Top Ten (Six) Reasons I Won’t Read a Book

top ten tuesday

 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, they post a new Top Ten topic and other bloggers respond with their own lists. I take part in this meme when I have something to say for the topic and I remember what day it is.

This week’s topic was supposed to be “Top Ten Books I Will Probably Never Read”–but that’s really hard! How can I guarantee that I’ll never read a book? So I’m reinterpreting the topic by just taking about things that make me not want to read a book, rather than specific titles I’m currently avoiding. When I could think of examples, I listed them at the bottom.

1. Books With a lot of Hype

Probably my biggest “turn off” when it comes to books is when a book gets a lot of attention, especially from people who don’t usually read. While some people may champion these books as books that are so good that they overcome teens’ dislike of reading, I generally find that my peers choose fairly unimpressive books to get excited about (eg Hunger Games, Divergent). Also, maybe I’m just an unwitting hipster, but I find super popular books just don’t appeal to me; I like more obscure ones rather than the books that show up on Pinterest infographics and billboards.

  • Any of the new books by Rick Riordan

2. “Classics” (That aren’t on a school reading list)

Classics are often enjoyable reads, but not in any way that drives me to go out and read them in my own time. I trust the English classes I take to expose me to a few highlights, but on my own time, I want to read more current books. I find them more relatable and enjoyable, and while I’m still a bit defensive about this, I keep trying to tell myself that these are valid reasons. Anyone agree?

3. Overly dramatic continuations or conclusions of series

You know the type–the plot is headed toward some type of conclusion but then it swerves toward a cliff, leaving the reader dangling by their fingertips right at the end. I guess that this makes some people excited to read the next book in a series, and occasionally it does, but most of the time I get overwhelmed and annoyed. I like books with conflicts and suspense, but I have a limit of how much tension I can handle, especially when the beginning of the series (that I fell in love with) was more moderate and readable. Consistency people!

  • The One (Selection #3) by Kierra Cass
  • Never Fade (The Darkest Minds #2) by Alexandra Bracken
  • The Death Code (Murder Complex #2) by Lindsay Cummings

4. Books With Cliche or Overwrought Plots

You know the type: a dystopian world with a love triangle where the girl with mysterious powers she can’t control has to choose between the revolutionary or the royal and discovers a shocking truth about herself…

It’s too much. I want original plots that rely on strong characters and good writing. I feel like so many authors today focus only on drama, and it’s just not my thing. Even if its well written–I still can’t handle it a lot of the time.

The problem with this one is that I forget this about myself and I’ll go to a bookstore and buy a ton of books that when I get home I realize…This sounded good? I’m never going to read this.

5. Books that focus on really sad topics

This is not always true; I have read some books that I knew going in would be sad and that totally delivered on their promise. However, most of the time, I don’t want to pick up a book that promises sadness, especially if the story is set in contemporary times. I don’t want to read about people dying of cancer or recovering from car crashes or surviving intense trauma. I read to get a break from the world, and I really don’t want to be hit over the head with the horrors of modern life. Historical fiction from WWII is in the same vein, especially if it revolves around concentration camps or some other horrific thing people had to endure.

That’s not to say that I don’t like it when books make me cry. I actually really enjoy that. But I want there to be more to a book than making me cry. I want it to be a surprise when books make me cry, not a foregone conclusion.

  • The Fault in our Stars by John Green

6. Books that try too hard to be unique

I know, I know! I complained about cliche plots just a second ago. But at the same time, books with plots that are obviously trying to be unique, especially in contemporary books, just annoy me. It’s hard to explain, but it is kind of the same as books that go cliche to get readers. Elanor and Park did this for me; the “un-stereotypical” protagonists felt like a desperate attempt at diversity that fell flat (for me at least, I know others love this book).

Book Review: A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

This book was really sweet. Though there were no intensely dramatic moments, the book captured by emotions and kept me reading.

4/5 stars

cover a vintage affair

Amazon description

Phoebe Swift’s friends are stunned when she abruptly leaves a plum job to open her own vintage clothing shop in London—but to Phoebe, it’s the fulfillment of a dream, and her passion. Digging for finds in attics and wardrobes, Phoebe knows that when you buy a piece of vintage clothing, you’re not just buying fabric and thread—you’re buying a piece of someone’s past. But one particular article of clothing will soon unexpectedly change her life.

Thérèse Bell, an elderly Frenchwoman, has an impressive clothing collection. But among the array of elegant suits and couture gowns, Phoebe finds a child’s sky-blue coat—an item with which Mrs. Bell is stubbornly reluctant to part. As the two women become friends, Phoebe will learn the poignant tale of that little blue coat. And she will discover an astonishing connection between herself and Thérèse Bell—one that will help her heal the pain of her own past and allow her to love again.

My review

Obviously, this isn’t the kind of YA fantasy/contemporary book that I usually read. It was a Christmas gift, and while I liked the premise, it took me a few months to get around to reading it.

I’m so glad I finally read it.

It is a bittersweet book to be sure. Phoebe is a struggling protagonist. Right before the book starts, she experiences a great trauma which shakes every aspect of her life (and which the reader slowly learns the truth of). Wolff started the book at the right moment: Phoebe has taken just enough steps past the experience to be more than the trauma–making her more interesting to read about than if she were still fully in the throws of the loss.

Voice-wise, Phoebe is nothing special. I connected to her, though mostly through empathizing with the situations she found herself shoved into rather than a strong sense of character. Still, she was the right lens to tell the story through, and her simple voice was able to convey the story well.

I don’t think the description Amazon gives (the same one that was on the back of my paper copy) does a good job of conveying what this book is about. Yes, Phoebe opens her own vintage clothing shop, and that drives the story forward. I liked the vintage clothes element; it struck me as unique, and I genuinely learned a lot. The book felt well-researched, and Phoebe came off as an expert in vintage clothes–a necessity for the believability of the book.

The next major plot line is the one surround Mrs. Bell and her blue coat. This was the emotional center of the book, and of all the emotional moments of the book, the scenes when we learned about the history of the coat were the ones that made me tear up. I liked the historical fiction element this drew into an overall modern story. Mrs. Bell’s character felt alive and I thought she presented the perfect guidance for Phoebe without sounding preachy or heavy-handed with her life lessons.

However, there was a lot more to the book than the two plot lines the description mentions. Phoebe’s relationship with her parents plays a large role in the story. (I especially loved the running line surrounding her mother’s search for anti-aging procedures.) There is also a love triangle involved, though I hate to call it that. It honestly doesn’t feel like a love triangle, and there isn’t any annoying flopping back and forth between the guys in her life. The romance was simple but added to the story. Finally, there are assorted scenes dealing with the horrible thing that happened before the book starts. The resolution of this plot line was the most satisfying for me, giving me the sense that Phoebe had genuinely grown throughout the story.

When I started reading this book, the number of plots and subplots bothered me. The book seemed to lack focus. However, by the end, I was glad that the book didn’t focus too much on any plot line and that Wolff was willing to let sub plots branch out and evolve throughout the story. This book feels like a life–not just a snapshot of one portion of a life, an entire life. The focus of the book is Phoebe (not a particular plot), and as a reader who loves characters over plot, this story-telling style worked really well.

Book Review: The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson (A Mistborn Novel)

Wow! This book was the perfect continuation of the Mistborn series–a must read for fans of the original trilogy!

5/5 stars

A companion to the Mistborn series

cover the alloy of law

 Amazon description:

New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson returns to the exciting world of the Mistborn in The Alloy of Law.

In the three hundred years since the events of the Mistborn trilogy, science and technology have marched on. Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads, electric lighting, and even the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Yet even with these advances, the magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for those attempting to establish order and justice.

One is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax must now put away his guns and assume the duties incumbent upon the head of a noble house-until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

My review

This book was so much fun to read. Fight scenes, great characters, witty banter–it has everything.

The characters are wonderfully alive and endearingly hilarious. Waxillium (AKA Wax) is a great “honest” character–his drive to be a lawman and his moral compass are believable and never become preachy or cheesy. His past in the Roughs sets him up to feel completely out of place in the high society world of being a Lord in Elendel (and so the throwbacks to Mistborn begin ;)). Though he is in his forties, his character still felt approachable and readable for a YA audience. His banter with Wayne (his sidekick) was funny, adding a dose of humor to a grim plot, as well as portraying the depth of their friendship effortlessly. They are the perfect crime fighting duo, with Wax’s fierce drive for justice and Wayne’s obsession with disguises and his lucky hat (once you get over the fact that their names are Wax and Wayne…God). Marasi added a dose of youth to the story and grounded what could have been a ridiculous collection of fight scenes and magic.

On the fight scenes–they are amazing. Probably the most enjoyable part of the book. Brandon Sanderson’s continuation of the magical elements of the Mistborn world work perfectly in this companion novel. His understanding of the physics of Allomancy and Feruchemy make Wax’s fight scenes breath-takingly kick-ass. I could read an entire novel of just these fight scenes (*fangirling*).

The plot of the book is good. I liked the conflicts it presented Wax’s character in regards to getting back into being a lawman. The mystery unfolds nicely and the villain is appropriately daunting (once you know who he is). It is fast-paced, never letting the reader rest or get bored. In classic Sanderson style, there are lots of twists and turns and startling reveals–though not as emotionally damaging as in the original Mistborn series. On the whole, this book is lighter than the Mistborn trilogy, with more of an emphasis on fight scenes and banter than heart-wrenching drama. Fans of the series will probably appreciate this–as well as the fact that this book reads significantly faster than the other books.

The world building takes what is a good story and makes it amazing. I loved that Brandon Sanderson didn’t let his fantasy realm stagnate. Three hundred years in the future, the world looks very different, even if the magic is (mostly) the same. As a reader, I got to at once revisit one of my favorite magical worlds ever and to discover a new one. The throwbacks and allusions to the events of the first series were so much fun to read; but there were also names of events and people that weren’t immediately familiar to people who had read about the city’s founding. The myths and lore surrounding the ending of the Mistborn series and the subtle differences between what the reader knows to be true and the rumors floating around three centuries later added realism to the world building. Also, the Roughs alluded to the setting of Joss Whedon’s Firefly, endearing me to the story from page one.

Anyone who read the Mistborn trilogy would love this book. I can’t wait for future installments of this story (whose ending was left rather wide open) and for other novels set even further into the future.

Flash Fiction: The Spoiled Child

I wrote this for this week’s Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge: write a story in 100 words. My story clocks in at 97 words. Hope you enjoy!

 

The child loves to play with bubbles.

She toddles after them, lunging and stumbling, popping them with inexact claps of pudgy hands. Giggling as a faint mist bursts across her skin, then a race to the next bubble.

Her parents pamper their daughter with the game. Relatives warn that the child is being spoiled, corrupted; the exercise in destruction should not continue.

But the parents are blinded by the light of their child’s smile. They will ignore eons of wisdom to hear her laugh.

Even though each bubble is a universe.

And gods really should know better.

Book Review: Sweet Evil series by Wendy Higgins

Ijust finished reading the Sweet Evil trilogy by Wendy Higgins: Sweet Evil, Sweet Peril, Sweet Reckoning.

They were okay. 3/5 stars, but more like a 3-minus?

I read the entire series in the space of three days. They read quickly, and their plots are addicting. I enjoyed the series, I really did. Something about the books makes them hard to put down. The story is good; it’s a fun read as long as you aren’t looking for a work of literary genius.

I was rereading books one and two, and then finishing the trilogy with book three. I read them quickly and they’re all blurring together, so this review will handle all three together. I’ll avoid spoilers. Promise.

The amazon description of book one, Sweet Evil

What if there were teens whose lives literally depended on being bad influences?
This is the reality for sons and daughters of fallen angels.
Tenderhearted Southern girl Anna Whitt was born with the sixth sense to see and feel emotions of other people. She’s aware of a struggle within herself, an inexplicable pull toward danger, but it isn’t until she turns sixteen and meets the alluring Kaidan Rowe that she discovers her terrifying heritage and her willpower is put to the test. He’s the boy your daddy warned you about. If only someone had warned Anna.
Forced to face her destiny, will Anna embrace her halo or her horns?

It’s an interesting premise. I’m actually a fan of paranormal romance, so I was open to the idea of this one.

The story isn’t classic paranormal however. In spite of how many authors use angels/demons/heaven/hell in their plots while shucking off most actual religious meaning, Higgins’s story has strong Christian themes. The main character, Anna, is deeply religious, something that separates her from the rest of the characters and is crucial to her successes. Religious values hold major influences over the plot.

It’s an interesting development in the world of paranormal romance. Wendy Higgins did her job well; she crafted a religious character who primarily uses her faith to persevere through life’s and hell’s challenges. It got annoying at times, sure, but that can happen with any character who is so deeply motivated by an ideal–whether it is the goal of saving her eternal soul or her best friend’s life or planting the seeds of democracy. Characters who answer every question with the same answer can be tedious, but powerful.

The piety of the book is countered by Anna’s romance with Kyle. Their relationship is intense from the first moment. Definitely some of the most sexual scenes I’ve read–nothing totally graphic, but it pushes the boundary at points. They’re done pretty well. It’s just weird to have Christianity and lust both so prominent in one series. I’m not sure exactly what point Higgins was trying to make, besides some passive aggressive wait-until-marriage advice. And since I’m not in school for another two weeks, you can’t make me examine the author’s intended message any deeper than that.

The characterization is weak. The characters are fun but not unique. Worse than being one-dimensional, they are that badly done combination of “everyone thinks they are x” but really “x is covering up a deep secret: he is the opposite of x.” That’s a bit harsh, but it’s frustrating how much better the story could have been with more of an effort placed on characterization.

Plot wise, there isn’t much. A few big scenes, where the good vs. evil conflict plays out. Otherwise, the story is driven by the romance. That’s okay by me. When I first bought the book, I didn’t have any belief it would be heavy on the plot. Even knowing the third book would bring the brewing conflicts to a head, I knew romance was the point of the series, and would dominate the finale.

If you want to read romance, this is a good series to pick up. A hot guy, goody-two-shoes girl, make-out scenes, drama, love, moral and paranormal complications, etc. After reading the Mistborn series, I wanted something that wouldn’t be of the heart-wrenching plot variety. This series did not disappoint. The books are worth reading if you’re in the mood for that. Go for it.

Oooh! One last thing. I hate the covers. Seriously? You have angels and demons on earth and you go for a pretty girl (whose hair DOES NOT MATCH the main character’s) on the cover with a hot brunette? That’s it?

Do you know how dramatic the covers could have been? Do you know how many halo/devil horns puns they could have depicted? I’m frustrated!

You know why I didn’t expect more than romance from the series? The stupid covers.

So there.