Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

As I write this, I’m also reading an article about how a 19-year-old girl was attacked at her local hospital. She was wearing her hijab and a 57-year-old man came up from behind her and proceeded to punch her repeatedly in the back of her head. Why?

The article doesn’t go into the details as to why, but the assumption is because of Islamophobia. Islamophobia is this prejudice and fear that because someone is Muslim that they’re automatically going to be a terrorist.

Islamophobia exists and it is the cruelest and most unkind form of racism. Samira Ahmed covers it perfectly in Love, Hate, and Other Filters. 

Continue reading “Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed”

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

When I first started reading this book, I honestly thought this was going to be one of those super YA stories about a young woman who is on the brink of growing up and falls in love. Yes, it is all those things, but there is so much more to this than just vapid annoyance.

Trigger warning. Please note that this book has themes of:

  • Grief/loss
  • Mental health issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicide
  • Drug abuse

Continue reading “Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves”

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

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Wow. I sat down with this book over the past few days and I couldn’t put it down. Honestly, I would try and use the bathroom and hold it for an hour only succumbing to the excruciating pain of holding it for that long. I’m lucky it’s the beginning of the year and there wasn’t much going on because I think both Cinder and Scarlet has cemented my love for this series. I legit just went onto Amazon and used my Christmas money to buy the other books.

Here’s a little more about the book

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. 

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

My thoughts

If you’re into books with a lot of adventure and action, then this is the book for you. While it does expand a little more on what will happen next in the Lunar Chronicles, I think this book just cements the predictions we all made at the end of Cinder. I won’t give those away, but let’s just say that the rumors were true.

I think the most significant part of this story is the wolves. I was impressed by how Marissa Meyer was able to take the wolves and Little Red Riding Hood and connect that back to the moon and Luna. It was a really interesting way of wrapping together two stories into one.

Similarly to Cinder, if you’re looking for the old fairy tale, you’re not going to find it. Yes it has the hooded girl and the grandmother and the wolf, but to say this is Little Red Riding Hood is an insult to both the authors. This is not that fairy tale and I’m so glad that it isn’t. It would make way more predictable.

What I loved the most about these stories (and hopefully in the other books in the series) is the strong female characters. They’re not damsels in distress and they’ve been touched by a lot of tragedy in their lives to waste away as some helpless person. They’re fighters and thinkers and stronger than their male counterparts. It makes you feel alive and wonder if you’re capable of that kind of strength.

The best part is that it’s not completely high fantasy. There’s a lot where you can relate to these characters and nothing feels forced or pushed on them by some hidden agenda with the author. They all have faults and they all have strengths and it makes the characters all feel real in this made-up world.

I think at this point in the series, I want to see what happens next. I couldn’t put this book down and I’m pretty certain I won’t be able to put down the rest. I feel like I’m right at the top of the hill and ready for my rollercoaster ride down to the end. I can’t wait to read the next books in the series!

  • Paperback: 452 pages
  • Publisher: SquareFish
  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Buy Scarlet on Amazon

Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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I know I’m eons behind when it comes to reading this series, but I’ve been making a conscious effort to incorporate more books from my TBR into my regular reading. Hello, book buying ban. Goodbye, new reads that I’m slightly excited about but not enough to actually want to read and not hoard the book forever.

So I decided to read CINDER by Marissa Meyer because it’s been sitting in my TBR for years and I’ve heard so many good things. Don’t you hate it when you hear so many good things about a book that you haven’t read? Does it feel like you’re cheating yourself for not reading it when the hype with up?

Here’s some more about the book:

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

CINDER is the first book in the Lunar Chronicle series. Much like the other stories in this series, it’s loosely based on the story of Cinderella except in this story she’s part cyborg living in the futuristic Beijing as a mechanic. The story  has all the trappings of the fairy tale; there’s the evil stepmother with her wicked stepdaughters. There’s the handsome prince that she stumbles across randomly. There’s even a fairy godmother, but she’s also an android and one of Cinder’s only best friends. However, that’s where the book stop resembling Cinderella.

It’s set in the future. There’s a wild plague killing thousands of people and the Moon (Luna) and the Earth do not get along.

I love a good story with a strong female lead who is more determined to save herself than wait around for the handsome prince. Cinder was definitely the girl that saves herself in the end. Being adopted by her stepmother who didn’t love her, she had to fend for herself. I think in the fairy tale, I found that to be off the mark. Why would someone who doesn’t have anyone who loves her so desperate to find love? You would think that she would grow a thick skin and learn to love herself.

That’s what CINDER delivers here. You’re reading about a girl who was abandoned by everyone that loved her and come to live with someone that couldn’t stand her. Instead of crying about it and desperate to fall in love and get away from those people, Cinder is often found looking for ways to escape. She’s fixing up an old car so that she can use it as a getaway car. She’s trying to make some money behind her stepmother’s back so she has some funds to take care of herself. This seems much more on par with a modern feminine story than the old fairy tale.

I will say that this story was a bit on the predictable side. I figured out early on in the book that Cinder was who she was and her function in the entire story. However, predictability never means that the story is going to suck. It just means that it’s not going to be shocking when you find out that twist.

Marissa Meyer did a great job incorporating the predictable parts right at the moments when you needed to hear it. At one point, I thought my predictions were wrong and then the next chapter revealed everything.

Predictability aside, I didn’t really find that many flaws in this book. I was upset when Cinder was upset. I was rooting for her when she was championing against her enemies. I was also squinting my eyes in hopes of seeing past Queen Levana’s glamour and seeing just how ugly she really is. All in all, a solid story that will definitely run for the next one in the series. I already have the second one in my shopping cart.

  • Published 2012
  • Published by Square Fish
  • 400 pages
  • Rating: 4/5 stars
  • Purchase Cinder on Amazon

 

 

WARCROSS by Marie Lu

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When there’s books like READY PLAYER ONE about to come out as a big blockbuster movie, I want to read more of that particular set of books. Stories about young people who fight for what they believe is right even if that means sacrificing everything. Good thing I stumbled across WARCROSS by Marie Lu.

Here’s some more about the book:

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. 

WARCROSS is definitely one of those girls kick ass kind of novels. I love a strong female character who sticks to her beliefs despite what other people (including the law) says. The story takes place in the near future where everyone is hooked up to this new game called Warcross. The game comes with a special set of glasses that immerses you not only into the game, but this virtual world where you can basically win points for breathing. It was definitely reminiscent of READY PLAYER ONE’s Oasis world where you can basically do the same thing.

I honestly think there’s a little bit for everyone. There’s science fiction, mystery, thriller. I think the big part is figuring out who is trying to sabotage the game and who is trying to hurt Hideo’s vision. There was lots of game play and strategic thinking on everyone’s character. Reading it from Emika’s point of view, it almost makes you feel like you’re playing the game.

The best part was that it wasn’t contrived. Emika needed time to think about her next step and it wasn’t easy for her to learn how to play Warcross properly. I love it when a character’s knowledge is based on real humans and how they would consider things. No one goes right into a battle knowing all the ins and outs unless they were cheating.

I also found the writing to be quite detailed and developed. Marie Lu didn’t leave any details out and I was able to imagine the mech battles during game play pretty easily. It’s tough for me to read battle scenes sometimes because I get all lost in who is doing what and to whom. However, it was super easy in Warcross and it definitely left me wanting to read more.

The twist on this book was definitely something I couldn’t stop thinking about. The argument made was kind of compelling and if you’re looking at the world from one perspective, you can see why someone would be so motivated to change it. However, there’s a lot of plays on morality here. What’s right and what’s wrong? What determines who you are and should that be controlled? While I wish I can give more of this away, I’m afraid that it’ll ruin the entire book.

The only things I considered issues were the romantic aspects and the technological aspects. For the romantic aspects, it was really unnecessary. I tried to think about this carefully after I finished and while there were romantic scenes between Emika and Hideo, I don’t think that it really contributed anything to the story. It was fun to see them connect in that way, but it felt a little gratuitous and unnecessary. I think it’s great that Emika finds Hideo as this huge role model and someone she looks up to, but falling in love with him kind of cheapens her strong female character.

For technology, I thought it was really awesome to read about these hi-tech glasses that allow you to comm with your friends and has augmented reality and you can play games with your real life. However, it irked me that after a game of Warcross Emika took out her phone and proceeded to call Hideo with it. You have all this technology with a device that allows you to read each other’s minds and then you have your dumb phone that you’re making calls with? It kind of doesn’t make sense in this world.

But these aren’t major flaws. These aren’t the make or break of a story, but little things that almost feel like me nitpicking a little. I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to read the next one in the series!

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (September 2017)
  • Rating: 4/5 stars
  • Buy WARCROSS on Amazon

Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

Instructions for a Secondhand Heart by Tamsyn Murray

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I don’t know about you, but I need a break from the world. Sometimes the news or my life or even my reads get so heavy that I need to step away from everything and just enjoy myself. Self care is a real thing and something I try to always keep in mind. That’s why I chose to read this book. It felt like the right time for me to step away from all the heavier reads coming across my desk. I’m so glad that I did.

Here’s some more on the book:

Jonny knows better than anyone that life is full of cruel ironies. He’s spent every day in a hospital hooked up to machines to keep his heart ticking. Then when a donor match is found for Jonny’s heart, that turns out to be the cruelest irony of all. Because for Jonny’s life to finally start, someone else’s had to end.

That someone turns out to be Neve’s twin brother, Leo. When Leo was alive, all Neve wanted was for him (and all his glorious, overshadowing perfection) to leave. Now that Leo’s actually gone forever, Neve has no idea how to move forward. Then Jonny walks into her life looking for answers, her brother’s heart beating in his chest, and everything starts to change.

Together, Neve and Jonny will have to face the future, no matter how frightening it is, while also learning to heal their hearts, no matter how much it hurts.

As you may have guessed, this was definitely a sweet story. It’s filled with heartwarming love between two teenagers who are separated by one giant lie. And you may think that a book like this would just be a candy for my sweet tooth, it’s always good to step away from being serious and just relax.

I went into this thinking that it would be the story of a young person who was scorned in the past by someone and then fell in love again. However, I didn’t actually think the heart mentioned in the story’s title was a literal heart. When Jonny receives his brand new heart, you already know that it belonged to Neve’s twin brother, Leo, who had died in a weird accident on the beach. However, what you don’t know is the lives both Neve and Jonny lived before they met each other and after they met each other.

This story was definitely your typical outcasts falling in love with each other although the circumstances of how they meet are not your typical outcast story. Jonny basically stalks every victim that fit the profile of his new heart. All he knew was that it belonged to a 15-year-old boy and he died recently. Not a lot to go off of, but apparently enough for him to research online and possibly find some possible donors. I didn’t find this part of the story to be as strong. It felt like the search was a few short clicks and not a labored event for him. He didn’t visit any other possible families and he came out to this fundraiser Neve’s mother was running. It was too easy especially with the amount of info he was provided.

Tamsyn Murray is definitely a great writer too. She’s not the type of person to fuss over big words and the voices of both Neve and Jonny were pretty clear. The jury’s still out for me on whether I like books with interchanging POVs, but for Jonny and Neve it helped to move the story much faster.

I loved that the story also included some illustrations Jonny drew. He includes panels from superheroes he created. He outlines his favorite day. He even draws Neve and when Neve was seeing them for the first time, we were also seeing them for the first time. That was a nice little device to really draw the reader into the book.

When Neve and Jonny finally meet, Jonny does that one thing that happens in a story like this; he lies. He lies about his condition. He lies about how he knows Neve’s brother and he lies about being the heart recipient. Of course a story like this requires a big lie before the big reveal. It’s not the reason why you’re reading this story, but you end up waiting for it throughout the story. When does the truth come out? How will this affect their lives? Will their newfound friendship survive it?

I think the one big glaringly obvious issue with the story is the way they treated mental health, grief, and loss. For Neve, she handled it poorly. She didn’t go to her therapy sessions and she didn’t really cope with her brother’s death. However, she also hoarded pills and planned to kill herself because the lack of affection and attention she craved from her parents. This whole part of the novel is written in her point of view and no one takes the time to sit her down and speak directly about how she’s doing. She just struggles alone, which feels a little irresponsible of the author. And sadly, it all comes to a head at the end of the story.

For Jonny, I mean, I figured there would be much more talking to a counselor. He just received a new heart and things were just moving along like it didn’t matter. Wouldn’t there be an adjustment period? Shouldn’t he be talking to someone to process his emotions about receiving a heart? I just feel like these mentally exhausting moments from both of these characters were underdeveloped and the focus was more on the loving relationship building between them. It was nice, but I just wanted something a little bit deeper than this surface story. Perhaps I’m asking too much from a piece of candy.

I received this book from The Novl in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the method I received this book and I was not paid to write this book review.

Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

Knowing (and reading) your genre

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For a really long time, I just basically read whatever came my way. You give me a title, I’ll check it out. I never considered any genre to be my go-to genre and felt the bookish world to be my oyster. I wanted to read all the books.

However, you find out at one point or another that not all books are made for you. I think it’s at some point in every reader’s life they discover the genres that they enjoy the most. Sometimes it’s a gradual pull towards it. Other times, it just finds you. It’s always good to know what genres you like because then of course, you’ll never get bored.

But what if you don’t know what genre you’re interested in? How do you discover it for yourself? This I learned recently while trying to get into thrillers and mysteries.

I kind of shied away from mysteries and thrillers because I have some pretty bad anxiety when it comes to those reads. I think the last book I read was Gone Girl and that not only scared the crap out of me, but I think I remember throwing the book across the room. Thrillers have been a mystery to me, so I decided I wanted to take a deep dive into the genre.

I picked out a few books from my Book of the Month Club and I agreed to review a few mystery novels. I wanted to get a sense of the genre and see if perhaps this is for me. Sadly, it wasn’t. I didn’t find the thriller genre to be as fun and interesting as what I normally gravitate towards.

Now I know that thrillers and mysteries don’t really get me reading more, but I don’t know what I like to read.

I took a deep dive into my Goodreads account to see. I’ve been keeping a record of my books since 2011, so I knew I would find some good stuff there. There were a few patterns I can easily find and I think that this quickly decided what my favorite genres were.

It appeared that my favorite genres were Literary Fiction, YA, Science Fiction, Fantasy, and a little Romance. Of course I’ve also been reading a ton of diverse reads over the past few years as well.

It didn’t really shock me that I read these genres specifically. I guess I didn’t see this pattern before because I’m so used to reading whatever came my way. Perhaps there were more of these genres that came my way than others. It’s kind of funny when you dive into something like this and figure out that you’ve been running patterns you’re entire life.

Oddly, I felt empowered. I knew exactly what genres I loved reading, but the new challenge I came across was understanding what the basics are of these genres. No one wants to be the guy that announces their favorite genres and hasn’t read the “staple” novels. Would other genre-readers be able to identify with you or are you just a “poseur” pretending to like something you have no understanding about?

I’ve finally come to terms with the genres that I love, so now I’m on the quest to find the books that make up these genres. I’m pretty sure I’d get the proverbial shit kicked out of me for not reading the definitive works that defined the genre. I mean, I might have tried to read Lord of the Rings, but those movies came out and were so conveniently easier to watch than read.

I’m looking to expand my own universe by reading books in genres I actually like. I’m going to start with some staples and then work my way through other books. It’s so great to find something that you’re interested in. It’s like pulling from an endless library where every book is something your heart would desire. 

I’ll be updating you on the progress I’m making and creating some definitive guides to the genres in the future. For now, I’m happy knowing my genre and now I get to read from it.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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Oh brother, this one is a doozy. I’ve read countless reviews from other people who read this book and all I saw was that they cried at the end. So many raves and happy thoughts. about this book and it’s so awesome to see everyone feel so good about it. So many awards that they don’t even fit on the cover. The title is so freaking long and completely unassuming that you actually think this book is about two philosophers from different periods of time that get together and actually discover the secrets of the universe.

But let me tell you how I felt.

It

was

AWESOME.

Reading this book was like reading about royalty. You’ve heard so many good things about it that you can’t help but to want to read it and this book really doesn’t disappoint.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a story about friendship. Aristotle is a 15-year-old kid with no friends. It wasn’t until he decides to take swimming lessons that he meets Dante, another boy with no friends. You know what happens when two people who have no friends. They become friends.

Aristotle is a little bit of a loner with a snarky bite and some experiences in his life that he can’t seem to shake. Dante is more care free and what I like to call a “butterfly chaser” which I use to describe bohemian and free spirited and not weighed down by society. They’re the likely opposites of each other, but as the saying goes opposites attract.

I don’t think I recall making a best friend the way Aristotle and Dante befriended each other. I’ve been the loner type and maybe a little more on the Aristotle side than the Dante side. I’ve always wanted a best friend and I found one in my partner. I guess that it’s commonplace to find a comfort in a friend that not only wants to be your friend, but loves you on a completely other level.

I honestly thought this would be one of those books where Aristotle and Dante fall in love in the beginning of the novel and you struggle to see them come to terms with their sexuality and with the people around them. But no, it’s not.

It’s a book about friendship and the kind of friendship that leaves a lasting impression on you. It’s about what you do for someone you love, be it a painful experience or a fun one. You’re with someone that makes you happy. For Aristotle and Dante, there’s just the added bonus of loving each other.

Aristotle and Dante both undergo a series of events that help shape their friendship and what they mean to each other. Dante is artistic and poetic while Aristotle is cynical and pessimistic. Their clashing personalities really bring a sense that while they may not see eye to eye on everything, human beings are able to transition to a place where you’re not finding a friend, but you’re finding a life partner. It doesn’t have to be overly romantic and life isn’t that way anyway, but regardless of romance it was still beautiful to behold.

I clutched this book close to my chest after I was finished reading. I couldn’t believe that this book was created and I couldn’t believe it took me so long to experience it.

You can find a copy of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe on Amazon.