make much progress since last week, but hopefully that changes the next time I check in. I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week, and enjoy the holiday weekend if you’re American 🙂

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides | Book Review

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Rating: ★★

The Silent Patient

This book just goes to show that you should always trust your instincts!

When I first read the synopsis, I was unimpressed. But then I saw the praise: Blake Crouch and Douglas Preston had very, very good things to say about The Silent Patient. So I decided to give it a try. Never again.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him….

Everything about this book is mediocre. Flat. The writing, the plot, the characters. I’m honestly flabbergasted at the sheer number of 5-star reviews praising this book for its “twist” and for being “unputdownable.” I was bored with this book from the beginning, and I ultimately had to force myself to finish it. The plot is nothing new – we have a psychologist and his patient, a now notorious artist who has spent the last six years locked up in a mental institution after killing her husband. Insanity defense, of course. Even though the psychologist has just started working there he is instantly able to get on her case, and spends all his time obsessing over her and tracking down people she knew before she was locked up (which would never happen – this violates so many ethical rules).

Much of the book takes place in the mental hospital, but it was like Michaelides was writing from what he had seen in movies, and not from research about how a mental hospital actually operates. One of the reasons I disliked the book so much was how unrealistic the hospital was – all of the staff act incredibly unethically (and I mean Ethical Rules unethically, not morally unethically), the psychologist basically takes over the place on the first day – even dictating how the actual medical doctors should treat patients, and the patients have waaaaay too much freedom.

I can’t even remember the psychologist’s name. There was absolutely nothing interesting about him as a character. Much of the plot focuses around two of his relationships – with his patient Alicia, and with his wife. There was just no substance to either of these relationships. In one passage he’ll be talking about how passionate he is about his wife, and describing all these intense feelings he has, but that text is juxtaposed to him not doing anything to show us how he feels. The strong emotional language next to physical inaction is very awkward to read. It doesn’t match up. He’s also supposedly a brilliant psychologist – he does, after all, somehow get a patient who has been practically catatonic for six years to respond to his fantastic therapy – but at the same time, he’s baffled by his interactions with people outside the hospital, and doesn’t seem to understand basic human emotions. All of this really stuck out to me as I was reading. I do believe that this could be fixed; hopefully Michaelides’ writing improves as he continues to write.

Alicia, the Silent Patient herself, was also uninteresting. She was supposedly a celebrated artist before she was committed, but her paintings sound so boring. A picture of her husband as Jesus on the cross? Yawn. The plot is driven by the psychologist investigating the mystery behind what happened on the day Alicia killed her husband, but I just didn’t care. It’s difficult to make a reader care about a character who doesn’t talk or have any internal dialogue. Michaelides tries to overcome this by giving Alicia a voice in some diary entries, but it didn’t work for me because there weren’t enough diary entries to flesh out her character. They also conveniently provided insight into whatever the psychologist was investigating at the time, so they functioned more to flesh out his story rather than to give Alicia a story. But I guess this book is about the psychologist, not about Alicia. Which is a shame, because I might have liked it more if we got to know her better.

Obviously, I am very much in the minority here. Maybe I just love to hate on popular books. If you like thrillers, you might very well like this one. But everything about this book fell flat for me, and I’m very disappointed in that “twist” ending. I definitely will listen to my gut reaction about books in the future!