Etiquette and Espionage, Gail Carriger (5/5)
Confession: I started reading this in February in Barnes and Noble when I had an hour to kill in Union Square, and I’ve been meaning to pick it up again since. As it turns out, I did and finished it in a few days. I’m a huge Gail Carriger fan (can’t say enough about her Parasol Protectorate series) and naturally fell in love with this book immediately. It’s a fun, witty start to a series in the same vein and universe as the Protectorate, and the two smartly go hand-in-hand at several turns. You don’t have to have read the adult series to get the YA, which I think is the point, but they overlap in a few great ways and I’d recommend reading both if you’re a fan. Neither is really too far a stretch from the other—one is about society steampunk finishing school and the other is about society steampunk life, so there isn’t too sharp a difference. Either way, if you think you might like this even a little bit, read it—you will.
Assassination Vacation, Sarah Vowell (3/5)
This is a good book. It’s an interesting book. It’s exactly what you think it’s going to be. I just didn’t like it as much as most people seem to, and it took me nearly the whole month to read. I read Unfamiliar Fishes, her new book about the US annexation of Hawai’I, a few months ago and loved it, and to be honest, I was really disappointed that I didn’t like this one half as much. I don’t have much love for US history, so that might be part of it, but on the whole, this one just wasn’t for me. It’s fun and a good book, so I’d recommend it—I’m not sure why it didn’t work for me, but I seem to be the exception rather than the norm. Anyway, I can’t say I didn’t come out of this book knowing a lot more about presidential assassinations, so that’s a great thing to say about it.
Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman (4/5)
I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, especially after devouring the Netflix series along with everyone else this summer, and it really didn’t disappoint. Obviously, it’s non-fiction and much less drama-filled than a TV series (though it’s easy to see where they found their inspiration), but as someone who really doesn’t know much about women’s prisons in the US, I found it fascinating. To be honest, I have never given much thought to the prison system in the US because it doesn’t directly affect me, but I have been thinking about it a lot in the weeks since I finished this. I’d probably give it a 5/5 if the last quarter of the book were longer, since it talks about Piper’s transfer to Chicago to testify in a major court case as part of her plea bargain. Here, she witnesses the horrific prison transport system and many other worse prisons, and this was what held my attention the most. Kerman acknowledges her experience and how it’s different from so many women of color who go through the system, but I found it fascinating all the same. If you liked the Netflix series or think this sounds interesting, you’ll probably like this quick non-fiction read.
Shiver, Maggie Stiefvater (2/5)
Not much to say about this first book in a series except that I probably won’t read the others. It falls into the supernatural romance YA genre, which is something I generally steer clear of, but I’d heard great things about Stiefvater so I gave it a shot. It’s pretty standard and there weren’t any real surprises, so if this is your jam, go to town. It just wasn’t mine. I’ve heard good things about her other series, though, so I would like to give that a shot since it was the premise rather than the writing that turned me off of this one.
The Circle, Dave Eggers (3.5/5)
I’ll admit that I bought into the hype of this one, especially at work—and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. Yes, it suffers terribly from assumed male author lionization and one of the big twists at the end I thought was obvious from the second it was introduced early on, but overall I really did enjoy this book. There are a lot of things Eggers didn’t quite get right, as I’m sure you’ve read online, but the one thing I think he did nail was the sense of being lost that Mae feels throughout the book. It’s true that he missed some of the finer points of social media, but he put Mae perfectly in the right situation and with the right reactions and relationships. The overarching theme that putting our lives online will destroy us was too heavy-handed, shockingly (or not), but what Eggers needed to get right, he did, and I read this book happily and over the course of one weekend. I haven’t read any other Eggers, nor do I feel inclined to, but I liked the Internet-themed premise of this one, and if that draws you in, you might like this one.
Allegiant, Veronica Roth (2/5)
The ending to this trilogy left me disappointed, if I’m completely honest (which I guess I am here, with a two-star rating). Divergent was fantastic, but it has always felt like the rush with which the other two came out really hurt the series. It’s a very typical YA action trilogy, in that the first book is the individual, the second book is the individual discovering the breakdown of the system, and the third book is the individual destroying and triumphing over the system. It can be done well, but I don’t think this was it, and it’s too bad. This last book was full of lukewarm sweeping generalizations that undermined an otherwise powerful message, and while with the religious undertones it was always going to end the way it did, I really felt like Roth hadn’t quite found the right plot. There is a way to make this ending work, and this wasn’t it. I want to recommend reading Divergent, since it is the strongest of the three, but leave it up to you whether you want to read the other two.
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