Monday, June 6, 2016

May Reads // Emotional Roller Coaster

The Crown by Kiera Cass

4 Stars - I recommend if you have read the Selection Series & The Heir - a good finale to the series!

This book is the final installment in The Selection Series... it was much anticipated for many, and released at the beginning of this month. I did not plan to read it early on... but it just happened. I ended up staying up well past 1 AM finishing this... on a work night. #responsible

This book follows Eadlyn as she finishes her selection process. I won't give any spoilers here... but I will say that I definitely (unlike many!) related to her character a little more than I did America's and I liked seeing the main POV from the person doing the selecting. Overall, the book went in directions that I did not expect. Particularly toward the last 1/3 of the book. I really liked that I didn't know what was going to happen... as these types of books are generally pretty easy to figure out. I will just say that I definitely cried a few times during this one. It's not SAD... but it's got a lot of heart. I got teary. Not typical for me. I loved the ending to the book and to the series. I look forward to reading more of her books... and I do have The Siren... that I need to finally pick up!

Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-Seven Women Untangle and Obsession edited by Elizabeth Benedict

4 Stars - I recommend if you like essays and are interested in hearing perspectives on hair and it's many roles and perceptions in society.

I was initially interested in this book because of the cover. How fun is it?! The truth is, I haven't read a lot of compilations of essays or short stories, but I really wanted to give this a chance. The topic of the book is hair and why we care about it. The essays range from narrative to academic in tone and nature. Overall I really enjoyed reading most of the essays. I thought that (even as a non-hair-obsessed person) it was very relate able. We all battle our hair, worry about it, and change it from time to time. I found myself laughing or smiling from time to time, feeling like the essays really grasped what it's like to be a woman when it comes to hair. I particularly enjoyed the ones written in a narrative tone.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this book, it was very different than most things I have read recently. The non-fiction and essays alone make it different, and each story different from one another. I liked that I could read one essay and then go to fiction on and off as well. It broke up my reading time. When it came to the essays, I really enjoyed them - but felt like they could have used more diversity. There were a few written by women of color, or minorities, but not nearly as many as there could have been. I felt like a handful of them were written by white women in their sixties who live in New York... which made them fairly similar stories to read. I would have loved to read more from women of different ages, and from different cultural backgrounds. Also, there is one essay almost entirely about pubic hair. I'm not being fussy about it, but it felt a little off topic to me.

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

4.5 Stars - I recommend if you like Robin Hood, fairy tale re-tellings, or books that are told in first person. 

I wasn't planning on reading book next, but it was due back at the library... and I had already renewed it about 4 times. So, I had to read it. I'm REALLY glad that I did! I think I read it in about two evenings.

This book is another fairy tale retelling based on the story of Robin Hood. The plot follows Robin Hood's band of men: Rob, John, Much, and Will Scarlet. No one outside of the band knows, but Will Scarlet is a woman called Scarlet. As the taxes are raised, the sheriff becomes more and more brutal to the surrounding citizens. When it becomes clear that "The Hood" and his band are stealing too much and giving it away, the sheriff hires a thief catcher from London. Scarlet has seen this man before, and knows that it means dangerous things for Nottingham. As the story unfolds the pages are filled with adventure, action, love, death, betrayal, and mystery. This book overall was very good. Not quite a 5.. but maybe a 4.5. If only goodreads allowed 1/2 ratings! It was definitely better than some of the others I read in the past few months. I really appreciated this spin on Robin Hood, and that it was quick paced and compelling. It was also interesting because it is told from Scarlet's perspective, and all of the writing is written in her improper British English accent. It was really fun to read it that way.

I didn't know when I picked this up, but there are two more books. So I guess I will be reading those soon!

The Evolution of Mara Dyer & The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

4.5 and 4 stars respectively - I recommend if you have read the first book and like dark, mysterious, twisted, psychologically thrilling YA novels. 

I won't give too much information on these here... because you'll need to start the series on the first book, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, which I reviewed here. However, I will say, if you enjoy very dark, twisted, psychological thrillers, and unreliable narrators... this series is for you. It is also YA, and contains some romance. The first one left me absolutely confused but riveted.

I was reading Exposure to a Billionaire (see below.... ) which was so fake and sunny, and unrealistic.... I knew picking up this series would be a good change of pace. The characters have a lot of depth, they are witty, they are dark, and it's absolutely nothing like Exposure. Thank goodness. Well, I ended up reading these two books in less than two days.

While I can't say the series was flawless, I REALLY enjoyed it. The whole time, I wondered what would come next. I didn't feel like it was a typical YA read, I really appreciated the psychological aspect of the books, it was certainly something that kept me turning pages. I liked that the characters were well developed, interesting, and witty. I liked that the plot was layered, it kept me asking questions, "What's going on with Mara?" "What's going on with Noah?" "What's up with Horizons?" "Is this a supernatural plot? Or an extremely freaky psychological plot?" etc. I liked that the layers shifted as the characters discovered more of what is going on around them. I thought the end of the series was a little under developed... but overall, again, I liked it quite a lot.

I mostly appreciate that her writing isn't depressing, but it's dark. It's not realistic or unrealistic... but it just works.

Anyhow, if this sounds like your kind of thing, definitely check the series out. It's a short one and all of the books are very quick reads.

Has anyone else read the series?


Exposure to a Billionaire by Ann Menke*

Of what I read... 1 Star - I cannot sadly, recommend this book.

When Literary Ladies announced this as their next book, and that book clubs got a free REAL copy of it.... I was like, ok, at least I can get it in time to read it and link up! Right off the bat, the title and the cover kind of had me thinking that this wasn't "my type of book" exposure to a billionaire... ? That sounds like 50 shades on a plane... BUT reading challenges and book clubs are all about stepping outside of your comfort zone. So, I got it, I started it, and it was ok at first, but things went downhill quickly, and I had to abandon ship (or plane I guess).

This book follows Anna St. James, a corporate flight attendant to the world's second richest man. It is written by Ann Menke, who has 25 years of experience in the field of corporate flight. You can definitely see this in the book and the writing. First of all, what an interesting concept. I never would have thought about the world of corporate flight. Working for billionaires, how that schedule would look, what types of services you would provide (bartender, waitress, stewardess, interior decorator, personal shopper, party planner... .etc.). So, reading about that world was interesting for a time. Imagining catering to this lifestyle and jetting across the world one exotic location at a time was fun to read about. I liked to read about the travel locations too... you guys know how I love to travel...

However, about 90 pages in, it became clear that there was not enough character depth, plot layers, or conflict to keep me interested in the book. It was written in a style that is part memoir (obviously written from experience) but in a very casual way (like a blog post)... however... it's still supposed to be fiction. Scenes that should be dramatic, emotional, or even hilarious come off as somewhat mundane and even a little socially awkward.

The characters were also kind of strange, and the relationships between Anna, Mr. Manning, the flight crew, and all of the famous/fabulous people were pretty unrealistic. No one is nice all the time. I also can't figure out why Mr. Manning would be so extremely (overly) nice to Anna... for doing her job. Isn't he extremely busy and wealthy? Why would he be thanking her profusely for completing her tasks? Why aren't the pilot and co-pilot tired of Anna? She drags them everywhere, and sometimes seems pretty annoying... These relationships just don't seem natural.

The three parts that bothered me the most:

The title is very deceptive. I'm not particularly into traditional romance novels, or popular 50 shades type books... it's generally just not my thing. The title to this book makes it sound like it's going to be a super steamy romance novel with the luxury lifestyle and travel as an addition. In the first 125 pages, I can say that this book is not romantic in the slightest. At least not in the way that the title implies. This feels like misleading marketing, and they probably should have chosen something different.

Steven Tyler's lips. What?! Why??? For one, it seems pretty random to me that he (and his band) is the only one who is famous in real life in this book. All of the other billionaires and celebrities are at least given fake names. Two, fixating on his lips and personal style just REALLY freaked me out. Ew...

The other thing would be the brand "name dropping" that happened throughout the book. Between the many references to Marriott hotels and Omega watches and the amount of detail given to those references, the amount of product "placement" felt excessive.

So anyhow, this book was an abandoned one, and of what I did read, I would give it 1 star. I'm not being harsh, just honest. If it had a little more character or plot depth before page 125... I may have given it 2 stars. I did decide to remove my star rating from goodreads. I don't plan to rate other abandoned books, so I guess that's fair! :) 

Have you read any of these books or series that I mentioned? What did you think of them?

Current Reads:

Pretty Happy by Kate Hudson
Posession by A.S. Byatt
Sisi: Empress On Her Own by Allison Pataki - which apparently is a sequel ... whoops!
No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Bensen

Other recent book posts: April ReadsMarch ReadsFebruary Reads5 Books to Add to Your TBR (If I Could Only Recommend 5!)January Reads.

Linking up with Steph and Jana for Show us Your Books! I can't wait to see what you've been reading! Link up here!

What are you reading? Or hoping to read?

Let's be friends on Goodreads!



* Asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by the author in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Ann Menke!

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