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.

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!

All the Rage by Courtney Summers | Book Review

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All the Rage

Rating: ★★★

All the Rage is the… third?… book about rape culture I’ve read so far in 2019. In some ways, it’s the best of those books. Summers knows how to pack an emotional punch that will leave you spinning. But in other ways it’s seriously lacking. This book is praised as being an must-read about rape culture but if not for the marketing I wouldn’t have put it in that category at all.

Goodreads Synopsis: The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

BookishBlond Reviews: 

I love Courtney Summers’ writing. I often lack an emotional connection to characters/books but Summers is an author that knows how to make you feel. This book will make your heart ache. I was so emotionally invested in Romy’s story that it hurt. Which is why I’m giving this book three stars instead of two.

But.

I don’t appreciate being emotionally manipulated by books.

Okay, just look at the first sentence of the Goodreads synopsis: “The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact.” Read the synopsis and you think you’re getting a book about a rape survivor, kind of like Speak. Many reviews even compare this book (favorably) with SpeakBut it’s nothing like that.

First of all, Kellan Turner, the rapist, is not even a character in this book. His name is literally only mentioned two or three times. He is not a character in this book. Few things annoy me more than dishonest marketing about books, and this feels so dishonest. Furthermore, rape is barely even mentioned in this book. Romy never talks about being raped. She never “heals” or “comes to terms” or whatever it was she was supposed to do. Romy struggles with bullying and managing her tormentors, not the aftermath of rape.

This book is a murder mystery. I feel emotionally manipulated because (1) the book is marketed as being about rape culture/rape survivors and (2) Romy’s identity as a rape survivor is used to make readers feel sorry for Romy and to justify her actions.

This book was all emotion and seriously lacking in characters and plot.

Even with all the feels, I did not like Romy as a character. She’s bitter and mean, and if not for being a rape survivor, her behavior wouldn’t make any sense at all. I understand that a rape survivor may feel numb, but Romy never talks about her emotions or about the rape. The reader is supposed to keep this background knowledge in mind, but it comes from the book’s description, not from Romy. There is this weird emotional disconnect where Romy is being mean to her mom or to her love interest, and the reader is supposed to make the connection that Romy is only being awful because of the rape, but the rape is never even discussed? It’s bizarre.

Romy aside, none of the other characters here did anything for me. I did really like Romy’s mom and stepdad, but everyone else was lacking. I didn’t understand why the love interest was so into Romy, especially since she was so mean to him. Romy’s (ex)friend, Penny, doesn’t feel like a real character. Her disappearance drives the book’s main plot line, but we don’t know anything about her. The mean girls at school who bully Romy are more non-characters. Who were they?

Summers had so many opportunities to take a unique stance on rape culture, but she never explored the topic. She stuck with the same tropes we see in other books that explore it – the outsider/loner girl who isn’t believed and the popular rapist who seemingly gets away with it. I was intrigued by a few things – Romy and Penny’s emails, the lipstick/nail polish, the rapist coming back to town… but Summers never goes deeper than the surface.

I also didn’t really like Summers playing around with the timeline. I think the story would have been better if told linearly instead of jumping around so much. The book doesn’t make sense at times.

And the ending? What? Everything is just… wrapped up nicely? Just like that??

This feels more like a rant than a book review, but I just had to get that off my chest. I read this book in one sitting – it’s an enjoyable read – but I’m still pissed off about the marketing.

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Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley | Book Review

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Where Things Come Back Rating: ★★★★

Does John Corey Whaley know how to write!

Goodreads Synopsis:

Winner of the 2012 Michael L. Printz and William C. Morris Awards, this poignant and hilarious story of loss and redemption “explores the process of grief, second chances, and even the meaning of life.” Kirkus Reviews

In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter’s senior year of high school, everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town vanishes. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and, most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears.

As Cullen navigates a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. And when those two stories collide, a surprising and harrowing climax emerges that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.

BookishBlond Reviews:

This book is such a treat to read, primarily because of Whaley’s masterful plot construction. The plot is split – one story follows Cullen Witter as he navigates the summer between his junior and senior year of high school, following his cousin’s fatal overdose and his younger brother’s disappearance. The second story first follows a young missionary in Africa, whose eventual return to the States triggers a series of events that’s larger than his own story. At first, the two plotlines seem completely unrelated, but when Whaley does end up bringing them together… ooooohh boy. I didn’t predict it at all. Nothing surprises me, but the conclusion of Where Things Come Backmade my jaw drop in the best way.

Even so, I’m torn between giving this book three and four stars. In addition to the plot construction, I think the strongest aspect of this book is the small-town setting. Cullen’s story is set in rural Arkansas, but it really could be any small American town. The poverty and the hopelessness will be familiar to anyone who has lived in a small town. Cullen’s resignation that he, like his parents, will be stuck in his hometown forever rang true.

But I felt like Whaley’s characters were weak. Cullen reminded me too much of John Green’s typical hero – awkward, melancholy, sensitive, and very irritating. Cullen has an annoying habit of breaking into third person, i.e., “when one is doing X, he will think Y…” that is absolutely infuriating, especially when the technique is used in every chapter. Cullen also imagines those around him as zombies, which I presume is a coping mechanism after going through the trauma of a family member’s death and another’s disappearance. I guess I don’t mind this, but it was annoying to read so many zombie passages, especially since they weren’t exactly framed as separate occurrences from Cullen’s real life. Maybe Whaley was going for some magical realism?

The other characters – especially the girls – are beginning to bleed together in my memory. Not only does everyone have a similar name, but their voices are similar as well.

did enjoy this book’s quirks – The Book of Enoch, a holy book not included in the Christian Bible, is a prominent feature. I loved that. I also enjoyed the mythology of the Lazarus woodpecker. These topics lurk in the background of the book’s plot, and it’s just delightful. They’re unique, and I really appreciate Whaley’s decision to introduce them.

Overall, I am impressed with this book as a debut novel. Whaley knows how to construct a plot! But his characters could use some work. I didn’t feel emotionally connected to any of his characters, but I have no doubt that his characterization will improve as he continues to write. I will definitely be reading more of his novels in the future!

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