Wednesday, May 30, 2018

May Final Wrap-up

It's the end of May and I already have my wrap-up ready because I'm not going to finish other books by tomorrow. In other news, I'm done with my challenge of reading 50 books! When I first started this year and this challenge, I was worried I wasn't gonna make it. And instead I'm already done in less than 5 months. That's crazy! But now that the pressure is off I can read as much as I like and I can even tackle big books because I'm no longer afraid to miss my goal. Anyway, this month I read 13 books like last month and a couple hundred pages more, so I'm really happy with myself. Here are the books I finished in the second half of May!

In an alternate world where the mere presence of American superheroes changed history, the US won the Vietnam War, Nixon is still president, and the cold war is in full effect.  WATCHMEN begins as a murder-mystery, but soon unfolds into a planet-altering conspiracy. As the resolution comes to a head, the unlikely group of reunited heroes--Rorschach, Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias--have to test the limits of their convictions and ask themselves where the true line is between good and evil.*

On many lists, this is the best graphic novel of all time. To me it was a revelation because I never thought superhero stories could be written this way. This is definitely not a quick read like other graphic novels, as it is massive and also has a few pages of prose at the end of each chapter. These bits of prose I didn't particularly like, since I felt that they broke the story instead of letting it flow at a decent pace. Some of the prose bits were articles that brought new information, while others were just boring and useless in my opinion. That is why I gave this 4 stars. I'm glad I own this and will probably revisit it in the future, but I must admit that I enjoy memoir type graphic novels like Maus and Persepolis a lot more than superhero comics.

The vampire world is in crisis – their kind have been proliferating out of control and, thanks to technologies undreamed of in previous centuries, they can communicate as never before. Roused from their earth-bound slumber, ancient ones are in thrall to the Voice: which commands that they burn fledgling vampires in cities from Paris to Mumbai, Hong Kong to Kyoto and San Francisco. Immolations, huge massacres, have commenced all over the world.*

This is the 11th book in The Vampire Chronicles, a series that I've been a fan of for a long time. Anne Rice was actually done with the series before this book and then decided to resume it after a 10 year old break. This book came out in 2014, but at the time I was behind on the series so I still had to catch up with some of the older books, so I only came around to reading this now. A lot of the long time fans of this series didn't like this book and I can see why. It took me over a month to finish it because I kept picking other things to read instead of this. The first half of the book is very slow paced so I couldn't get into it. Anne Rice introduces a lot of new characters in this book and she really wants them to develop, so there is a lot of backstory to each one of them. Finally, I decided to listen to the audiobook and that's when I managed to get through the first half and get to the second one, which is where the action takes place. I did enjoy that part, but in the end, I couldn't give this more than 3 stars. I'm not sure I will continue with the series as the next book has even worse reviews than this one but we'll see in the future.

Auggie wants to be an ordinary ten-year-old. He does ordinary things - eating ice cream, playing on his Xbox. He feels ordinary - inside. But ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. Ordinary kids aren't stared at wherever they go.
Born with a terrible facial abnormality, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents his whole life. Now, for the first time, he's being sent to a real school. All he wants is to be accepted - but can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, underneath it all?*

As I mentioned before, I don't read a lot of middle grade but this seemed like an important book and a lot of people raved about it so I had to give it a try. I did enjoy it a lot but I don't think it's such a groundbreaking book. I mean yes, it talks about important issues and since it's written for children it will teach them about acceptance, but I feel like everything turns out too perfect in the end. I will not comment about the ending since I don't wanna give spoilers, but it felt forced and I didn't like it at all. Other than that, the book was well written and it was a quick and fluffy read. Great to take you out of a reading slump. I gave it 4 stars.

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

In this powerful, labyrinthian thriller, David Martín is a pulp fiction writer struggling to stay afloat. Holed up in a haunting abandoned mansion in the heart of Barcelona, he furiously taps out story after story, becoming increasingly desperate and frustrated; thus, when he is approached by a mysterious publisher offering a book deal that seems almost too good to be real, David leaps at the chance. But as he begins the work, and after a visit to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, he realizes there is a connection between his book and the shadows that surround his dilapidated home and that the publisher may be hiding a few troubling secrets of his own. Once again, Ruiz Zafón ventures into a dark, gothic Barcelona and creates a breathtaking tale of intrigue, romance, and tragedy.*

This month I got the best news ever, that the fourth book in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series is finally coming out in Romania. I've been waiting for this book for 5 years, and even though it came out in Spain in 2016, it hasn't been published in English or Romanian yet. So until its release next month, I decided to do a reread of the whole series. I already reread the first book, The Shadow of the Wind, a few months ago, so it was time to read the second one. The Angel's Game is not as amazing as the first book, but I do love it a lot. The way Zafon draws you into his stories is unique and I have fallen in love with Barcelona ever since I read his book. He actually made it my number one dream destination for a vacation. So of course I enjoyed rereading this book. I initially rated it 4 stars and kept this rating, even though I wanted to change it to 5 stars a few times. The only reason I'm keeping this rating is the fact that it has a slower first part. But other than that, it's really amazing!  

In a city far away, bombs and assassinations shatter lives every day. Yet, even here, hope renews itself, welling up through the rubble. Somewhere in this city, two young people are smiling, hesitating, sharing cheap cigarettes, speaking softly then boldly, falling in love.
As the violence worsens and escape feels ever more necessary, they hear rumour of mysterious black doors appearing all over the city, all over the world. To walk through a door is to find a new life – perhaps in Greece, in London, in California – and to lose the old one for ever . . .
What does it mean to leave your only home behind? Can you belong to many places at once? And when the hour comes and the door stands open before you – will you go?*

This little book was nominated for a bunch of awards (including the Man Booker) and I've heard a lot of good things about it. Sadly, it fell flat for me. I guess I have to live with the idea that true literary fiction is not for me. These kinds of books feel so distant and pretentious that I just can't get into them. The writing in this is very elaborate, with sentences that span over half a page. It talks about important themes, some of which are quite interesting, but it fails to make you care. I actually debated on giving it 4 stars, since it's not a bad book, but then I realized that finishing it felt like a chore and the only thing that encouraged me was its shortness. It's only a little over 200 pages, which is why I read it in under 2 days. The moral of the story is that I shouldn't build such high expectations for books. In the end I gave this one 3 stars. 

Not pictured, but also read: 

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Even if Blue hadn't been told her true love would die if she kissed him, she would stay away from boys. Especially the ones from the local private school. Known as Raven Boys, they only mean trouble.
But this is the year that everything will change for Blue.
This is the year that she will be drawn into the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys. And the year Blue will discover that magic does exist.
This is the year she will fall in love.*

I always say that I'm not a big YA fantasy reader, but somehow BookTube and Bookstagram convinced me to pick this one up. Many people love this and say that the writing is beautiful, which is true. However, I just couldn't get into it. Listening to this, I found out that I'm not interested in spirits and the paranormal. I've enjoyed a few horror books with paranormal elements, but that's because they were written by Stephen King, and his writing is such a comforting thing for me. With this one I felt uninterested for most of the book. I couldn't empathize with the characters and the only reason I finished it is the beautiful writing and the fact that it was on audio. It was also narrated by a man, which felt weird since it was a book written from a female perspective by a female author. I gave this 3 stars but I will definitely not continue with this series. I still have a few YA fantasy series that I wanna try though and hope I will like some of them.

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage--after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures--Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time--until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin's second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does, but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.*

This is a book that wasn't even on my tbr, but I saw it in the 2 for 1 sale on Audible and decided to pick it up because there were so many people that raved about it. However, my expectations weren't that high and this book totally blew me away! This is a beautiful and heartbreaking story, but the way it is written is just so great. It is told from two perspectives and both are first person, which I love. Even though the timeline is quite linear, the author keeps adding elements to the story as the book goes on, which makes you change your mind about the characters and their actions as you read. You end up loving and hating them at the same time. The main characters are so complex and feel so real that you live through the story and can't put it down. Or in my case, can't help but listen to some more of the audiobook. The narration by Adjoa Andoh was amazing. I'm not sure how I would have handled the names and dialects if I had read this myself, plus this also has some short songs that were sung in the audiobook. I gave this 5 stars and I'm glad I own the audiobook because I will surely listen to it again in the future.

That is it for May. Hopefully June is just as good! Have a great summer!

*Source: Goodreads

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