Monthly Reading Wrap up: January 2015

January was a great month for reading. I read nine books and am currently reading two. Many of them were highly enjoyable. Two were classics, six were young adult, and one was nonfiction. Books are in the order I finished reading them with the earliest completed appearing first.

The Winner's Curse by Marie RutkoskiShort Synopsis: When seventeen-year-old Kestrel accidentally buys a slave at auction she learns the price she paid for a human being was higher than she could have imagined.

Thoughts: I started The Winner’s Curse at the end of 2014, and it became my first book finished in 2015. While I enjoyed it and plan to read the sequel I don’t think I liked it quite as much as most readers seem to. This has to do with the fact that I had difficulty believing any slave would be openly rebellious like Arin after years of servitude.

Rating:3.5 blue jays

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini TaylorDays of Blood & Starlight by Laini TaylorDreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor

Short Synopsis“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”– Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

Thoughts: See my series review (spoiler free except where there are warnings) for my full thoughts, but overall I loved these.

Series Rating: five blue jaysThe Fire in Fiction by Donald MaassShort Synopsis: A nonfiction book to help fiction writers with the structural and characterization elements of their works.

Thoughts: I haven’t read many writing-craft books yet though I intend to read more, but it seems like many of them are about the marketing aspect of fiction. I liked that this book focused on the writing itself rather than publication. I didn’t like all of the brief exerts from other works and skipped many of them, but recognize these exerts may have been necessary to further the author’s points.

Rating: I haven’t read enough writing help books to feel confident rating them.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Short Synopsis: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” — Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin

Thoughts: I know so many people who love this book I felt I had to read it. While I liked it, and feel I can understand why it’s a classic it was unfortunately not a life-changing read for me. Romance just isn’t my genre.

Rating: I haven’t read widely enough in novels from this time period to judge.

Firefight by Brandon SandersonShort Synopsis: Teen kills/tries to kill people with superpowers, but in the process uncovers that the solution to fighting the people he fights is nothing like he imagined.

Thoughts: I need to read more Brandon Sanderson books, that is my conclusion. Firefight is book two in the Reckoners Series that began with Steelheart. I’m loving this series so far, and think Brandon Sanderson has a great understanding of plot construction and world-building.

Rating:five blue jays

Charm & Strange by Stephanie KuehnShort Synopsis: Teenage boy deals with his complicated past and the fact that the “beast” inside might finally come out.

Thoughts: I’ve been looking for a book with a plot like this. In June I finished the second draft of a manuscript I’ve been working on with a similar plot (but more supernatural elements, less psychology). I’m not anywhere near querying it, but had no I idea how to market it if I ever got to that point. My other concern was that some agents like comparative titles in their queries and I couldn’t think of any. Now I have one. Unfortunately for this book, I guessed the plot within the first fifty pages. Once the reader knows exactly what’s going to happen the book isn’t nearly as exciting. Note that the only reason I found it predictable was that I wrote a story with a similar plot. This book is not predictable.

Rating: 3 blue jays

 

Oedipus Rex by SophoclesShort Synopsis: Classic Greek tragedy about King Oedipus.

Thoughts: Most dysfunctional family in literary history. If you thought all of the orphan characters in fiction had it bad wait until you read this! This play is extremely short, but the poetic language makes it difficult to get into.

Rating: I haven’t read enough Greek tragedy to judge.

 

Currently Reading:

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To see a full review of anything I’ve read this month but haven’t reviewed please comment below with a request.

Jacqueline--Name with a Bluejay

Ruby Red by Kirsten Gier Review: 4 Stars

8835379Title: Ruby Red (Precious Stone/Ruby Red Series)

Author: Kerstin Gier

Publication date: January 6, 2009 (Original), May 10, 2011 (US/English Translation)

Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy/Science Fiction

Synopsis: Gwyneth’s cousin is destined to uphold the family legacy of traveling through time and fulfill a prophesy generations in the making, or at least that’s what everyone thought before Gwyneth’s unexpected trip through time.

Every generation one person from Gwyneth’s family is born with the ability to travel through time. Gwyneth finds herself completely unprepared for visiting other eras, and in the middle of family secrets and lies in both the present and the past.

Review: I started this book trying to get out of a reading slump after struggling to finish a high-fantasy book that I would have probably liked a lot more if I had read it while I was in the mood for it. I went into this book not knowing much of what it was about except that it had received generally high ratings and was about time travel.

The book turned out to be fast pace and engaging which was exactly what I was looking for when I started reading. The book is more fantasy than science fiction, but I haven’t read many young adult books that deal with time travel whether they are more science fiction or fantasy. I suspect this is because the main characters in young adult books are supposed to remain teens throughout the narrative, and traveling through time makes it extremely difficult to keep track of character ages. Despite this, I would love to read more young adult books involving time travel. If anyone has any to recommend I would appreciate them leaving a comment below.

This book made me want to write as well as read which is good since I read it in the middle of National Novel Writing Month, but at the same time not good at all because it made me want to write about time travel. The story I was writing has nothing to do with time travel.

My main complaint about this book is the characters. I didn’t hate them by any means, but I wish they had been more complex. The lead character, Gwen, seemed to act thirteen or fourteen instead of like the sixteen-year-old she was supposed to be.

I didn’t care for the romance either, but then I rarely do. Gideon sometimes annoyed me, but at least there wasn’t a love triangle.

Ruby Red is set in London and was originally written in German which made me think about how most of the books I read are set in the US and written by authors from the US. Those books I do read not written by authors from the US are usually those from English speaking countries (i.e. Austrailia, The United Kingdom, and Canada). I suppose this makes sense because so much is lost in translation, and there are so many English speaking countries, but it makes me think about how much language barriers affect what we read, and our perception of it.

A small detail that bothered me while reading was that Gwen only had one school uniform that fit her. The school I’m currently attending does not require uniforms, but I have gone to a few in the past that did. Throughout that time period I had around five different sets of uniforms that fit at any given time, but perhaps it has something to do with where I live.

It rarely drops below 50ºF (10ºC) around here, and almost never below freezing during the day (night is a different story). I went around two years without owning a single pair of jeans, and many people don’t own a jacket, but instead walk around outside wrapped in a blanket on cooler days. I know many people who have never seen snow. Do people in cooler climates require fewer pairs of clothes, or is this a plot hole?

What Readers Should Know: This book is fairly clean. To the point that I don’t think I remember any instances of cursing, or romance beyond a kiss. There was some sword/gun fighting, but it wasn’t graphic.

Rating: This book was enjoyable, and what I was looking for when I chose to read it. For that I give it a four out of five.

4 blue jays