Book Reviews: May 2019

This is the second month of 2019 where I only read one book. (!!!!!) I spent ten days traveling in Virginia and a Parks & Rec rewatch took up my free time when I was home.

My one May book was:

  • A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

A PRINCESS IN THEORY BY ALYSSA COLE

A Princess in Theory is a modern day romance that follows Naledi Smith, a grad student and waitress, as she struggles to balance her job with her desire to grow in her career. Unbeknownst to her, her new coworker is actually Prince Thabiso - and they have a history that she doesn’t remember.

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I don’t read many romance novels. This one was put on my radar several months back when I was listening to a podcast and the host was raving about it, plus I’m trying to make sure I read plenty of books by POC authors this year. I was curious about the last time that I read a true romance novel, so I went back through my Goodreads. All I could find for the past two years were Eleanor & Park, Crazy Rich Asians, and Outlander. (Ironically, all of those I rated 2.5 or 3 and rounded to 3 on Goodreads if needed. That appears to be the highest rating I give romance.)

Even though it’s not my usual genre, I did enjoy it. It’s basically The Princess Diaries meets Wakanda. It’s also pretty contemporary, with phrases like “his eggplant emoji” sprinkled throughout. The main thing that kept me from rating too highly was that I could sense every plot point from five chapters away, but I liked Ledi’s character enough that I didn’t mind too much. She was the reason this romance worked for me.

Thabiso was a bit unlikeable at first, but that quickly changed and he turned into The Perfect Man. I was fine with that, because it quickly became clear that Ledi’s personal growth was the focus. The best moments were Ledi opening up to Thabiso, setting boundaries with Portia, and shutting down Brian who was the actual worst.

I recommend A Princess in Theory for those who enjoy contemporary romance. Since I’m more of a fantasy/scifi girl, this is the type of story I prefer to just see the movie of instead. Netflix, please pick this up.

Rating: 3/5

Book Reviews: April 2019

I’ve only got two books to discuss for April since a lot of my mental energy went to the first half of GOT Season 8. (I’ll share my thoughts on that later…maybe…) I’ve also been in one of those “I don’t even know what I want to read” moods for about two months now, so at the beginning of April I did an Insta story asking for recommendations. I’m on the library waitlist for all of those so hopefully that gets me fully back in reading mode.

Both of the following reviews are a bit spoiler-y, but nothing that should ruin the book for you.

  • I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arceneaux

  • Lost Stars by Claudia Gray


I CAN’T DATE JESUS BY MICHAEL ARCENEAUX

I Can’t Date Jesus is a collection of essays by Arceneaux that describe his journey as a gay black man and his relationship with family, other men, and the religion he grew up in. The title is originally what grabbed my attention.

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I am neither gay, a man, or black, so much of this book I couldn’t understand personally. But that’s why I’m glad I read it, because Arceneaux was very open with his experiences.

My favorite part was the beginning where he focused on his relationship with religion. I grew up Baptist, not Catholic, but I found myself nodding along with a lot of it. Honestly the only thing that kept this from being a 5 star read was that all of the dating stories got a bit redundant. In the 40-80% section of the book, each story seemed a lot like the one before and I started to lose track of names. Each chapter was still pretty funny overall.

Arceneaux did get political at times, but not often, and I didn’t mind at all because I share his more liberal beliefs. I also really appreciated his honesty about his relationship with his parents; even if you have the most wonderful parents in the universe there are still going to be moments of strife that are hard to talk about. Arceneaux didn’t hold back, and the end of the book focused a lot on their current relationship (and their reaction to his coming out) and it had a positive tone that I found encouraging.

Now to share some quotes:

“How can you be obedient to dogma you’ve found oppressive? How can you cling to tradition and exalt a vision of God that minimizes you and expects you to suppress what is innate to you? Is it not an exercise in futility to place your faith in a belief system that doesn’t completely believe in you?” (Arceneaux is, of course, referring to being gay, but as a woman who grew up constantly hearing “the man is the head of the house/women can’t speak in church/women must be modest so they don’t tempt men” this really resonated with me. Just to be clear - I’ve mentioned this in reviews before - but I no longer relate to the denomination I grew up in.)

“It sounds like you’re waiting to die to live. You can have a bit of heaven now before life here ends.” (Said by Arceneaux to his mom.)

“When I rejected the religion I was raised in, I struggled, because I didn’t formulate any other belief system. That is no longer the case. I do believe in a God, but more than anything, I believe in me.”

Rating: 3.5/5 (Rounded to 3 on Goodreads)



LOST STARS BY CLAUDIA GRAY

Lost Stars follows Ciena and Thane, two Imperial recruits, as they finish their training and begin serving the Empire.

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This is only my third novel in the new Star Wars canon, the first two being the Thrawn books. I’m used to Star Wars media that focuses on the core characters, but I enjoyed being introduced to totally new people and planets in Lost Stars.

My main complaint about this book was that it relied too heavily on the events of the original Star Wars trilogy. So many chapters were just a rehash of the OT movies with a slightly different perspective from Ciena and Thane, but at least characters such as Luke and Leia were only mentioned in passing. Vader was also mentioned which I liked, he was mysterious and properly evil here. One minor dislike was that there were a lot of phrases that felt out of place: “hang out,” “badass,” “dumb-ass,” etc. It just doesn’t feel very Star Wars-y when those words are used. Also, is “tenday” suddenly a way the SW universe measures time?

The strongest parts of the book were about the Imperial Academy training and how Ciena and Thane survived after the Battle of Endor. I liked Thane’s evolution the best, from his time in the academy to his Rebel recruitment to becoming a genuine believer in his new cause. After Endor, I had some sympathy for Ciena (who stayed with the Empire throughout the book) because her worldview from this earlier quote had been shaken:

“Nobody ever knows the whole truth. That’s why promises mean something. Otherwise they’d be too easy, don’t you see? We look forward to the unknown future and promise to be faithful no matter what comes.”

I didn’t have too much sympathy, because she should have figured out sooner what the Empire was, but her progression helped show how so many people could have supported Palpatine. I was rooting for her and Thane to have a happy ending, and Gray did leave room for a follow-up novel so maybe we’ll see what happens to the couple. I’d happily read the sequel.

Rating: 3.5/5 (Rounded to 3 on Goodreads)

Book Reviews: March 2019

March wasn’t a very active reading month for me. There were almost two weeks in between finishing the last 400 pages of Oathbringer and picking up another book. Sanderson always puts me in a reading slump, plus I started my millionth Game of Thrones rewatch to prep for Season 8 (!!!!) so that took up most of my free time. Everything I read after Oathbringer was quick to get through.

All reviews (especially Oathbringer) have spoilers - you have been warned.

  • Oathbringer (Stormlight Archives #3) by Brandon Sanderson

  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

  • Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith series by Charles Soule

OATHBRINGER (STORMLIGHT ARCHIVES #3) BY BRANDON SANDERSON

Oathbringer is the third installment of Brandon Sanderson’s ten book Stormlight Archive series. After finishing #3, I am very grateful I read the Edgedancer novella (#2.5) first. It’s not necessary, but I highly recommend reading in that order.

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I’m honestly not sure what to say about this series at this point. It’s quickly become one of my all-time favorites. Oathbringer focused on Dalinar’s backstory; which I loved, and I’m glad we got it in book #3 because it made “You cannot have my pain!” so powerful. It wouldn’t have been such a strong ending without knowing all Dalinar had suffered - but more importantly, all the suffering that he had caused.

I liked the humor in this installment. Kaladin worrying about Syl hanging around whenever he eventually got a girlfriend and he had sex, Pattern’s “No mating!”, and every single scene Lift was in were all really funny. I generally read with a resting bitch face, so if I crack a smile when reading that’s equivalent to actually lol-ing in real life. I smiled a lot.

Sanderson has got to the point where he writes mental illnesses very, very well, while at the same time managing to keep his character’s illnesses from being their one defining trait. Depression and alcoholism are prominent, but the one that was most interesting to me was Shallan’s issue. Dissociative identity disorder is probably the best term, but the most intriguing part is how it fits into the world building. Are all of Shallan’s order members like her? Is it really a “disorder” thanks to her upbringing, or is that just what happens to Lightweavers? Who is she, really? And most importantly - is she really worthy of precious Adolin?

Stormlight Archives is just…everything. I’m all caught up now and I’m dreading the long wait until book #4, but I trust Sanderson. Even though I’ve been emotionally damaged by other authors (cough GRRM), I have complete faith that Sanderson will see this through.

And for fun, a few quotes I thought worthy of marking:

“Hesina clutched her infant child in her arms, and her expression was one of pure delight, an awespren bursting around her head in a blue ring.”

-Page 90 (Y’all I cried at this moment.)


“Would you defend them, after what they did to you?”

“They’re my people.”

“That’s no excuse. If one of ‘your people’ murders another, don’t you put them in prison? What is a just punishment for enslaving my entire race?”

-Page 314 (Just to note if you’re reading this and haven’t read the series, “race” here isn’t referring to black or white humans. The speaker is non-human. Sanderson does a great job of making his story’s moral issues reflect the real world.)


“They will try,” Jasnah said, “to define you by something you are not. Don’t let them.”

-Page 401


“Relax, grandpa. Steal the rock. I can do that.”

-Page 1109

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

ELEANOR & PARK BY RAINBOW ROWELL

I won Eleanor & Park in a Goodreads giveaway a couple years ago and figured it was high time I started it. After my Oathbringer reading slump, I didn’t want anything mentally taxing.

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Eleanor & Park started out promising but about one third of the way into the book I lost interest. Every interaction between the two characters seemed the exact same. They never really progressed beyond “I have a crush and it’s exciting.” There were a few cute moments I loved, like the two sharing comics on the bus and excitement over their first phone call.

Some things weren’t addressed fully. Was Tina the one who flushed Eleanor’s clothes? It was never really confirmed. I guessed who was the writer of the creepy textbook notes about halfway through, and although those came into play at the very end they felt underutilized in 90% of the story. I thought that dynamic with the stepdad could’ve made the story better if it had been fleshed out just a bit more. Park being Asian was something else I had high hopes for but it would only be mentioned quickly and the characters would move on. I like reading about mixed race relationships, being in one myself, so I wanted more.

I hesitate to say “do not ever read this” because I know some people really like YA. I tend to like YA better if it has a fantasy or dystopian element to it; I think I just need to give up completely on contemporary YA. It does nothing for me, unless it’s something like The Hate U Give which I thought was great - T.H.U.G had a purpose and excelled at it. But if you like the YA genre overall and romance you’ll probably like Eleanor & Park better than I did.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars (Rounded to 3 on Goodreads)

DARTH VADER: DARK LORD OF THE SITH BY CHARLES SOULE

This is a different comic series than the one I reviewed previously. That series (Darth Vader) takes place between Episodes IV and V, while this one (Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith) takes place right after Episode III. Yeah, the names are confusing. I chose to buy Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith in the paperback volume version, so that I don’t get it confused with the other, which I bought in single issues.

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I’ve only read the two Vader series, but I’m enjoying the new canon comics so far. They add a lot to the Star Wars universe and my man Vader is a badass in them.

My biggest complaint about this series is the artwork in Volume 1. It was very cartoon-y, almost a bit childlike. I mean, I know these are comics, but the art in the other series was wonderfully dark. Thankfully, Volumes 2-4 had a different illustrator and I was very happy with the change.

My favorite Volume was 4, because Vader’s fortress is just so evil and sinister; I loved getting the backstory on how he got it. The possessed Sith helmet was also an interesting idea that I liked a lot as a plot device as I was reading, BUT I’m THRILLED about it now that the Episode IX trailer has been released. Maybe that laugh we heard at the end of the trailer will come to us in a similar way? *chills*

Rating: 4 of 5 stars for Volumes 1 & 2, 5 of 5 stars for Volumes 3 & 4

Book Reviews: February 2019

This might be my shortest review since I switched to monthly round-ups. I technically only finished one book, and I don’t have a picture of it to share because I didn’t have time to take one in the chaos of moving from DC to Salt Lake City.

I don’t feel bad about just one book since I got 800 pages into Oathbringer this month. I still have 400 pages to go but I’m loving it so far.

So! My one book in February was:

  • The Life We Bury by Allen Eskins

THE LIFE WE BURY BY ALLEN ESKINS

In The Life We Bury, college student Joe Talbert is struggling with balancing family, work, and school, when an English assignment prompts him to interview a Carl, a Vietnam war veteran. The things he learns about Carl’s life change the trajectory of his own.

*pretend there’s a picture of the book here*

This was my last book for my DC book club (!!!) which I was in about 3.5 years. According to Goodreads, I read 26 different books while in this club. Sometimes I missed meetings and sometimes I went to the meeting without having read the book. Overall, I loved the club because it introduced me to many books I probably wouldn’t have read on my own.

The book was...okay. It felt like Eskins just had a list of things that make a good book and tried to cram it all into one. Tragic murder? Mysterious neighbor? Sick war vet? Family problems? Financial woes? Check, check. Throw it all in there! I don’t have a problem with any of those things individually, but all of it together (especially with that over-the-top ending) kept me from loving it. The most compelling part of the book was Joe’s relationship with his brother. If it had focused more on that and Carl instead of trying to be shocking, I probably would’ve liked it a lot more.

The Life We Bury is one of those books that keeps you entertained for a couple hours and is easy to get through, but it’s not going to offer anything unique in the world of thrillers.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 stars (Rounded up to 3 on Goodreads.)