This one is going to be a short summary and a short review!
Why Not Me?
By Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling, executive producer, writer and star of The Mindy Project as well as writer, executive producer and actress on The Office, shares tales of her professional and personal life – from receiving feedback on her writing and on-scene kissing etiquette to dating, love and weight loss – in this collection of essays.
Review/Recommendation: This light, funny book was a great read, or in my case, listen. I was constantly chuckling, if not wholeheartedly laughing at Mindy’s stories. Mindy mixes lightweight stories with more serious stories (i.e. her thoughts on body image and her own struggles with self-confidence) that are full of wit and sometimes dry humor. With every chapter I listened to, I felt like I was listening to the real, genuine Mindy – not a character in a book.
The book was entertaining, well-told (because, of course, Mindy read it to me and she’s awesome), and gave me a glimpse into the actress herself. Even if you don’t know who Mindy is or aren’t familiar with her work, I think you’ll enjoy this collection of light, humorous essays on one woman’s life.
This novella falls between the second and third books in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. It is the story of how Zuzana (Karou’s best friend) and Mik officially meet and get together. You see, both had had a crush on each other for quite some time, but both were too timid to make a move. That is, until Zuzana decided it was all or nothing. She sends Mik on a scavenger hunt full of riddles and puppets (and just a little bit of magic, compliments of Karou). Zuzana waits for Mike at the end, where the two talk for the first time and share their first kiss.
Review/Recommendation: While the story was cute, I ended up being disappointed by the novella. It just didn’t measure up to the high bar set by the trilogy. There was some of Zuzana’s quirky trademark personality, but overall, the characters did not feel like the same characters in the books. Zuzana was overly dramatic – which was her personality – but here it felt off, maybe because it was kind of an over-the-top-obsessed-and-in-love sort of drama that just irritated me. Mik – who narrated about have of the novella – also came off as a wimpy sap. I liked him a lot more in the trilogy than in the novella.
That being said, it was a quick read (or in my case, a few hours listening while I was working out) and I wanted to know how the two got together, so I don’t regret reading it. It did complete the story for me, despite falling short of what I had expected and hoped for.
Note: I had a hard time finding this book in print. I ended up listening to the audio book, available at Audible.
Four begins two years before The Divergent Trilogy starts, and is told from the perspective of Tobias Eaton, or Four. It’s a series of short stories:
The first story was about Tobias’s last days with his father and his transfer from Abnegation to to Dauntless. The second story detailed Tobias’s initiation and the story behind his new name, and the only name the Dauntless will know him as, Four. From there, I’m not quite sure how the stories paired with the titles. (I listened to the book, rather than read it, and the breaks from one story to the next were not clear at all.) Between the last two stories, Four uncovered a plot that was the beginning of the end for the Dauntless and struggled with how to deal with it, to include involving his Abnegation and Factionless parents.
The book ends with three scenes from The Divergent Trilogy written from Four’s point of view.
The Plot: I was far from impressed by this set of short stories. For one thing, the short stories didn’t add all that much to the trilogy. Most of Four’s history was alluded to or told, outright, in the trilogy. Hearing it from Four’s perspective didn’t add a whole lot.
Furthermore, the Four in the short stories seemed so radically different from the Four we knew from the trilogy. In the trilogy, Four is strong, an even-tempered compliment to Tris’s hotheadedness. Here, Four seems weak, very conflicted, and indecisive. For example, he when he learns about the plot that will take down the Dauntless, he agonizes over the best course of action and when he faces resistance to the path he chose, he gave up fairly easily. I was very surprised and disappointed in this version of Four.
Format: My hubby and I listened to this book on a road trip we took this summer. I was not impressed with the audiobook format – the narrator was bland and boring and as I mentioned above, the four different stories and three “bonus” scenes were not clearly distinguished. The result was a slightly disjointed feeling as the narrator shifted between the stories.
Overall, I’d tell you to skip this book, even if you’re a Divergent fan. While entertaining, there’s not enough substance to make it worthwhile.
Note: This review has been written to avoid spoilers for the books later in the series.
Daughter of Smoke and Bones Trilogy
By Laini Taylor
This trilogy consists of the following books: Daughter of Smoke & Bones (#1), Days of Blood and Starlight (#2), and Dreams of Gods & Monsters (#3). The trilogy tells the story of a blue-headed girl, Karou, who lives in Prague and was raised by monsters. Karou attends an art school and visits her monster family whenever Brimstone – the head of the family – needs her to collect teeth (or “run errands,” as she tells her human friends). But one day, black handprints start appearing on doors that lead to her monster family. The doors burn and Karou is cut off from the only family she’s ever known.
The burning of the doors throws Karou into a tailspin. She embarks on a search to find her loved ones and in the process, becomes a key player in another world, Eretz, a world of which she knew nothing. Karou is the only human in a world of angels (seraph) and monsters, or “creatures of mixed aspect” (chimera).* It takes an angel (Akiva) to introduce her to the world – to unveil the secrets of her past; shed light on a war in which she’d play a key role; and encourage her to dream of peace.
Review/Recommendation: I started this series because it seemed to be all over the place – I was seeing the trilogy in bookstore displays and it was regularly popping up in my Goodreads feed. I knew little about the trilogy until I picked up the first book and read the back, which actually read more like a mystery than it actually was. Even though it wasn’t what I expected, I was hooked almost immediately.
The Format: I listened to the first book in the trilogy but read the other two. I enjoyed both formats, but am really glad I listened to the first book. It helped immensely in learning the intended pronunciation of foreign and made up names and words that appeared frequently in all three books.
The Writing: For the most part, the writing was simple, clean, and easy to read. However, in Daughter of Smoke & Bones, something about the verbiage used made me think that Taylor was attempting to appeal to an older audience or was still finding her voice. This didn’t happen frequently, but the instances dwindled and eventually disappeared as the story progressed.
The Story & The Characters: I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline that traversed the trilogy. Taylor quickly engaged the reader, or at least me, making it difficult to put the books down. There is something in the series for everyone – a little mystery and intrigue, secrets and deception, betrayal and revenge, love, and a lot of hope.
All of the characters in the trilogy had strong personalities that evoked strong feelings for the reader – love them, hate them, be repulsed by them, whatever… all of the primary and secondary characters evoked a strong feeling for me as I was reading. There was a fairly wide spread of personalities – indisputable villains among both the seraph and chimera, quirky and witty human friends, Akiva’s strong-willed sister and gentle-tempered brother… the diversity kept the books interesting. I appreciated that both these major characters as well as other secondary characters showed the propensity for change, as they got to know other characters and the opposite species.
The story slowed down a bit towards the end (the second half of the third book), as things got a little more… philosophical, as the characters delved into discussions about the existence of space and time barriers. Interesting, but a very difference change of pace from the rest of the trilogy.
All in all, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this series, since I picked it up pretty randomly. If you haven’t read any of Taylor’s works and enjoy fantasy novels, I definitely recommend this one. For my part, I will most certainly be checking out Taylor’s other work very soon.
Yes, this title is appropriate – spring just arrived this week!
Surprisingly, I’ve spent a lot of time reading (on and off) over the past few months. Amid frantic knitting to finish a baby blanket for my BFF, I’ve managed to get multiple books going at a time – one audio for the car, one on my iPad, and one hardcover (for when I can’t bring my iPad along). I read and reviewed a light romance novel for you and a few mystery-suspense novels that I don’t plan on reviewing on here. If you’re interested, you can check out the list of books I’ve read on Goodreads or check out my profile for what I’m currently reading.
In addition, Paperback Book Swap changed their policy, from providing a free service enabling members to swap books at will (you pay the shipping), to charging 50¢ per transaction. I haven’t used the site much in the past few years, since I have been doing most of my reading on an e-reader, so I decided it wasn’t worth keeping my account active. I quickly cashed in my remaining 5 credits for old copies of a few J.D. Robb mysteries before the policy change kicked in and retired my account.
J.D. Robb’s In Death Series
Cashing in at PBS, along with the audio books that have been sitting in my car this summer, inspired the rest of this – a review of J.D. Robb’s In Death series. There are almost 40 books in the series (published 1995-present), of which I’ve read or listened to about half of them.
The Story: In Short The series begins in the year 2058. The 50+ years into the future setting is well established and apparently through the made-up vocabulary and technology used consistently throughout the series. Characters drink “tubes” of Pepsi and encounter droids as servants and security personnel. There are a number of references to the existence of human settlements “off planet,” including both prisons and vacation destinations. Both legal (i.e. Sober Up, blockers) and illegal (i.e. Zoner) drugs are foreign to the present-day reader.
This is the world of Eve Dallas, a leading homicide detective in New York City. Throughout the series, the reader watches as Dallas solves case after case and rises in the ranks of the New York City Police Department. The further into the series one reads, the more that the reader learns about what makes Eve, well, Eve – from an abusive father to living in the foster care system to her eventual relationship with a sketchy Irishman turned legitimate businessman.
Review: Over the past several years, I have enjoyed several of these books. I find them easy to pick up and although the stories are loosely linked, I’ve found it them easy to read out of order. I don’t find any of the story-lines particularly complicated, but they’re entertaining, which is the reason I regularly return to the series (and most of books in the mystery and suspense genre) anyway.
One of the strongest features to the series are the characters. Each of the major characters, and there’s several that appear in each book, all have their own distinct personality. Eve is the hard ass; sidekick Delia Peabody is a little wonky, electronics division Ian McNab reminds me of a surfer, and husband Roarke is highly intelligence and slick. As I read (or listen to) one of the books, I’ve grown to imagine the characters based on Robb’s description of the characters but also their very unique voice, which shines through best in the audio version of the books.
This series is actually one of my favorites to listen to on audio book. The content is light and fast-paced so that I don’t get distracted. However, I think the best part is that the narrator, Susan Ericksen, is excellent. She has narrated every book that I’ve listened to (as far as I can tell, she may have actually narrated the whole series to date). For me, this continuity makes a huge difference in which series I will continue to listen to on audio book and which ones I’ll switch back to the old-school books.
If you’re a fan of mysteries/suspense novels and haven’t given J.D. Robb a try, I’d recommend it. The futuristic setting is a fun twist. Bonus points if you give the audio books a shot.