Thursday, March 31, 2016

ARC Review: Sleeping Giants

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1)Title: Sleeping Giants
Author: Sylvain Neuvel
Genre: Science fiction

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.
Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.
But some can never stop searching for answers.
Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

I cannot say enough good things about this book!

This was one of those books that I opened up to the first page of the prologue and then immediately started smiling because I knew this was going to be good. The prologue captured my imagination and catapulted me into a world where aliens or gods or supernatural beings somehow left pieces of their soldiers buried beneath the earth, only to rise thousands of years later. It's one of the most unique sci-fi books I've read, and I really enjoyed how science-y it was while still being character-centric.

The tone of this book was very reminiscent of World War Z, with a dispassionate, almost clinical interviewer showing us his recordings and notes as he tries to piece together an event of global scale. The narrator is incredibly mysterious, and all you ever find out about him is that he will do anything in the pursuit of truth. I really enjoyed getting to know all the other characters, even the ones we only got to hear from once or twice. All of them risk a lot when they get involved with the Themis project, and you really see the emotional impact of what they go through. I was not expecting to get so emotionally involved in such a cool science fiction novel, but I was near tears multiple times.

Some random other notes: brownie points for so many intelligent and capable women in a military/hard-science sci-fi novel, because usually that's a man's world. Also, that cover is absolutely gorgeous!

This book is just so much fun. I'm keeping this review short because I don't want to spoil anything. There are so many twists and turns and revelations made throughout the book, and the characters all grow tremendously as they try to make sense of their world on a scale far bigger than they imagined possible. This was one of my favorite books from 2015, and I highly highly recommend it!

A free eARC was provided by Random House Del Rey in exchange for an honest review

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Talk: Fact vs Fiction

I don't read non-fiction very often.

According to my Goodreads, I've read over 1,100 books and only 14 of them are non-fiction. I read to escape reality and get my mind off of whatever is bothering me, and fiction is always the way to go for me.

But sometimes, I'm more in the mood to learn or think. Even then, I don't always head straight for non-fiction. I might read a historical fiction book to learn more about a time or place in history that I am not familiar with. I might read a news article or an editorial or two online. 

I've found that when I do pick up a non-fiction book, it's a very specific kind of book. I hardly ever read biographies or autobiographies; the only ones I've read are the ones from my biography projects or book reports in elementary school! I don't know why, but reading about the experiences of any one person isn't that interesting to me. There are exceptions, I really do want to read Malala's story since she is such an inspiration to me, but I am usually not that interested in the lives of people in politics, the entertainment industry, or anyone else important enough to have biographies written about them.

Most of the non-fiction books I've read have been written like a story or a set of stories, not a textbook. My dad really likes technical books and management books and things like that, but I like it when my facts weave together into something more cohesive. I love Erik Larson's books because they are written almost like a murder mystery or a historical fiction novel; it's hard to remember sometimes that what I'm reading is actually fact. I also have enjoyed The Secret Life of Henrietta Lacks, where the author inserted herself into the story and you got to see why she cared so much about Henrietta and what exactly is so troubling about how HeLa came to be.

I guess even my non-fiction has to have some sort of emotional component to it, something that makes me care about it and keep reading. It's hard for me to stay invested in a nonfiction book because there usually aren't complex, dynamic characters or mindblowing plot twists or any of the usual things I enjoy in my fiction.

Do you read nonfiction often? Do you have any recommendations for nonfiction "stories"?

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

TTT: Top Book Recs I haven't talked about enough

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: Top Ten Books I recommend but Haven't said much about recently

If you have been following my blog semi-regularly and you didn't know I was a Sanderson fan, I'm impressed! I feel like nearly every TTT of mine involves a Sanderson book in some way shape or form.

Another series I love to death and push on everyone I know is the Gentleman Bastards series by Scott Lynch. It's freaking fantastic, and I NEED BOOK FOUR LIKE I NEED TO BREATHE. I really hope it actually gets published this year...

So it comes as no surprise that my "Books to recommend" list is going to be full of Sanderson and Lynch.

But there are some other awesome books I highly recommend, so here is my attempt at recommending a wide variety of books for you genre-fiction lovers :)


Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson
genre: Fantasy
Why: This is the backbone of the cosmere, so if you want to get introduced to Sanderson (or you just want to read an awesome fantasy series that will BLOW YOUR MIND more than you thought possible), this is where to start!

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
genre: Fantasy
Why: Silver-tongued con men in a fantasy world inspired by rennaissance Italy. Need I say more? This book is hilarious, brutal, endearing, and overall one of the best fantasy books I've ever read.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Genre: historical fiction
Why: Do you enjoy books about friendship? This has one of the best friendships I've ever read about and the book made my heart ache in the best way possible. Highly recommend the audiobook, but you'll probably bawl.
 The Book Thief

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Genre: historical fiction, YA
Why: This is one of my favorite WWII stories, told through the eyes of a little girl whose family embodies the every-day bravery that saved so many lives in such a dark time. Plus it's narrated by Death himself. 
Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
genre: Science fiction, YA
Why: One of the most poignant, original, and terrifying science fiction stories I've ever read. These books are emotional roller-coasters but so, so worth it. Again, I highly recommend the audio because Nick Podehl is amazing, but the print copy is also great because you can see how well fonts were used to convey different thoughts and the Noise. You'll know what I mean when you read it :)
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
genre: science fiction, dystopia
Why: I know this one isn't for everyone, because it starts out super dry and full of engineering stuff, but it ends up being a story about broken people trying to make sense of their role in their brutal world. It's dark but very empowering, in the end.
Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
genre: contemporary, mystery (sort of)
Why: This quirky book is about technology and books and cults and strange people and secrets, but it's mostly just a love letter to words, typefaces, and bookstores. It's a lot of fun!
Dublin Murder Squad series by Tana French
genre: mystery, psychological thriller
Why: Mysteries are often very formulaic and cliche, and feature flat characters as the detective + the detective's handy assistant. Not these! They each focus on a different person on the Dublin Murder squad, going deep into the psychology and personalities of each detective. It's almost as if the mystery takes second place to the characters and how their past lives influence their present actions.
Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
genre: contemporary, YA
Why: This is one of the most honest and compassionate portrayals of living with mental illness I've ever read. This is the kind of book that can change lives, making people more aware of mental health issues and what they can do to help the people they love.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
genre: contemporary, YA
Why: Like Challenger deep, this book deals with a heavy issue but manages to make the book more about what you can do to make a difference or show your support. 

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Review: Of Metal and Wishes

Of Metal and Wishes (Of Metal and Wishes, #1)Title: Of Metal and Wishes
Author: Sarah Fine
Genre: Historical fiction, retelling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.
Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her... for a very long time.
As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her... and she might go down with it.

Dare I say it, better than the original!

Sarah Fine takes the classic story of the Phantom of the Opera and transplants it to a slaughterhouse factory in China. Racism, classism, sexism, sickness and disability, dignity and shame...this book covers a lot of ground but it is all handled extraordinarily well. The writing was gorgeous, even when it painted vivid pictures of the not so gorgeous goings-on of a slaughterhouse. Let's just say...accidents happen.

All the characters are complex, and at times Wen can be close-minded and selfish, but she grows tremendously as the story progresses. I know a lot of people (including myself) were bothered by the extent of slut-shaming and rape culture in this book, but I never felt like the author was trying to perpetuate rape culture or saying "This is how the world works and how it should work." There were a few observations Wen made (especially about her fellow women and her own worth in terms of her "purity") that made me cringe internally, but then you remember that the world she is growing up in is a very different one than the one we live in; this book may be set in an alternate history China, but it's still very much rooted in traditional Asian values. I'm attributing the extent of rape culture on the historical setting; I hope I'm not wrong!

The Ghost in this book is a complex, nuanced character who terrifies you at some points and then makes your heart melt at others. He may seem merciless and cruel, but he's also a broken individual who is trying to find justice for himself and those he cares about. In a twisted way, the Ghost believes he is always doing the right thing, no matter how bloody the consequences.

One of the things I really liked about this book was Wen's relationship with her father. It's rare that a relationship between parent and child makes up a large part of the story, and Wen's relationship with her father is messy and complicated but ultimately they love each other deeply and will always take care of each other.

I adored this book. It's dark and terrifying, but it is also heart-warming and poignant. I highly recommend it, whether you are familiar with the original Phantom of the Opera or not!

Thanks Nikki for the recommendation!
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Sunday, March 13, 2016

Reading Updates: March

Sorry I've been AWOL for a bit! It's finals week now and I was hardcore studying last week. We also had a lot of final presentations, including a symposium where we presented our bioengineering senior design projects to a panel of judges. It was really intimidating because these judges were professors, physicians, and entrepreneurs, but my group ended up winning in our category so that was really exciting!

The nice thing about finals week is that I use books as my study break, so I actually end up reading a lot more than usual. I just don't have time to write many reviews, but I will crank those out over spring break :)

Anyways, here are the awesome books that are getting me through finals. I'll have full reviews of them up soon!

And I Darken

This book was so, so good. It's a historical novel with absolutely no fantasy in it, so don't be tricked by Kiersten White's usual fantasy/paranormal books. I'm a little confused as to why it's marketed as "children's" because it's pretty dark, with everything from beheadings to almost-rape, but all of it is tastefully handled and there's nothing too gory. It's a testament to White's writing style that the poetry of the words almost makes the ugliness of this world seem beautiful!
The world and its characters are so rich and complex, and the political maneuvering is just as interesting as the internal conflicts of our protagonists. I had no idea what this book was about when I started, but I was completely blown away. This is one amazing historical re-imagining! 



I was really excited for future-Paris and revolution and a girl saving the world, but this book fell pretty flat to me. I didn't particularly like any of the characters, and the romance seemed really awkward/sort of like instalove. I felt like there could have been even more scheming and cat-and-mouse instead of so much internal conflict for both Sophie and Rene, and the book could definitely have been tightened up a lot. There were also a couple of things that rubbed me the wrong way: if this takes place in a future where all technology is banned (let's not even go into the terrible explanation of why that is), why is it that the social norms are back to those of the 18th century as well? Women are treated as useless pretty things that can't physically hold swords or be smart enough to do anything but sit at home and embroider things, which is so frustrating because technology definitely isn't the (only) reason we've made so much progress with social equality. Ugh.

All our Yesterdays


I'm a sucker for time travel books, and this one was awesome. Still reeling from that perfect  bittersweet ending.

Of Metal and Wishes


This one's a phantom of the opera retelling, but set in an alternate-history Chinese slaughterhouse. It's gory and dark, but also extremely poignant and gorgeously written. Highly highly recommended!

Have you read and enjoyed any of these? Any recommendations for more awesome books to get me through finals week?

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Tuesday, March 1, 2016

TTT: Top Ten SFF Detective stories

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: Top Ten Books if you're in the mood for Sci-fi and Fantasy Detective stories

Yeah, that's an oddly specific set of recommendations, but I really enjoy a good mystery and I feel like adding fantasy and sci-fi elements only makes the mystery even cooler! Not all of these are strictly detective stories, but they feature a very curious/resourceful person trying to find out who's behind the shady goings-on in their world.

 Karen Memory
The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4) 
Ferragost (Lumatere Chronicles, #2.5) 
Ferragost by Melina Marchetta

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